AskDefine | Define cope

Dictionary Definition

cope n : brick that is laid sideways at the top of a wall [syn: header, coping] v : come to terms or deal successfully with; "We got by on just a gallon of gas"; "They made do on half a loaf of bread every day" [syn: get by, make out, make do, contend, grapple, deal, manage]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. To deal effectively with something difficult, (often cope with)
  2. To cover (a joint or structure) with coping.


(deal effectively with)


To deal effectively with something difficult
To cover (a joint or structure) with coping

Extensive Definition

The cope (Known in Latin as pluviale 'rain coat' or cappa 'cape') is a liturgical vestment, which may conveniently be described as a very long mantle or cloak, open in front and fastened at the breast with a band or clasp. It may be of any liturgical colour.
A cope may be worn by any rank of the clergy. If worn by a bishop it should be accompanied by a Mitre. The often highly ornamented clasp is called a morse.


As existing monuments show, such as pictorial representations or antique copes which still survive, there has been little change in the character of the vestment from the earliest ages. Then as now it was made of a piece of silk or cloth of semicircular shape, which differed it from the earlier form of chasuble, as a chasuble had straight edges sewn together in front, whilst they were not so for the cope.
The most conspicuous external modification which the cope has undergone, during the past thousand years and more, lies in a certain divergence in the shape of the hood, which, after all, is not in any way an essential part of the vestment. In some early examples only a triangular hood, which was no doubt intended to be of practical utility in covering the head in processions etc., but over time the hood shrunk into a mere ornamental appendage, and it is quite commonly represented by a sort of shield of embroidery, artificially stiffened and sometimes adorned with a fringe, the whole being fastened by buttons or by some other device to the back, below the broad orphrey which usually forms an upper border to the whole. The fact that in many early chasubles, as depicted in the drawings of the eighth and ninth centuries, we see clear traces of a primitive hood, thus bearing out the explicit statement upon the point of Saint Isidore of Seville, strongly confirms the view that in their origin cope and chasuble were identical, the chasuble being only a cope with its edges sewn together.
The earliest mention of a cappa is by St. Gregory of Tours, and in the Miracula of St. Furseus where it seems to mean a cloak with a hood. So from a letter written in 787 by Theodemar, Benedictine Abbot of Monte Cassino, in answer to a question of Charlemagne about the dress of the monk we learn that what in Gaul was styled cuculla (cowl) was known to the Cassinese monks as cappa. Moreover the word occurs more than once in Alcuin's correspondence, apparently as denoting a garment for everyday wear. When Alcuin twice observes about a casula which was sent him, that he meant to wear it always at Mass, we may probably infer that such garments at this date were not distinctively liturgical owing to anything in their material or construction, but that they were set aside for the use of the altar at the choice of the owner, who might equally well have used them as part of his ordinary attire. In the case of the chasuble the process of liturgical specialization, was completed at a comparatively early date, and before the end of the ninth century the maker of a casula probably knew quite well in most cases whether he intended his handiwork for a Mass vestment or for an everyday outer garment. But in the case of a cappa or cope, this period of specialization seems to have been delayed until much later. The two hundred cappae or copes which appear in a Saint-Riquier inventory in the year 801, a number increased to 377 by the year 831, were thought to be mere cloaks, for the most part of rude material and destined for common wear. It may be that their use in choir was believed to add to the decorum and solemnity of the Divine Office, especially in the winter season. In 831 one of the Saint-Riquier copes is specially mentioned as being of chestnut colour and embroidered with gold. This, no doubt, implies use by a dignitary, but it does not prove that it was as yet regarded as a sacred vestment. In fact, according to the conclusions of Mr. Edmund Bishop, who was the first to sift the evidence thoroughly, it was not until the twelfth century that the cope, made of rich material, was in general use in the ceremonies of the Church, at which time it had come to be regarded as the special vestment of cantors. Still, an ornamental cope was even then considered a vestment that might be used by any member of the clergy from the highest to the lowest, in fact even by one who was only about to be tonsured.
Amongst monks it was the practice to vest the whole community, except, of course, the celebrant and the sacred ministers (who assisted the celebrant), in copes at High Mass on the greatest festivals, whereas on feasts of somewhat lower grade, the community were usually vested in albs. In this movement the Netherlands, France, and Germany had taken the lead, as we learn from extant inventories. For example, already in 870, in the Abbey of Saint Trond we find "thirty-three precious copes of silk" as against only twelve chasubles, and it was clearly the Cluny practice in the latter part of the tenth century to vest all the monks in copes during high Mass on the great feasts, though in England the regulations of Saint Dunstan and Saint Aethelwold show no signs of any such observance. The custom spread to the secular canons of such cathedrals as Rouen, and cantors nearly everywhere used copes of silk as their own peculiar adornment in the exercise of their functions.
Meanwhile the old cappa nigra (black cape), or cappa choralis, a choir cape of black material, open or partly open in front, and commonly provided with a functioning hood, still continued in use. While the cope was a liturgical vestment, made of rich, colorful fabric and often highly decorated, the cappa nigra was a practical garment, made of heavy plain black wool and designed to provide warmth in cold weather. Whereas the cope's hood had long since become a non-functional decorative item, the hood of the cappa nigra remained functional. The cappa nigra (black cape) was worn at the Divine Office by the clergy of cathedral and collegiate churches and also by many religious, as, for example, it is retained by the Dominicans during the winter months down to the present day. No doubt the "copes" of the friars, to which so many references in the Wycliffite literature and in the writings of Chaucer and Langland are found, designate their open mantles, which were, we may say, part of their full dress, though not always black in colour. On the other hand it is worth a note that the cappa clausa, or close cope, was simply a cope or cape sewn up in front for common outdoor use. "The wearing of this", says Mr. Bishop, "instead of the cappa scisssa, the same cope not sewn up, is again and again enjoined on the clergy by synods and statutes during the late Middle Ages."

