Pope Francis is known for his simplicity. While some past popes have been attracted to garb adorned with gold trimmings and jewels, Francis has been known to keep it real, whether it’s humble gestures like washing the feet of prisoners, or just keeping his attire simple.
Pope Francis will perform a mass in Philadelphia on the Parkway on Sunday. Let’s go over some of the vestments he’s worn before during services, beginning at the head:
There are a number of different headpieces Pope Francis could be wearing during his delivery of the Papal mass, but we’ll start with the most common and basic: The skull cap. These little beanie-looking caps are called zucchettos by the clergy (the Italian name for them), and the Pope is the only guy who gets to wear the white one. Red is reserved for cardinals and purple for bishops.
The skull cap, or zucchetto, was originally used by clergy members hundreds of years ago because when they took a vow of celibacy, a ring of hair was cut off their heads. The skull caps were used to cover that part of the head to retain body heat. Now it’s an obligatory part of the Papal garb.
One other thing about zucchettos: There’s apparently a tradition that if you give a high-up clergy member a skull cap like the one they’re wearing, they will take off their own and trade you. The Inquirer‘s religion reporter recently tried it out — and it worked. Kind of. Read about it here.
Now, when he’s walking up to begin the mass and during certain parts of it, Pope Francis may put on this larger hat called a “mitre,” a tall, folded hat with a top that looks like a fish’s mouth. Mitres can come in several different levels of ornamentation from very simple mitres to ones adorned with gold and jewels. Only the Pope, bishops and cardinals can wear these.
The green covering that Pope Francis is wearing in the above photo is called the chasuble, and it’s the covering that clergy members put over top of everything else while performing a mass. This covering serves as liturgical attire that can symbolize using reserved and clean garments while before the alter instead of common clothing. Some Lutheran and other protestant churches have also adopted the use of the chasuble during communion activities.
The Pallium is the only piece of attire worn over top of the chasuble, and this special piece of fabric is reserved for top clergy members like the Pope and archbishops. This piece of wool has extensions from the ring in both the front and the back of the wearer’s body, and it’s adorned with six black crosses.
The garment is to be worn only in church and during mass unless some other special reason is specified, and may have been created as a counterpart to a similar vestment used by the Greeks.
Underneath those parts is the plain, white gown-looking thing, which is formally called an “alb.” It’s a long, white vestment that is worn by priests and clergy members during mass, and its length and white color symbolize purity and innocence.
Over top of the alb but underneath the chasuble is the “mozzetta,” the short cape-like vestment that simply covers the shoulders and the tops of the arms. Only clergy members like the Pope, cardinals and bishops are allowed to wear the coverings that can be traced back to the 15th century.
The Pastoral Staff of the Pope (or the Papal ferula) has been used since Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978, made it customary. This staff is used by the Pope instead of the crosier, which is basically a similar stick with a crucifix on it that is used by bishops. The staff or the crosier is bestowed upon leaders of the Catholic church and is usually seen as a symbol of authority.
It’s hard to see in most photos of the Pope, but he typically wears “The Ring of the Fisherman,” which depicts St. Peter in a boat with the name of the reigning Pope around him. When the Pope dies, the ring is destroyed.
OK, OK so the bright yellow plastic poncho isn’t exactly part of the formal Pope attire. But this is what the Pope wore in Manilla, Philippines this past January as a storm passed through.