Skip to main content



A form of the alb but unlike it, having large sleeves and worn loose at the waist as choir dress. The use of the surplice originated in the 11th century in England or France, where it was worn over a tunic or cassock lined with furs for warmth in churches unheated in winter. Like the alb, the early surplices were made of linen and were full length, but by the end of the 18th century this garment had lost its nobility. Lace had been substituted for linen, and the length had been so reduced that it barely covered the hips. The rochet is similar to the surplice in appearance but is distinguished from it by the shape of its sleeves, which are always tight-fitting. The surplice is less frequently worn today, giving way to the alb, which requires no cassock as an undergarment.

Bibliography: h. norris, Church Vestments (London 1948). e. a. roulin, Vestments and Vesture, tr. j. mccann (Westminster, MD 1950). j. braun, Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und Orient (Freiburg 1907). j. mayo, A History of Ecclesiastical Dress (London 1984). d. hines, Dressing for Worship: A Fresh Look at What Christians Wear in Church (Cambridge 1996). d. philippart, ed., Clothed in Glory: Vesting the Church (Chicago 1997)

[m. mccance]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Surplice." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 15 Aug. 2018 <>.

"Surplice." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (August 15, 2018).

"Surplice." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.