Use of the Cope in the Roman Catholic Church

Under all these different forms the cope has not substantially changed its character or shape. The cope is a vestment for processions worn by all ranks of the clergy when assisting at a liturgical function, but it is never worn by the priest and his sacred ministers in celebrating the Mass. At a Pontifical High Mass the cope was worn by the "assistant priest," a priest who assists the bishop who is the actual celebrant. In the Sarum Rite, the Cope was also prescribed for members of the choir at various times.
It is now the vestment assigned to the celebrant, whether priest or bishop, for almost all functions except the Mass when the chasuble is worn by the celebrant instead. The cope is used, for example, in processions, in the greater blessings and consecrations, at the solemnly celebrated Liturgy of the Hours, in giving Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the celebration of other sacraments outside of Mass. For most of these the celebrant may instead wear simply cassock and surplice or alb, both with the stole, for simpler celebrations. The chasuble, which is properly only worn for Mass, may also be worn during processions and other ceremonies that occur directly before or after Mass, such as the absolutions and burial of the dead, at the Asperges before Mass, and at the blessing and imposition of the ashes on Ash Wednesday, to avoid the need for the celebrant to change vestments.
The Cæremoniale Episcoporum envisages its use by a bishop if presiding at but not celebrating Mass, for the Liturgy of the Hours, for processions, at the special ceremonies on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Lenten gatherings modelled on the "stations" in Rome, Palm Sunday and Corpus Christi. The bishop may use a cope when celebrating outside of Mass the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, matrimony, penance in solemn form, ordination (if not concelebrating), and anointing of the sick. The list in the index of the Cæremoniale Episcoporum continues with several more cases.
As regards liturgical colours, the cope usually follows the color assigned to that day in the liturgical calendar, although white may always be worn for celebrations of a joyful character or before the Blessed Sacrament, and violet may always be worn for celebrations of a penitential character. It may be made of any rich or becoming material, including cloth of gold (which may be used in place of any colour except violet or black). Owing to its ample dimensions and unvarying shape, ancient copes are preserved to us in proportionately greater numbers than other vestments and provide the finest specimens of medieval embroidery we possess. Among these the "Syon Cope" in the South Kensington Museum, London, and the "Ascoli Cope" in the Pinacoteca Civica, Ascoli Piceno, are remarkable as representing the highest excellence of that specially English thirteenth-century embroidery known as the opus anglicanum ('English work'). We are also indebted to the use of copes for some magnificent specimens of the jeweller's craft. The brooch or clasp, meant to fasten the cope in front, and variously called morse, pectoral, bottone, etc., was an object often in the highest degree precious and costly. The work which was the foundation of all the fortunes of Benvenuto Cellini was the magnificent morse which he made for Pope Clement VII. Some admirable examples of these morses still survive.

