POLL: chasubles

While the texts and gestures of Holy Mass are fixed in the official liturgical books, many other elements of the sacred action may be adapted to circumstances, cultures and customs.

We have great, though not unlimited, freedom with music, architecture, vessels and vestments.

Consider, for example, the various shapes of the vestment the priest wears during Holy Mass: the chasuble. 

There are the fuller "gothic" style and its many variations, the "Roman" style and its multiple alterations.  They can be full, long, wide narrow, elaborate or simple.  But all are possible for Holy Mass.

The Church has from time to time designated preferences among the vessels, but flexibility was always recognized.  Today, we are not restricted by law to any particular style of vestments, though law does require a chasuble to be worn, when one is available, by the priest celebrant.

What is your preference and your reasons for your preference?


Which style of priest’s chasuble do you prefer?

  • "Roman" and its variants (narrower and more open) (55%, 940 Votes)
  • "Gothic" and its variants (full and draping) (45%, 770 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,710

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  1. Geoffrey says:

    I voted for Gothic. There’s just something about that flowing, draping look that I like. But elegant Gothic… not the things you see in many parishes that look like bedsheets!

    It would be nice to see a variety of chasubles in parishes; Gothic and Roman… perhaps someday!

  2. Actually, I prefer a full conical vestment that retains the original ancient roman shape, (not to be confused with “Roman” vestments)drapes better and is fuller than a gothic, and is the kind of vestment you see priests and prelates wearing in the middle ages. All the vestments I make are of this shape.

  3. TJM says:

    I like them both if tasteful materials and appropriate art is employed. Tom

  4. jedesto says:

    “Roman” and its variants (narrower and more open)
    “Gothic” and its variants (full and draping)
    Can something be both “narrower and more open”? And, compared to what?

  5. Fr. Gary V. says:

    All my chasubles are Gothic style with beautiful ornate embroideries made in the Philippines. My parishioners always compliment my vestment.

  6. “Comment by jedesto — 13 March 2009 @ 12:05 pm”

    Personally, I’m a medieval/gothic man myself. That’s just how I roll. That said, I have found the “Borromean” or “Renaissance” style, to be a good middle ground. Fuller than the Baroque or “Roman” (“fiddleback”), it nonetheless possesses some trimming and stiffening that was already in vogue in the latter sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries. You will see this style in paintings of Sts Charles Borromeo and Philip Neri. Tridentinum in Rome is an excellent source, as they have made vestments for the Holy Father.

    “Comment by Fr. Gary V. — 13 March 2009 @ 12:08 pm”

    The Philippines is a great place to get vestments made. They are very meticulous craftsmen, and the price (at least with American currency) is more than reasonable. And if you ever need a chalice restored and re-plated, this is where I would send it.

  7. Mitch_WA says:

    I perfer gothic, and borromean style vestments. However Roman vestments are growing on me. I think they are just as easy to be distracting as some modern vestments. The overly romantic designs in some Roman vestments that were made in italy and france in the 1800s. Especially in white and marian white vestments with intricate floral embrodiery. I think the most important thing is that the vestments are truely beautiful (w/o being a point of distraction) no matter what style.

    Personally I wonder if Roman Vestments might be a good style to wear during the summer in churches that lack air conditioning? I dunno. I know that when altar serving in the summer it is good to have a hankercheif in your sleve because it can get very hot. So I would wonder if a more open vestment (ie Roman) would make that much of a difference for keeping cool in the summer? Some of the churchs around here that lack air conditioning can get so hot that if you haven’t had enough water that day you have a decent chance of passing out, especially wearing an alb (cant immagine if you have to pile even more). For any of the priests here who have worn both: does the roman vestment allow you to stay cooler? Signifigant enough difference to really matter?
    Sorry for getting off topic, its just that I’ve always wondered about that, since I make vestments, and it might be good to know. (I only make gothic vestments right now, still trying to perfect my methods hope to sell some online and locally soon!)

