Sarum Choir Dress

Someone wrote to me asking about Sarum choir dress, at least of secular clergy who are not cathedral canons. For the time being, I can only suspect that the Church of England did not invent a choir habit after the Reformation. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I assume it was cassock, long surplice, academic hood and tippet.

Choir habit with full Wareham Guild hood (see below for explanation)

Choir habit with “modern” hood (see below for explanation)

Here is what I wrote in the Anglo-Catholic in February 2010:

* * *

The New Liturgical Movement has just produced a fine article on the almuce, a garment worn by cathedral canons of some dioceses over the surplice or rochet. I read theology at Fribourg University (Switzerland) in the 1980’s and saw canons of the cathedral still wearing this amazing garment.

A comment to this article tells us:

In England the almuce developed into two garments (or a garment in two parts).

The academic hood is descended from the almuce, and also the preaching scarf which has also been know as a choral tippet. An English cleric in choir habit should wear, on top of the surlice, an academic hood to which he is entitled and a black preaching scarf.

Untill the 18th century the hood had a full shoulder cape, but when the clergy affected wigs they could not get the hood over their heads. The cape was split down the front and the garment thrown over the back. Judges still wear the more primitive form of the hood, and wear it with the scarf, which is descended from the pendants of an almuce.

In the 19th century the Warham Guild attempts to restore the academic hood to its former shape. Some robemakers will make a hood in the Warham shape if requested.

British Armed Forces Chaplains of all denominations wear a scarf with chaplaincy badges and medals. Medals because the scarf/tippet/almuce is an ornament of personal dignity and not a sacerdotal vestment – not a stole. Some chaplains have confused this.

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6 Responses to Sarum Choir Dress

  1. Little Black Sambo says:

    I believe the canons of the collegiate church of St Endellion in Cornwall wear the almuce.

  2. Laurence K. Wells+ says:

    What do you think of the blue tippets worn sometimes by lay-readers?

  3. Fr. David Marriott says:

    Might I suggest that in order to define our Anglican heriage or patrimony that we see a revival of the Canterbury Cap: the Anglican response to the Biretta?

  4. Patricius says:

    All descending from the days when academic and ecclesiastical attire were more or less synonymous. In 1959 J.R.R Tolkien served the first Mass of Fr Robert Murray (whom I met at Heythrop) in his academic gown.

  5. Steven Rhodes says:

    “Until the 18th century the hood had a full shoulder cape, but when the clergy affected wigs they could not get the hood over their heads. The cape was split down the front and the garment thrown over the back. Judges still wear the more primitive form of the hood…”

    I doubt this for two reasons: 1. Practically, a hood may be placed over the head and then the wig placed on the head…2. As judges currently do. If the clergy had to change hood shapes because of wigs why did judges – who wear wigs still – retain the hood in its old, un-elongated, form?

    Rather I suspect that the hood changed shape over generations because of style. The portrait of Maurice Greene in his Mus Doc for instance shows the hood with a small portion of the cape stretched horizontally across the shoulders – what used to be known as the ‘half Warham guild’ shape – which suggests just such a gradual evolution in shape.

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