ASK FATHER: Why don’t bishops use the mantelletta?

From a reader…

How come the practice is rare nowadays of bishops and monsignors wearing the mantelletta? Also, when does a bishop wear the mantelletta instead of the mozzetta? Are there specific rules for a bishop to determine if he should wear the mozzetta and mantelletta in choir?

Pope Paul VI in 1969 abolished the mantelletta for bishops.  Bishops are now to wear the mozzetta.   The violet mantelletta is still used by very few prelates having specific offices in the Roman Curia.   There are 7 monsignors, Apostolic Protonotaries de numero (such as masters of ceremony, who witness official acts such as a Cardinal taking possession of his titular basilica, etc.), and some officials of the tribunals (such as the Defender of the Bond), and some of the canons of St. Peters Basilica.  I am not sure if the canons of St. John Lateran of St. Mary Major wear the violet mantelletta or not.  Some chapters have their own dress.

So, that’s why you don’t see it.

Here is Msgr. Guido Marini, Master of Ceremonies for His Holiness, in the mantelletta at the moment of the extra omnes in the last conclave.


That said… perhaps we should just revive all these things that were abolished.  After all, these days law is so out-of-style.  So a bishop puts on a mantelletta… who am I to judge?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. jbazchicago says:

    It is unfortunate this garment disappeared. There is such rich symbolism to it. It helps with identifying the game.

    The mantelletta was a livery garment denoting prelatical status without jurisdiction.
    Formerly, titular/auxiliary bishops could only wear the mantaletta. Ordinaries (diocesan bishops) could only wear them in their dioceses, otherwise, outside of their dioceses they were to wear the mantelletta which is why you see pics of VII where all bishops are wearing their mantellettae. Same goes for Benedictine abbots in and out of their abbeys (only black).

    That’s why domestic prelates (a type of monsignor common outside Rome) wore a mantelletta. The were prelates without jurisdiction as opposed to domesticated prelates who were also potty-trained (bahahahaha). There was a joke about monsignori in Cleveland when they would process in. They were dubbed “the lillies” as the joke went because of the Scripture passage “for they neither reaped nor sowed, yet Solomon in all his glory were never arrayed as ones such as these!”

    Cardinals had universal jurisdiction so they could wear the mozzetta everywhere except in Rome, where they wore the mantelletta under the the mozzetta.

    Mozzettae marked jurisdiction. Wonderful how there was a code for all of this sort of thing.

  2. Zephyrinus says:

    I totally agree, dear Fr Z.

    Bring back the Sedia Gestatoria !!!

    Who am I to judge.

  3. Papabile says:

    Didn’t Universae Eccleiae basically reintroduce them for the Extraordinary Form?

  4. St. Rafael says:

    It would be great for these traditions to come back. More importantly, when a re bishops going to start to dress in episcopal colors of white and violet again? Catholic bishops wear nothing but clerical black. Dress like priests instead of bishops. The Anglican and Episcopal bishops look more like a bishop than your average Catholic bishop.

  5. APX says:

    I think we should work on bishops going above and beyond the mere roman collar bib over their golf shirt and black blazer for starters.

  6. Wiktor says:

    “perhaps we should just revive all these things that were abolished”

    Papal tiara including!

  7. Anthony says:

    I have to say that I’m not at all concerned with what a bishop is or isn’t wearing…
    I’ll leave that to them.

    I AM much more concerned with what they are SAYING and DOING -which, of late, seems to be very confusing.

  8. newportson says:

    Amen, Amen, Anthony. Let’s not confuse the confused with attire, which they could confuse, given the apparent attachments some seem to have to things of this world. Pray for our Bishops, each and every one of them. They need a good stiff wind. Come Holy Ghost! Pray for us Mother of the Church.

  9. pseudomodo says:

    Being back horse drawn carriages and candlelight at night. Bring back the awesome papier-mâché papal tiara.

    Abolish modernist contraptions like the wireless and reject strange things coming from the new world like corn and potatoes.

    What AM I SAYING?!

  10. JonPatrick says:

    As for not being concerned about what a Bishop is wearing or not wearing, it is a mark of humility to be willing to wear what the Church recommends rather than just wearing the golf shirt or whatever is comfortable. I don’t think it’s surprising that there seems in general to be a correlation between the degree to which a Bishop conforms to Church tradition about attire and how faithful they are to Church teachings in other more serious matters.

  11. Eugene says:

    @JonPatrick – “I don’t think it’s surprising that there seems in general to be a correlation between the degree to which a Bishop conforms to Church tradition about attire and how faithful they are to Church teachings in other more serious matters.”…to prove your point google some picture of the new primate of Belgium, I have seen him in shirt and tie, which also seems to be the dress of choice of many Jesuit clerics

  12. jbazchicago says:

    Bravo Eugene.

    I loathe the arguement that, “I have more substance and am not so superficial because I am not concerned with ‘externals'” It’s usually invoked by liberals and it’s positively droll. I don’t think anyone here would say that both are important, and what one says and believes is more important than what they wear. However we are a church of symbols, it is integral to our faith, not icing on the cake. Symbols often speak louder than words expressed. It all matters, and vesture matters more than most think. If it didn’t, then we’re simply playing silly dress up, and why in the hell would ANYONE want to affiliate themselves with an organization where delusional leaders get to play dress up…..ummmm…..errrr…..wait…..nevermind that last part!

  13. taffymycat says:

    jbaz–i agree—the externals have meaning and it violates that part of principle of modesty known as decorum to willy nilly dispense with it as if one is above these externals…

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