  8. Mark R says:

    I voted for gothic. Not that I mind Roman very much…as long as it is done right. There was a conservative priest in D.C. who wore an unprofessionally made Roman chasuble. The cloth wasn ‘t stiffened properly with whatever material is used and it was a disaster. It didn’t help that the priest was heavy that the garment just draped badly.

  9. Merriweather says:

    I like the “Fiddleback”.

  10. meg says:

    i find the roman style very distracting.It looks like the kind of placard people wore pacing in front of a store to advertise. Alternatively,it looks like a turtle shell. Never flattering and always uncomfortable and awkward looking!

  11. Gregg the Obscure says:

    I have a slight preference for the Roman style, principally because so many of the currently seen “Gothic” chasubles look more like costumes from cheap sci-fi films. Good design and good materials are essential to all items used during worship.

    Have none of the folks who seem to dominate liturgy planning in much of the Church in America tehse days even read the Pentateuch? Is the concept of “first fruits” completely lost on them?

  12. Brian Day says:

    I voted Gothic, mainly because I like the “Borromean” style the most. Although there is a lot to be said for the Roman “Fiddleback” style.

    Why the either/or? Why not both?

  13. Paul Knight says:

    I voted ‘Roman’. However, that is not because I dislike the ‘Gothic’ style. In either style, what is important is that they are beautiful.

  14. vestment maker says:

    For those who want to try to make Roman [narrow] vestments, a KNITTED interlining is essential to permit proper draping over the body. Both woven and non-woven interlining will produce unprofessional final results.

  15. Simon-Peter says:

    On the whole, I prefer Roman chasubles. They are just more dignified. Also, they don’t seem to get in the way in the arm area (both leading to priests fiddling with the vestment during the homily, and even dragging the alb up the arm when making certain gestures I’ve noticed sometimes), and when done properly, they do not emphasise the shape of the celebrant.

    However, I think the nature of the place of celebration should be considered. A Gothic vestment looks out of place in a baroque Church. Similarly, Roman vestments – no matter how well they are made – simply don’t go in a gothic Church.

  16. cuaguy says:

    I voted for Gothic, as that is what I like the best. I found it the decision to be a little hard through, as I think that both should be employed in a parish. I think that the Gothic vestments look great when made dignified, and lie an earlier comment said, not like bed sheets. On the other hand, I think the roman Vestment should also be used.

    I came up with this as my working out of them.
    Gothic Vestments- 75% of a parishes Masses
    Roman Vestments- 25% of a parishes Masses (e.g. those with an extra special meaning, Holy Days of Obligation, the Tridium, and special parish masses, as well as Gaudate and Latare)

    This could also be used the other way around, with the type that gets the 25%, the different cut could help ring the special meaning or extra solemnity that the Liturgy calls for.

  17. William says:

    Roman Fiddlebacks all the way!

  18. Jayna says:

    I voted Gothic. I have nothing against Roman chasubles, but I do like the longer, flowing design of the Gothic style. I’m not a fan of the Gothic chasubles used in my parish, but I like them when they are properly made and don’t, as some said above, look like bed sheets.

  19. alex says:

    I voted for gothic, just like the way it drapes the way it looks. There is style called “semi gothic” which I like best, it is not as “full as a gothic nor are the “sleeves” as long.

  20. saintinthemaking says:

    I must’ve seen too many hippie dippie Gothic style ones in my youth, cause now I can’t stand them. Our pastor wears the Gothic style, but they aren’t the best material so they look cheap. (Doesn’t reflect his wonderful, faithful service of our parish…maybe I should start up a collection for new vestments. He’d probably refuse and offer to give the vestments to a newly ordained priest. He just that kinda guy.) One of our parochial vicars wears the Roman style (very good quality) and every time I see him I think, “Now THAT’S how a priest should look.”

    Our younger priests are very into the traditional priestly garb outside of the Mass as well, whereas the pastor tends to dress down a bit. Again, not a reflection on his faithful service. I just like the traditional look. Apart from the obvious (Sacraments, fullness of faith), I joined the Catholic Church for Tradition (with a capital T!). I want smells and bells, and I want my priest to look like a priest…not some guy wearing a black suit with a white collar.

