What a cardinal’s cappa magna looks like in the wild

The cardinal’s cappa magna is one of the most spectacular pieces of ecclesiastical equipment.

Recently the Institute of Christ the King had some ordinations and His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke did the ordaining.  Since this was with the pre-Conciliar Pontificale Romanum, His Eminence used the cappa.

Here are a few photos I pull from a collection of remarkable shots of the ordination just so you can see what a cardinal’s cappa involves… and I really mean involves, in the sense of wraps up.

The cappa has the bonus utility of really annoying liberals.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ghp95134 says:



  2. traditionalorganist says:

    I love it! But perhaps this is too soon after your post about the movie The Incredibles?

  3. benedetta says:

    Yes, fully involved.

  4. Martial Artist says:

    What an excellent bonus you mention, Father. And it is one that is, as it were, self-actuating when observed by a liberal.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  5. irishgirl says:

    Wow-love it!
    Doesn’t it have to get cleaned after being trailed on the ground outside?
    I think Cardinal Burke is the only one courageous enough to wear the cappa magna.

  6. AnAmericanMother says:

    Wow. Just . . . wow.

    As I said to a cradle Catholic friend, if you’re gonna be Catholic, you might as well be Catholic, no point in half measures or trying to make the Church somehow more ‘palatable’ to the usual suspects.

    As one of George MacDonald’s characters said, “You must throw yourself in. There is no other way.”

  7. Suppose . . . No future bishop appointed without prior experience as an EF Mass celebrant; no future pope who has not presided in cappa magna at an EF ordination. (Taking it for granted that all candidates would have ample OF experience.)

    How would these criteria work out in practice? What effect would the imposition of such requirements have?

  8. apagano says:

    Completely breathtaking!!

    A few questions though. Why when the men being ordained receive their chasuble, the chasuble isn’t at full length?? Then it is fully extended(?), later during the ordination. Also it appeared that Cardinal Burke wasn’t wearing his zuchetto during his prayer before the Tabernacle. Is this correct, and why?

  9. Reginald Pole says:

    «The cappa has the bonus utility of really annoying liberals.»

  10. cwhitty says:

    I’m as conservative as they come. But I am still just a bit annoyed. It seems somewhat…pharasaical. But I certainly admire Cardinal Burke! Future pope?

  11. Elly says:

    Any liberal who is annoyed by this will also be annoyed by a long train on a wedding dress. Right!?


  12. Tantum Ergo says:

    Look at what we’ve been missin’!
    No sir, that’s no ordinary Ordinary in this ordination.

  13. Slappo says:

    This totally beats superman’s cape!

  14. Slappo: And as cool as Superman is, he can’t say Mass or forgive sins.

  15. As excited as we get about these extraordinary occasions, let’s not forget that the Cappa Magna was not abolished in the ordinary form:

    Caeremoniale Episcoporum 1200
    Magna cappa violacea, sine hermellino, in diœcesi tantum et sollemnissimis festivitatibus adhiberi potest.

  16. The most moving photos, for me, were those at the end showing the priests blessing family and friends, who kiss the new priests’ hands. This is the faith.

  17. apagano: Why when the men being ordained receive their chasuble, the chasuble isn’t at full length??

    It may be of interest to mention two separate prayers bestowing the priestly powers (English translations taken from the program for ICK ordinations by Ab. Burke in St. Louis in 2007. Immediately after the anointing of the hands (before the Canon) comes the

    Bestowal of the Power to Offer Holy Mass
    “Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God and to celebrate Mass for the living as well as for the dead. In the name of the Lord. Amen.”

    This is where the ordinand receives his folded chasuble. Later, in the continuation of the ordination following Holy Communion, comes the

    Bestowal of the Power to Forgive Sins
    “Receive the Holy Ghost; whose sins thou shalt forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins thou shalt retain, they are retained.”

    The new priest’s chasuble is then unfolded.

  18. amenamen says:

    @traditionalorganist “I love it! But perhaps this is too soon after your post about the movie The Incredibles?”

    You are right. Edna Mode would not approve of the cappa magna.

  19. amen: LOL… “NO CAPES!”

  20. BaedaBenedictus says:

    I remember the hoots when Cardinal Burke appeared wearing that great red saturno. As then, I expect so-called “progressive Catholics” especially to criticize Cardinal Burke for his “hypocrisy” in “oppressing LGBT Catholics” (i.e. upholding Church teaching) while wearing icky “triumphal” vestments “obviously” camp or “gay”. Now who are the real “homophobes”?