Papal mantum

The mantum or papal mantle differs little from an ordinary cope except that it is somewhat longer, and is fastened in the front by an elaborate morse. In earlier centuries it was red in colour; red, at the time being the papal colour rather than white. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the immantatio, or bestowal of the mantum on the newly elected pope, was regarded as specially symbolical of investiture with papal authority: Investio te de papatu romano ut praesis urbi et orbi, "I invest you with the Roman papacy, that you may rule over the city and the world" were the words used in conferring it at the Papal Coronation. The use of the mantum by the popes ceased under Paul VI, following the reforms of Vatican II.

Cappa magna

The cappa magna (literally, "great cape"), a form of mantle, is a voluminous ecclesiastical vestment with a long train, proper to cardinals, bishops, and certain other honorary prelates.
The cappa magna is not strictly a liturgical vestment, but only a glorified cappa choralis, or choir cope. That is to say, it is not used when vested as a celebrant at a liturgical service. It is worn in processions or "in choir" (i.e., attending but not celebrating services). Its colour for cardinals is ordinarily red and for bishops violet. Cardinals and papal nuncios are entitled to wear a cappa magna of watered silk.|- |colspan="2"|An Anglican priest wearing a cope over cassock, surplice and stole. |}
The earliest post-Reformation prayer books of the Church of England contemplated the continued use of the cope, whereas the alb and chasuble were eschewed. In the contemporary Church of England and the Anglican Communion as a whole, the cope is worn by Anglo-Catholics and High Church and Anglicans in the same manner as that of the Roman Catholic Church. In the Broad Church (rarely in the Low Church), the cope is worn by bishops and other prelates, usually over a cassock and either a surplice or rochet, in place of the chasuble for the service of Holy Communion. In the Church of England itself, the cope is worn by the Archbishop of Canterbury during the coronation of the Sovereign. Prior to her coronation in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II presented a set of ornate copes to the Canons of Westminster Abbey as a gift.

Use in Protestant denominations

The cope is usually worn only for processions and services of the Divine Office (morning and evening prayers) in most Lutheran denominations. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is similar to the Anglican Communion and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches, the cope is usually worn by the bishop when not serving as the presiding minister at Holy Communion. It is rarely worn by clerics in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod or other German-based Lutheran denominations.

See also

Sources and references

  • The Catholic Encyclopedia

External links

cope in German: Pluviale
cope in French: Chape (catholicisme)
cope in Korean: 캅파
cope in Italian: Piviale
cope in Dutch: Koorkap
cope in Polish: Kapa
cope in Portuguese: Pluvial (veste litúrgica)
cope in Slovak: Pluviál
cope in Swedish: Pluviale

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

apply to, blanket, block, canopy, challenge, cloak, clothe, cloud, come through, compete, compete with, contend against, contend with, cope with, cover, cover up, cowl, curtain, deal with, dispose of, do with, eclipse, eke out, emulate, film, get along, get along on, get by, get by on, handle, hood, jockey, keep afloat, lay on, lay over, make do, make ends meet, make out, makeshift, manage, manage with, mantle, mask, meet, muffle, obduce, obscure, occult, outvie, overlay, overspread, put on, rival, scrape along, screen, scum, shield, spread over, subsist, superimpose, superpose, survive, test one another, veil, vie, vie with, withstand
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