  21. QC says:

    I’ve gone back and forth on this issue. I think I prefer a good Gothic to a good Roman, but generally the Romans seem consistently good while the Gothics are not so much.

  22. Larry says:

    I don’t believe I ever saw the so called Roman Style in use during my lifetime. That is until the TLM got their own Chapel here. I don’t care for the Roman Style. It looks too brief and a bit like a sandwichboard. I am not big on most of the newer Gothic styles either. The ones that were used before the Council weer wonderful and I have seen some new ones that show a return to that style. THe ones I really dislike are the ones that look like choir robes or a colored bedsheet. Noble simplicity does not mean boring and drab.

  23. John P says:

    I prefer the Roman chasuble, though I have not seen one in use often. I will say that I am not against the Gothic style, they could be a lot uglier. I will also say that I have seen some really hideous Gothic style chasubles as well. My parish uses some simple and plain Gothic style vestments, and they’re very nice looking, but I’d still prefer the Roman style, though I think most priests seem to prefer the Gothic style.

  24. another William says:

    As a traditionalist, I prefer “Roman”.
    As a server, I prefer “Gothic”.

  25. Clayton says:

    If I were a priest, I think I would prefer old-fashioned medieval gothic vestments.

    However, to be perfectly honest, in an Arkansas summer you can bet that a fiddleback would start looking awefully nice.
    That is not to mention the benefit of scandalizing a few modernists in the parish by wearing one for a NO mass.

  26. How does a server elevate a Gothic chasuble at the consecration?

  27. Tom says:

    I vote for the Spanish variant of the Roman style. It’s sleeker, longer, narrower at the shoulders so it doesn’t have the “turtle” or “beetle” look, and to me it just has an elegant look.

    A smaller size gothic vestment is fine, but on too many priests they are too large and just look like an old poncho that gathers and wrinkles everywhere. There is no mistaking that the Roman style chasuble is for one thing and one thing only – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  28. pjsandstrom says:

    I prefer the \’conical form\’ which was the standard til well after the time of Saint Thomas a Becket (two of his chasibles are in the treasuries of the Archdiocese of Sens in France and the Diocese of Tournai in Belgium). Aside from the ease of wearing them correctly,(they do look like real clothing, and not a \’costume\’ when worn) they do restore the practicality of the deacon or the server\’s grasping and \’lifting\’ the chasible at the incensations and the elevations.

  29. pjsandstrom says:

    ‘chasible’ should read ‘chasuble’.

  30. Deacon says:


    Discalced Carmelite sisters in SD are making a roman chasuble for me. They want a measurement of the length of the back of the chasuble, but we are not sure how long the chasuble should be in the back. Should I measure from the back of the neck to the knees to know the length of the chasuble? The other measurements they asked me were shoulder to shoulder length and the ‘waist’ (where one ties the chasuble). Thanks for your help!

    I need an answer within a week, I really appreciate your help.

  31. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    Gothic, but proper Gothic. Not these polyester ponchos we endure so often. Give me embroidery or, even better, opus anglicana.

  32. This was a difficult vote for me. I like them both very much – when they are high quality. In practice, i.e. mostly what I see, at Solemn Masses the priest’s Roman chasuble is often somewhat smaller than the accompanying dalmatics. The gothic combinations tends to keep the chasuble significantly larger, longer, and more flowing.

    With the modern tendency for people to be of a wide range of heights (and widths) the priest’s vestments really should be sized properly.

  33. another William says:

    Shane, the server would grasp the Gothic chasuble at the lowest point in the rear as would be done with a Roman (fiddleback) chasuble.

  34. Mike Morrow says:

    I am surprised at the number of “gothic” devotees. I would tend to attribute this mainly to those who were not raised in the traditional pre-Vatican II era, and/or those for whom traditional usage has little value.

    Yes, yes, I know that some orders and some local custom in the traditional era used gothic style, but it was certainly a very small minority. My disdain of gothic style does not extend to them. The Roman or “fiddleback” style was overwhelmingly predominant, so that’s what I see as clearly in support of Catholic tradition. From the earliest days of photography, I have pictures of a priest-chaplin during the U.S. Civil War wearing traditional Roman vestments that were identical to the ones in use a century later when they were ripped away.