    Three cheers for Cardinal Burke! (not during Holy Mass ;-) )

  21. benedetta says:

    And also, arresting and disarming, all at once.

  22. SouthTxMom says:

    I agree with the “Wow”!

    I will be showing these beautiful Ordination pictures to my boys, especially our 5 yr old, who loves to “play” Mass. But first, I’ll be hiding all the tablecloths and sheets—especially anything colorful!

  23. Father K says:


    Cardinal George Pell of Sydney occasionally has been seen sporting his.

    Yes it really makes the liberals blood boil!

    The revised Ceremonial of Bishops actually extends the use of the cappa – the older one was more restrictive – somehow that news hasn’t filtered down [like gloves and buskins may still be worn although now they are always white rather than in the liturgical colours]

  24. ghp95134 says:

    Ahhhhhh ….. “The Cape of Good Hope.” (^__^)


  25. AnAmericanMother says:

    Check out the photos from the ‘balustrade’ – the parapet under the clerestory – from ‘an acrobatic seminarian’ –


    Is this at St. Michael in Florence? Do carabinieri normally provide an honor guard, or were they expecting some sort of trouble?

  26. Brad says:


    Stay for the song but look at time mark 6:55+.

  27. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    I am neither a liberal nor a liturgical minimalist and I am in general a Burke “fan.”

    But I still find the cape “excessive”…

  28. frjim4321 says:

    I get all the giddiness coming from a particular segment but suspect that most Catholics would scratch their heads over such an ostentatious display.

  29. AnAmericanMother says:

    Oh, yes, so ostentatious. And while we’re at it, all that gold embroidery has to go. And the lace. And the statues . . . And all that marble, and the gold and silver ornaments. And while we’re at it, let’s get that box of precious ointment and sell it …

  30. benedetta says:

    It’s frjim4321! frjim4321 you really must get your own blog. We get all your “suspicions”. Loud and clear.

  31. benedetta says:


  32. Ostentatious? Pharisaical? For that matter, for this kind of people having a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament with a big and beautiful (not to mention expensive) Monstrance would also seem pharisaical!?

    This problem some people have of having a “problem” with the Cappa magna is the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen and heard. Since when does the length of a Cappa give away the evil or negative intentions of the wearer or of the supporters of such things?

    Don’t people know that even the Popes used to have a Cappa magna? Don’t people know that the Cope is supposed to be the more solemn version of the Cappa?

    In fact, some people used to say that both the Cope and the Cappa were the same thing, except that for the most festive days more solemn decorations were used and that’s how we ended up with the Cope? This might be why a Prelate may assist “in choro” in either Mitre and Cope or in Cappa. Additionally, for penitential events, the Cappa was used instead of the Cope, which, again (!) gives away the idea that the Cope is, in the liturgical context, more solemn and festive than the Cappa.

    To this day, in some places in Ecuador, Italy and Spain during Holy Week and some other liturgical days of penance the Cappa is used for the procession (and the train is let down without anyone holding them) as a sign of penance. To this day, when a Priest wants (if it is the custom) to make the administration of Baptism more solemn he wears the Cope NOT a Cappa.

    Do we hear people demanding the extinction of Copes, especially the fancy ones, because they are festive and expensive and ostentatious?

    Should we be opposed to the use of the Cope because it is usually more decorated than the Cappa? Sometimes it has gold in it! Sometimes the Morse is very expensive and extremely fancy! How in the world can we possibly survive the “nuclear destruction” that these types of liturgical vestments cause among the poor of Christ? Right?

    Well, last time I checked the only people who complain about these things are the liberals who have money, power and influnce that is always used for evil and immoral practices and laws … and those who are ashamed of Catholic practices or who are pharisaical when it comes to real beauty and real art. The real poors of Christ do not even bother with these complaints and, in fact, in many places even prefer the use of such things as long as their use is reserved to church events and in connection with what is considered Sacred and part of Divine Worship.

    Have we ever heard people complain about people with other social and I guess even spiritual responsibilities who wear suits that are probably just as, or maybe even more, expensive than this particular Cappa?

    I personally think that they should sell the White House and everything in it and give it to the poor!

