What is the origin of the shoulder cape that I have seen
worn on top of a cassock by some Anglo-Catholic priests? When
should it be worn? Is it the same as a mozetta?
A shoulder cape, often attached to cassocks worn by many
Anglo-Catholic priests, is known as a pellegrina, a name that
clearly indicates its Roman origin. At one time, the right to wear
these capes was restricted to cardinals and bishops in the Roman
It is, however, believed that, when the Roman hierarchy was
restored in England and Wales in the mid-19th century, Pope Pius IX
granted an extension of this privilege to all RC priests in the
Be that as it may, Anglo-Catholic clergy quickly followed the
fashion as a means of demonstrating their status as priests.
Double-breasted cassocks of the Sarum style were exchanged for full
Roman outfits that included a cape. There were, however, some
priests who still favoured the Sarum cassock, but persuaded
themselves that it could be worn with a cape.
On top of what has always been the everyday and outdoor dress of
Anglican clergy, the cape will obviously be regularly worn, but
some priests use it in choir dress, drawn over surplice or cotta,
in preference to an academic hood and scarf.
These clerical capes should not be confused with the
distinctively RC mozetta, whose colour and material depends on the
dignity of the wearer, or with the modern adaptation of the almuce,
worn by canons of many Anglican cathedrals.
(Canon) Terry Palmer
Its significance (dare one say, its theology) was that it
derived from the capes worn by ostlers in inns up and down the
land. The ostler was the man who took care of travellers' horses
while they stayed at an inn. His final duty, as they left, was to
bend down and allow the rider to put on his boots on his shoulder
cape so that he (the ostler) could more easily hoist the rider into
Thus it has to do with enabling people to be hoisted/lifted up.
In the case of the priest, lifted up to God.
(The Revd) Bruce Bridgewood
Amersham Hill, High Wycombe
When will do away with the awful response "And also with
you?" P. T.
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