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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

The clerical Collar, generally styled the Roman Collar, and in French Rabat, was unknown as an article of ecclesiastical attire, at least in its present form, prior to the sixteenth century. The religious orders have, as a rule, never adopted it generally; nor is it worn in the United States to any great extent, unless in a few dioceses where the statutes insist upon it as being the distinctive mark of a Catholic clergyman. Where it can be worn without exciting too much attention, or, as often happens in non-Catholic countries, exposing a priest to public insult, it ought to be; for it is wonderful, to pass over many other reasons, how much Catholics are comforted by seeing in their company, if travelling abroad, or even walking the street, if at home, a priest arrayed in this distinctive habiliment. There is no mistaking him then for a minister of one of the sects.

Before the introduction of the Roman Collar the article generally used was nothing else but a plain linen collar similar to those ordinarily used now by lay people, only a little wider. Some of the higher dignitaries wore frills, such as we see in paintings of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; but these were forbidden to the inferior clergy, who were required to wear their Collars as plain as possible, without even starch to stiffen them, of plaits to adorn them in any way. In France, Belgium, and Italy laws were enacted prohibiting lace or fancy needle work to be used in making them up, for they were required to be of the plainest linen (Church of Our Fathers, vol. i. p. 474).

According to its present disposition, the Collar itself is a slip of thin linen about two inches wide, and long enough to encircle the neck of the wearer. This slip is folded down over a circular band or stock of some pliant but tolerably stiff material, such as fuller’s board, to which is sewed a piece of cloth, generally large enough to cover the chest. The Collar is kept in its place by being buttoned behind or fastened to the neck by strings.

The Collar, like the other articles of clerical attire mentioned, varies in color with the dignity of the wearer. That of a cardinal is red; a bishop’s, violet; a monsignore’s, also violet; and a priest’s, black. Canons, for the most part, wear one of black, with red buttons down the centre, and red trimmings.

Prothonotaries apostolic, of the class known as the participantes, who always rank as prelates, have the privilege of wearing a violet Collar like a bishop; but not so those who rank only as prothonotaries titulares, or honorary prothonotaries; theirs is black like a priest’s (Manuale Decretorum de Proton. Apostol., 753 and 759).








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