  33. Centristian says:

    The costumed, begloved valet carrying the cardinal’s hat is quite the touch, I must say. That’s attention to detail, for you. Another nice touch is the splendid tall throne covered in the liturgical color of the day/event: white, in this case. It very much resembles the thrones that used to be erected at papal pontifical liturgies, in the times before Pope John Paul I. Today the pope, for some inexplicable reason, is seated no longer on the pontifical throne, but on various audience chairs, and never in the same place twice, it seems. Would that whomever coordinates these sumptuous liturgies for Cardinal Burke were in charge of ceremonies at St. Peter’s.

    The court and pontifical ceremonial of major prelates are amazing to observe, particularly in an era wherein the vast preponderance of bishops and cardinals eschew their own prerogatives of ceremony and dress. I would be happy to see more bishops, archbishops, and cardinals embrace their traditional liturgical and courtly prerogatives and no longer avoid it all like the plague. This sort of ceremony is magnificent, and worthy of preservation.


    You make a valid observation; most Catholics would be bewildered by it all. This sort of sumptuous high ceremony simply isn’t seen today and would seem out of place to alot of people (particularly in America) were they to encounter it in their own cathedrals or parish churches. I think many wouldn’t “get it”. But many, too, would have their eyes opened concerning the lost treasures, so to speak, of the Roman Rite. Some would revel in it, others would reject it. I end up revelling in it, myself, but I certainly respect the perspective of Catholics who think that what we see here is just too much. And, truth be told, it may be too much. A restoration of the traditional ars celebrandi of the Roman Rite doesn’t have to mean a restoration of over-the-top high baroque, after all. But this event was in a splendid baroque church, and so all the costumes and vestments seemed entirely appropriate in this particular case.

    We’ve been conditioned for 40 years, now, to expect much, much less than what this particular ceremony offers. It isn’t the fault of the average Catholic that he may not be able to appreciate the pre-Conciliar pomp and majesty of a pontifical event. The Church has outwardly changed, and this event represents the exception to the rule. Though I complain about the relative simplicity of events at St. Peter’s when compared to this sort of event, I will concede that the less-than-over-the-top ceremonial we see there may be more suited to today’s Church than what is shown in these images.

    But I still revel in what is shown in these images. ;^)

  34. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    Still not convinced that finding a 30 foot long red cape on a Cardinal excessive or even ostentatious makes one a Judas, a raving theological liberal or liturgically compromised. Since when has one’s view on elongated cappa magna’s become a new criterion for orthodoxy?

  35. benedetta says:

    Fr Deacon Daniel I think Fr. Z mentioned the added bonus of annoying liberals in jest. I don’t see that he calls anyone “a Judas” as you say. Are we going to pretend that it does not annoy liberals, to no end? Any glance around the blogosphere will confirm that phenomenon. Obviously on this blog people are most free to make reasoned arguments for their feelings and others are free to reason in return. Which of course is the classically liberal style. Now liberals who do not permit or allow any discussion on the matter and exercise that suppression in so many ways are not truly liberal now are they, they give liberalism a bad name. They would be, well, acting in a very consistent way with different ideologies, though many are perhaps unwitting as to that fact as well as the reasons why that sort of ideology is intensely destructive when adopted by propaganda and elites and others in certain situations.

    Now I was brought up in the style of what is now sort of regarded as brutalist, utilitarian uber spare stripped down and if nothing more it was familiar to me, that it was familiar to me in childhood carries I suppose as it is for many a certain comfort level. And I do remember the drastic and expensive church renos, the disposal of statuary (which we were told was “not art”), and since I trusted those in authority over me the rejection of crucifix at altar, kneelers, tabernacle, and many many many other sacramentals and good things I accepted, resignedly. However the “message” that spoke through and with that was unfortunately not only wanting but in many places highly destructive. So I don’t know about the vehement objection to the cappa magna worn by a Cardinal of our holy Church at this point. Can it be, so terrible as compared with other things. The casual pastor eschewing clericals for a certain “appearance” while doing and teaching truly destructive things spiritually, is that less ostentatious? But then it is not a question of ostentation is it. The cappa magna is a sacramental. I was taught that all these things were meaningless show and ostentation, meaningless. It seems to me that for Cardinal Burke, it means, not just some things, or one or two selected things, and not what he would make of it or wish to say at all, but it is as the Church believes and he appears in wearing it to have accepted the full yoke of responsibility and service which the Church asks him to take on for the benefit of all. If you shoot the word ostentatious then you probably need to flesh out what your basis is otherwise it is an empty shell, charged but without meaning. Which our trollling commentating friends here know quite well which is why they shoot and run without the respect to the debate or discussion afforded to others engaged to reason it through together. Some may call that “liberal” but I would call it something else.

