A liturgical vestment of the Western Church. The word "cope," now confined to this sense, was in its origin identical with "cape" and "cap," and was used until comparatively modern times also for an out-door cloak, whether worn by clergy or laity. This, indeed, was its original meaning, the "cappa" having been an outer garment common to men and women whether clerical or lay. The word "pluviale," which the cope bears in the Roman Church, is exactly parallel so far as change of meaning is concerned. In both words the etymology reveals the origin of the vestment, which is no more than a glorified survival of an article of clothing worn by all and sundry in ordinary life, the type of which survives, e.g. in the ample hooded cloak of Italian military officers. This origin is clearly traceable in the shape and details of the cope. When spread out this forms an almost complete semicircle. Along the straight edge there is usually a broad band, and at the neck is attached the "hood," i.e. a shield-shaped piece of stuff which hangs down over the back. The vestment is secured in front by a broad tab sewn on to one side and fastening to the other with hooks, sometimes also by a brooch. Sometimes the morse is attached as a mere ornament to the cross-piece. The cope thus preserves the essential shape of its secular original, and even the hood, though now a mere ornamental appendage, is a survival of an actual hood. The evolution of this latter into its present form was gradual; first the hood became too small for use, then it was transformed into a small triangular piece of stuff, which in its turn grew into the shape of a shield, and this again, losing its pointed tip in the 17th century, expanded in the 18th into a flap which was sometimes enlarged so as to cover the whole back down to the waist. In its general effect, however, a cope now no longer suggests a "waterproof." It is sometimes elaborately embroidered all over; more usually it is of some rich material, with the borders in front and the hood embroidered, while the morse has given occasion for some of the most beautiful examples of the goldsmith's and jeweller's craft.
The use of the cope as a liturgical vestment can be traced to the end of the 8th century: a "pluviale" is mentioned in the foundation charter of the monastery of Obona in Spain. Before this the so-called "cappa choralis," a black, bell-shaped, hooded vestment with no liturgical significance, had been worn by the secular and regular clergy at choir services, processions, etc. This was in its origin identical with the chasuble, and if, as Father Braun seems to prove, the cope developed out of this, cope and chasuble have a common source. Father Braun cites numerous inventories and the like to show that the cope was originally no more than a more elaborate "cappa" worn on high festivals or other ceremonial occasions, sometimes by the whole religious community, sometimes--if the stock were limited--by those, e.g. the cantors, etc., who were most conspicuous in the ceremony. In the 10th century, partly under the influence of the wealthy and splendor-loving community of Cluny, the use of the cope became very widespread; in the 11th century it was universally worn, though the rules for its ritual use had not yet been fixed. It was at this time, however, "par excellence" the vestment proper to the cantors, choirmaster and singers, whose duty it was to sing the "invitatorium," "responses," etc., at office, and the "introitus," "graduale," etc., at Mass. This use survived in the ritual of the pre-Reformation Church in England, and has been introduced in certain Anglican churches, e.g. St Mary Magdalen's, Munster Square, in London.
By the beginning of the 13th century the liturgical use of the cope had become finally fixed, and the rules for this use included by Pope Pius V. in the Roman Missal and by Clement VIII. in the "Pontificale" and "Caeremoniale" were consequently not new, but in accordance with ancient and universal custom. The substitution of the cope for the chasuble in many of the functions for which the latter had been formerly used was primarily due to the comparative convenience of a vestment opened at the front, and so leaving the arms free. A natural conservatism preserved the chasuble, which by the 9th century had acquired a symbolical significance, as the vestment proper to the celebration of Mass; but the cope took its place in lesser functions, i.e. the censing of the altar during the Magnificat and at Mattins, processions, solemn consecrations, and as the dress of bishops attending synods.
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