Lutheran bishops wearing their cope over a cassock. See also their ruffs around the neck. Denmark, Lutheran bishops wearing their cope over a cassock. See also their ruffs around the neck. Denmark,

A cope is a Christian ecclesiastical vestment in the form of a long mantle or cloak, which is open down the front and fastened at the chest with a band or clasp (morse). The earliest European references to copes used by clergy appear to date to the eighth century AD, but it was not until the twelfth century that elaborate copes became a standard part of the Western ecclesiastical dress.

The cope was not a sacerdotal, liturgical garment, but a processional vestment. The word derives from medieval Latin cappa. It is is a garment that is allegedly a development of the pluviale, the cape with capuchon that protected the Roman-period wearer against the rain. The term pluviale, as in Germany, is in fact still used for the cope. From the medieval period onwards copes were often made of highly decorative woven material and/or embroidered with elaborate designs based on Biblical symbolism. In addition, there is usually a decorative band called an orphrey down the front opening of a cope. The orphrey is normally embroidered. At the back there used to be a capuchon or hood, which by the fifteenth century developed into a highly decorated shield-shaped panel (often still referred to as the hood) at the back of the neck, attached with buttons.

The colour of the cope worn by clergy changes depending upon the liturgical calendar. Copes are worn by all levels of the clergy of the Western Christian churches, such as the Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran denominations, but never when celebrating Mass.

The morse, the clasp that holds the cope in position, is also often highly decorated, with embroidery and/or gold and silver thread or precious stones.

See also: Austrian or Bohemian copeBishops carrying regalia; cope chestCope of Saint Louis d'AnjouQueen Victoria Diamond Jubilee copesSilver Jubilee cope and mitre; Syon cope; the Vatican cope.


  • BAILEY, Sarah (2013),  Clerical Vestments, Shire Library, Oxford, pp. 17-19.
  • OWEN-CROCKER, Gale, Elizabeth COATSWORTH and Maria HAYWARD (eds., 2012). Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles, c. 450-1450, Brill: Leiden, pp. 148-149.

See also the entry on a hood of a cope, now housed in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Digital source (retrieved 8 March 2017).

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 8 March 2017).


Last modified on Sunday, 12 March 2017 10:34
More in this category: « Tokwi Altar Cloths Mitre »