    Perhaps a bit unfairly (to those traditional orders that have always used them), I associate gothic style with novus ordo services and all the unfortunate things which that necessarily implies. These polyester rain ponchos with some banal patterns upon them are a defining signature of novus ordo custom.

    I also dislike those white monk’s robes that are most often used by novus order “servers.”

    So…I guess I didn’t vote for gothic.

  35. Joshua says:

    Someone touched on an important aspect of the Roman style, especially those of the Spanish, true fiddlebacks, or in any case more narrow ones. One can avoid sweating to death and still wear a beautiful vestment

    We had a priest that would put horrible vestments on, and then just take a maniple from a nicer set that had one. But I had gotten him to wear a very nice Roman chasuble. I was given the impression that he gets hot too easily, and therefore went for a thin material that was ugly over our nice gothics

    A Roman style is also preferable I believe for a fully vested bishop, there is something nice about noticing the pontifical dalmatic (and tunicle)

    I do like the “farnese” style at least, that is Roman chasubles that are fairly long in the back, and with broader shoulder width, but not draping.

  36. Alice says:

    I prefer Gothic. I just think they look more priestly. The Roman ones make me think that Father is dressed up as a card deck for Halloween.

  37. Rachel says:

    I feel happier at the sight of a Roman vestment because it means I’m at a TLM, or at least that the priest is about to offer an NO as if it were a TLM.

    Nevertheless I voted for Gothic because I think that style, in and of itself, is more aesthetically pleasing.

  38. Mitch_WA says:

    Mike Morrow: My Altar servers guide for the Tridintine Mass (as well as my 62 Sunday Missal) have many drawings of priests in gothic chasables and none in roman chasables.

    St. Charles Borremeo had a contempt for small vestments like the fiddleback and published regulations for vestments in his diocese. Thus the type of vestments called Borromean Chasables.

    The earliest know form of the chasable is the the conical form, then a form like the gothic, and later the borromean style. The Roman style is a bit of a johnny come lately. Hence in my mind while it is often associated with traditionalists it in and of itself is not traditional in comparison to the others.

    I think that is an important distinction. Between what is associated with traditionalists and what is truely traditional.

  39. Daniel Nekic says:

    If I were a priest, I would definately go for the Roman, even though I have only seen priests in the EF wear the Gothic.
    Roman has more freedom of the arms, and have plenty of room for air to move about.

  40. “Comment by Mitch_WA — 14 March 2009 @ 2:00 am”

    Which is a traditional form? Both. One came later than the other, as a development out of the former.

    In all the years I’ve heard these kinds of discussions (gothic versus roman), they invariably become ideological battles; that is, one is a superior expression of the Catholic tradition because… well, just because. The return to gothic in the early- and mid-20th century was obviously the result of a masonic plot of some sort. I’ve actually read theories like this. It boggles the mind.

    While I have a distinct preference for gothic, it is not based on which is more traditional, so much as which one I would consider more attractive, especially in a more elaborate setting. Say you have a solemn high Mass, with long flowing dalmatics and tunicles, and copes for the assisting priest. And then, the most important functionary of all, is wearing the tiniest outer garment of the lot. If I didn’t know the history of it all, and just walked in from out of nowhere, I would think it looked pretty ridiculous.

    (Please note the abundance of caveats there.)

    But that’s just a matter of preference. I can’t really say with any authority that one is more appropriate than the other, and I have yet to hear anyone make such a claim with any competence. One advantage of the roman style is that it’s easier to transport, especially when a priest goes from one assignment to another, and has to take his collection with him. The roman style is easier to wear in the summer, and in tropical climates.

    At the parish where I work, we have medieval, gothic, borromean, and roman. It runs the full gambit, and I’ve learned to appreciate that.

  41. Alice said I prefer Gothic. I just think they look more priestly. The Roman ones make me think that Father is dressed up as a card deck for Halloween.