  36. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    Benedetta, Thank you, but I was not specifically referencing Fr. Z’s comments…

  37. benedetta says:

    Fr Deacon Daniel, prego, but in looking through the comments I did not see the comment you reference.

    I have to say that as a general matter as well the method of xenophobia, of instilling fear of others and defining against a supposed enemy as caricature, having been around awhile, is not, contrary to assertions, the methodology employed by “the conservatives” who by and large if one meets them, knows them, has a respectful conversation, listens to what is taught, it is all about reason, articulated argument, leading by attracting, building up, encouraging. But of course conservatives assume truth, goodness indeed exists and is readily identifiable in our hearts in the first place.

    Not always and it is not a foolproof study but anecdotally in my experience “the liberals” do not hesitate to define themselves against by disparaging another, sometimes obviously and sometimes subtly but it is always to define their path as superior. Which honors neither the knowledge among Christians that truth, beauty, goodness exists, or the dogma of our times which says that everything is equally in relative terms valid. And to be honest if I look at experiences with sermons, homilies, clergy, much more common in my experience is the occurrence of the one who defines self as liberal by word or action who disparages others in order to make a point. Now this could be a phenomenon of the fact that in our times the “liberal” (so called, as I said it is not a precise term) vantage through media and academia and other structures is highly empowered such that those presenting a minority viewpoint feel it necessary to work harder on the arguments in order to attract people to the faith. Or it could be that these truly believe and incorporate the commandments, found throughout the Bible and in the teachings of the Church, and have different standards of behavior they employ in preaching and in daily life. Some may call this holiness. No matter the appearances this can be verified by observers — it is not otherworldly perfection or inhuman and (sadly) not super hero. But there are hallmarks all the same.

  38. Tim Ferguson says:

    Fr. Deacon Daniel, your comment may be the first time I have seen, in print, an Easterner suggesting that the Western Church’s liturgical tradition is too ostentatious and excessive.

  39. benedetta says:

    Of course the other “paranoia” is that by Cardinal Burke’s actions and by people’s expressed appreciation for it that “everyone is going to be forced” by “the hierarchy” to do, x, y, or z. Again easily verifiable throughout Catholic media & blogosphere. And of course that is ridiculous and a play to base responses and divorced from reason. The fact is that Cardinal Burke for these ceremonies does this. And other Cardinals do not. And that diversity is OK by the Church. But even if some, after study and experience, who are qualified to speak on it, wish to advocate that other Cardinals should also do the same, so what? Given some of the outrageous invitations I have heard over the years and witnessed for what “Catholics ought to do” why should that viewpoint not even be permitted to discuss? And therein lies the problem of the dictatorship of relativism.

  40. benedetta says:

    Would also only add that who knew such an interesting discussion could be had based on a few photos posted. I appreciate Fr. Z’s willingness to take a risk and post them as a certain level of incomprehension voiced in various ways is to be expected.

    One could ask why deacons and priests who comment chose as their internet moniker to include “Deacon” or “Father”. Clearly the decision is made that it is meaningful and has a significance for use apart from when one is actually at pulpit or at altar. Most young people who enter priesthood or religious life now favor clerical garb or habit. It is worth considering, why these are meaningful and do matter.

    Now I could put “sister” next to my moniker because in a sense we are all brothers and sisters under the laws of wisdom, in the light of Christ. The Holy Father always addresses the entire Church with “My dear brothers and sisters…” and I for one do not take that for granted. It means something, to him, and to us. It is not insignificant, and I don’t find it helpful spiritually, at all, to pretend that it is not the full reality and the essence of membership in the one holy apostolic Church.

  41. benedetta says:

    Have I mentioned I find this a fascinating discussion to have. Of course the use of the word “ostentatious” itself ascribes to Cardinal Burke all sorts of evil motives — the dictionary definition says it is a “vulgar, pretentious display”. And by extension those who react favorably to the sight of a Cardinal wearing it I guess are also thus indicted.

