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The Cistercians in Yorkshire title graphic

Ecclesiastical vestments


The Cistercians initially prohibited ornate, ecclesiastical vestments. All clothing and decoration was to be simple. For example, the chasuble, which was worn by the celebrant at Mass, was to be made of wool or linen, free from silk or gilt weave; stoles and maniples were to be of silk, without any gold or silver embroidery.
Later on more elaborate decoration was introduced, and by the later Middle Ages Cistercian liturgical vestments could be highly ornate.
The following images are of ecclesiastic vestments thought to have belonged to the monks of Dore Abbey, Herefordshire, and which are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.(11)

Velvet kneeler (bottom right), embroidered burse (bottom centre), stole and maniple (top left)
© V & A Museum
<click to enlarge>
Velvet kneeler, embroidered burse, stole and maniple. © V & A Museum

The burse was used as a case to carry the corporal (the cloth on which the consecrated elements are placed during Mass). This finely-embroidered linen burse, which dates from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century (c. 1370-1430), was made in England; both sides show the coronation of the Virgin, with Christ blessing her.


This sleeveless garment was worn by the celebrant at Mass, and although it was made in Italy may have belonged to Dore Abbey in Herefordshire, in the fifteenth century. It is dark-blue figured velvet woven on an orange background, and forms part of a set with the maniple and stole (see below). The design incorporates leafy and flowering stems, and a pomegranate pattern, a motif associated with the Virgin. The orphreys were embroidered in England, not Italy. These are finely crafted in silk and gold, and show the figures of Christ on the Cross (centre), St John the Evangelist with a cup, and St Thomas the Apostle with Moses.

The maniple, a narrow strip of cloth worn draped over the celebrant’s left arm, was used originally to wipe tears shed for the peoples’ sins. The above maniple forms part of a set with the chasuble (above) and stole (below), is of Italian design and dates from c. 1470 X 1530. It is brocade, woven in blue and gilt thread, lined with printed linen and over three feet long.

This ecclesiastical vestment, worn by priests, deacons and bishops, dates from c. 1470 X 1530, and is of Italian design. It forms part of the matching set with the chasuble and maniple (above). It is brocade, woven in blue silk and gilt thread, lined with printed linen and over eight feet long.