    I surely agree with what Alice and others have said about Roman vestments. They look so very stiff and unnatural. However, because of this style, the fancy designs and exquisite needlework stand out. BUT, I don’t think the vestments are what we are supposed to be concentrating on…

    I prefer Gothic. (though not the bedsheet look! Chuckle!)

  42. Maria says:

    I much prefer the Roman style.
    I just think it is more manly.

    I just can’t take my priest seriously when he’s floating
    around in the fuller ‘Gothic’ style.

    I know I shouldn’t say that but it is my
    honest opinion.

  43. irishgirl says:

    I voted for Roman-I think it would be a lot cooler in the summer for priests to wear that style.

    Some Gothic vestments look like tents.

  44. Mike Morrow says:

    Mitch wrote: “My Altar servers guide for the Tridintine Mass (as well as my 62 Sunday Missal) have many drawings of priests in gothic chasables and none in roman chasables.”

    That’s what you found in a couple of books, but what do you and other gothic enthusiasts recall of the *actual* practice in Roman Catholic churches prior to the post-Vatican II alterations?

    I have no absolutely *no* doubt from my years in the Church during that era that gothic vestments were very rarely seen, at least in the United States. I attended and served at a fair number of different parishes in different dioceses in different parts of the country during that era and I *never* once saw or heard of gothic vestments being used. But gothic style quickly became almost universal in novus ordo practice as just one more deliberate attempt to distance the “enlightened” novus ordo services from the “obsolete” traditional Mass. The inventers of the novus ordo pretended that they had restored antiquity with such affectations, similar to their claims for “communion of both species.”

    I stated in my original post that my disparagement of the use of gothic style did not extend to those very *few* traditional communities, parishes, or orders in which they had customarily been used prior to Vatican II. But their use where there is no such history then becomes an ugly and distracting reminder of all that the creators of the novus ordo have inflicted upon the Church for 40 years.

    Substance is more important than style.

  45. mysticalrose says:

    I love a beautifully embroidered fiddleback. The “gothic” chasubles always remind me of those faceless people in the Good News Bible (ah . . . religious education in the 1980’s!).

  46. Patrick says:

    I confess to falling into the gothic camp, or more properly the Saint Charles Borromeo camp. I recall paintings of Saint Charles in the most exquisite chasables, and recall reading something by him that called for certain lengths and fullness.

    I also recall reading somewhere about admonitions issued to French clergy who were using “roman” style vestments that were very much abbreviated, if you can use that term for vestments made with as little cloth as possible.

    Tomorrow is the First Scrutiny for prospective members of Holy Mother Church at our Parish. Please pray for the catechumens and those wishing to return to full communion.

  47. Antiquarian says:

    Assuming good quality in either case, I much prefer Gothic, although Borromean vestments are not far off. “Fiddleback” chasubles always look to me like a shirt whose sleeves are too short, or pants whose legs are above the ankles. Having said that, of course I must add that beautifully made fiddlebacks are preferable to ugly or cheaply made Gothic chasubles.

    The claim that the use of one over the other has some nefarious purpose is historically short-sighted; the verifiable fact is that vestment “fashion trends” have occasionally changed. In any case, my preference is an aesthetic one– and I grew up prior to Vatican II.

  48. another William says:

    Mike, to which religious orders are you referring?

    I agree with you regarding servers in “monks’ robes”. They should be in a cassock and surplice. Depending on his function, a server could substitute a cotta for the surplice.

  49. Mike Morrow says:

    I contest the gratuitous assertion that changes in vestment “fashion trends” are in any sense of the word frequent, or common, or occur globally. I know of no such sweeping changes pre-Vatican II, at least in any period shorter than four or five life-spans. As one of what must be thousands of similar examples, the elderly pastor at my church in the early 1960s was still occasionally using vestments that were purchased for him by his parents at ordination almost 50 years earlier. They were of the same “Roman” design as the church’s own much more recently purchased sets.