    And for a priest (see frjim4321) to say that, while he himself rises above, the lowly people beneath such as himself would ascribe evil motives and call it “ostentatious”. So according to frjim4321 the majority of Catholics are stupid and have knee jerk reactions towards Cardinals of the Catholic Church which ascribe ill will or evil motives. Again, fascinating. If it is true that many are confounded by this sight and leap to evil designs then that in and of itself proves that what is at work in our Church is not based on reason, enlightenment and evolved thinking but on irrational feelings triggered by anti-Catholic stereotype and caricature. frjim4321 and others may employ words to further that which is quite obviously present and active in the media and among elites, however I prefer to give Catholics the benefit of the doubt. Since the majority of us had not the privilege of knowing the truth about the catechism and the sacraments as a whole (never mind the details, the essence) much less church history, the significance of consecration, sacramentals, or the finer points of the calling and responsibility to the faithful.

    Further we may contrast the very reasoned articulation of those in favor of the cappa magna versus the “this is ostentatious, period, now I will run away without further respect to the participants of this so-called dialogue” in order to see much more crisply the contours of the anti-Catholicism which dogs our daily life as Catholics in this part of the world. Once our eyes are opened to the assumptions informing such pronouncements as “ostentatious” then unfortunately it is easily spotted in excess and from a mile away. It is no secret.

    And when we have great troops of emhcs receiving while standing, facing congregation on the altar as if concelebrating, is this ostentation? Or no. What about a big jumbotron in front of the faithful whereby lyrics and jazzy multimedia are displayed — would that be ostentation. Or, as others point out, liturgical practices unique to orthodox or Eastern Rite churches. How about receiving communion whilst standing in queue instead of quietly taking place kneeling at an altar rail, which would be the ostentatious one. Or how about the celebration of the sacrament of confession, “communally and seasonally” with memo pads and pens, a great line up for absolution with a bonfire as a finale, would that be the more ostentatious way of attempting to receive absolution for sin, as season and time permits. What about the miked up and free ranging priest sauntering this way and that or the one who takes up the usual spot at the pulpit. Or the one who tells everyone statuary begone, in the round is en vogue, you people must get with it, who zooms off to an evening at the ballet clad collarless but in the pink sweater in his bmw (and some other unfortunate things) or is obedience the way to go if one wishes to avoid “a vulgar and pretentious display”.

    This is a great discussion to have on many levels, Fr. Z. I hope to see many more cappa magna sightings in natural habitat in months and years to come. Ad multos annos.

  42. benedetta says:

    Sorry, end of paragraph two that should end with “of a Cardinal of the Catholic Church.”

  43. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    @ Benedetta – AnAmericanMother made an allusion to the selling of the precious perfumed oil “for the poor,” which was a comment made by Judas Iscariot out of greed.

    I stand by my description of what the good Cardinal is wearing as “excessive,” although I concede that saying it is “ostentatious” could be easily misunderstood as having some reference to the motivation of an individual, which was not my intent.

    @ Tim – Excess has certainly found its way into all streams of liturgical tradition and can and should be rightly criticized at times, without descending into liturgical minimalism or utilitarianism. I certainly am glad that groups like the Institute of Christ the King exist and are so concerned for the restoration of liturgical beauty in the Latin Church. It has certainly been long overdue, even if at times it might occasionally be overdone!

  44. Fr Deacon Daniel: Excessive perhaps for daily Mass at St. Ipsidipsy in Tall Tree Circle, but not excessive for that occasion in that place with that congregation.

    Remind me… with the title “Fr. Deacon”, are you Eastern Catholic or Orthodox?

  45. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    Eastern Catholic, Father. In general, both the Orthodox and the Eastern Catholics observe the same traditional address for deacons.

  46. AnAmericanMother says:

    Fr Deacon,
    My somewhat bitter comment was not directed at you, but at another comment that not only used the term “ostentatious”, thus imputing vulgar pride and display to the cardinal, but also described as “giddy” – silly, foolish, scatterbrained – those who see the return of the more traditional forms of high ceremony as a good thing, though surely not for every time and place.
    The idea that the employment of the beautiful, the precious, the magnificent in honoring God is vulgar pride or foolish is only a short step from believing that one knows better how that money should be spent. And that did remind me of John 12.

  47. Fr Deacon Daniel says:

    Thank you kindly, American Mother, for clarifying.

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