The Sacred That Surrounds Us: The Cope
January 9, 2022, 12:00 PM

A cope is a long vestment, similar to a cloak, most often fastened by a clasp in front. It is worn instead of a chasuble for liturgical celebrations when the Eucharist is not celebrated. You may see a priest wearing a cope at a funeral taking place without a Mass or by a priest or deacon at a wedding without a Mass. You may also see a cope being worn at a baptism outside of Mass, for a holy hour, or for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Cope comes from the Latin cappa (meaning “cloak”). The design of the cope was changed very little since it was employed, the biggest change being the shape and size of the hood it can include. The earliest mention of a cappa is found in the sixth century as an everyday garment used much like a cloak. No doubt the cope was first worn for practical use, but it was not long before the garment found its way into liturgical use. By the twelfth century, the cope was a common vestment of the Church for ceremonial use.
With the use of expensive fabric, beautiful embroidery, and precious stones in the clasps, it is clear that copes were (and still are) seen as an important piece of clothing. The cope is used in processions and for various liturgical purposes, but not by the celebrant of a Mass. The wearing of a cope enhances the dignity of the wearer.