    The “it’s simply a style change” argument requires one to accept that the clergy and parishes 40 years ago *all* simultaneously decided that fashion trends mandated a swap to gothic, and then accomplished this in a matter of a year or two, while “inadvertently” destroying the traditional Roman style vestments as integral part of the process. Further, this was purely coincidental and completely unconnected to the banning of the traditional Mass in favor of the novus ordo imposition which “just happened” to be taking place at the same time. I’m sorry, but having lived through all this, I know that this wishful fairy tale is either uninformed or tendentious nonsense. However one seeks to deny it, gothic vestments became and remain (admittedly unfortunately) a de facto signature of novus ordo anti-tradition mindset. There is very good reason why traditional priestly societies use Roman style *almost* exclusively.

  50. “Comment by Mike Morrow — 14 March 2009 @ 9:45 am”

    Mike, your experience could be different depending upon which part of the country you were in. In Cincinnati, where I grew up in the fifties, I never saw Roman vestments, and always saw Gothic. Further, there was indeed already a trend toward the latter during the first half of that century. I don’t mean to suggest it occurred everywhere, but the use of one over the other is not a litmus test of orthodoxy or adherence to tradition. There is nothing authoritative to suggest that it is.

  51. Correction, please.

    “Comment by Mike Morrow — 14 March 2009 @ 5:19 pm”

  52. matt says:


    you have twice in this thread used the expression \”novus ordo service\” in juxtaposition to the expression \”Traditional Mass\”. Perhaps you\’d do well to be Traditional and demonstrate obedience to the Successors of Peter and the Council of Trent and not denigrate the essence of a Mass promulgated by the Catholic Church. The Holy Father has made clear that there is one Roman rite with two forms. We can discuss the superiority of the accidents of the forms, the opinions of most here would commend the extraordinary form, denying the validity of the ordinary form by calling it a \”service\” is disrespectful.

    As to the question of \”fashion\”. I think we need to make distinctions between traditional vestments, be they roman or gothic, and the horrible polyester fabrics and rainbow colors that came in, much as you describe as part of the \”spirit of Vatican II\”. The latter clearly carries a negative and false theological connotation, the former, while the difference may be more than fashion is clearly not a difference in orthodoxy, which would suggest that the gothic in use for centuries was unorthodox, a difficult claim to prove.

  53. supertradmom says:

    When in England many years ago, I attended a Sarum Rite Catholic Mass,(Mass celebrated with Bishop’s permission, of course). What about Sarum-style vestments?

  54. supertradmom says:

    I prefer the “fiddleback” as that style seems TLM to me. Also, just a note; the cloistered Benedictine Nuns at Clyde, MO have a collection of hand-embroidered vestments both from Europe and the early foundations of their American convent. These were all made by the nuns. If you are in the area of Clyde, ask the sisters for a look at these. The embroidery work is exquisite and the colors are amazing.

  55. Would permission even need to be given for a Sarum-rite Mass? I doubt it. Pope Benedict said that the 1962 Missal was never abrogated, and hence always allowed. The Sarum Missal was never abrogated either. So I take it that it’s still permissible. Anyone know?

  56. TomW says:

    I prefer the Roman. I always wonder why our pastor wears the Gothic, as he’s constantly pulling the sleeves up out of the way. But then again, we only have the NO, so I wouldn’t expect to see him wear Roman.

  57. Ottaviani says:

    So long as the vestments are dignified for worship; I do not really mind what style of chasuble is used, although it should fit in with the overall architectural style of the church as well. Wearing a Gothic chasuble in a Rocco style church would be a little out of place for me.

    What is not needed is when some people attached an ideological statement to one style of vestments like the St Bede Studio. The same also applies for the fiddleback penchants.

    After all it’s the mass that matters…

  58. Whilst not intending to enter this debate myself, I would be very grateful, Ottaviani, if you would refrain from making claims in public about views I might hold. I would hope readers will ignore your caricature of my Apostolate.

    Thank you,

    Michael Sternbeck.

  59. quodvultis says:

    Quanto amplius, tanto melius!

    Andrew, 13 March 2009 @ 4:58 pm: You mean anglicanum, I think.

  60. I prefer Roman Vestments. Might just have to do with the fact I’ve seen one too many horrible looking Gothic vestments. Though when I do serve the TLM, I like the Gothic vestments for that purpose.

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