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Vestments are liturgical clothing worn by Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Deacons and other clergy in Catholicism, though vestments are used by a wide range of Christian denominations. This document addresses with specificity the use of vestments within the Catholic Church. This document includes the Scriptural basis for vestments, answers common objections, and will briefly look at the history of vestments within the Church.

Scriptural Considerations

There are those, who make claims that vestments are "unbiblical" or "not Christian". The Scriptural support for vestments however, is extraordinary and specific. The Bible mentions jewels, gold, fine linens, colors of violet, purple, red, scarlet, etc. Despite the Scriptural support however, often times the Church's adherence to the scriptures in these matters are actually used as ammunition to attack the Church with, because of their "extravagant" vestments. I've even seen people claim that wearing purple vestments means the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon. Let's take a look at Sacred Scripture.

Exodus 28:2
And thou shalt make a holy vesture for Aaron, thy brother, for glory and for beauty. 

Exodus 28:3  

And thou shalt speak to all the wise of heart, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's vestments, in which he being consecrated, may minister to me. 

Exodus 28:4  

And these shall be the vestments that they shall make: A rational and an ephod, a tunic and a strait linen garment, a mitre and a girdle. They shall make the holy vestments for thy brother Aaron and his sons, that they may do the office of priesthood unto me. 

Exodus 28:5
And they shall take gold, and violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine linen. 

Exodus 28:6
And they shall make the ephod of gold, and violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine twisted linen, embroidered with divers colours. 

Exodus 28:7
It shall have the two edges joined in the top on both sides, that they may be closed together. 

Exodus 28:8
The very workmanship also, and all the variety of the work, shall be of gold, and violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine twisted linen. 

Exodus 28:37
And thou shalt tie it with a violet fillet, and it shall be upon the mitre, 

Exodus 28:39
And thou shalt gird the tunic with fine linen, and thou shalt make a fine linen mitre, and a girdle of embroidered work. 

Exodus 29:6
And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and the holy plate upon the mitre, 

Exodus 39:1  
And he made, of violet and purple, scarlet and fine linen, the vestments for Aaron to wear when he ministered in the holy places, as the Lord commanded Moses. 

Exodus 39:2  
So he made an ephod of gold, violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine twisted linen, 

Exodus 39:3  
With embroidered work, and he cut thin plates of gold, and drew them small into threads, that they might be twisted with the woof of the foresaid colours, 

Exodus 39:4  
And two borders coupled one to the other in the top on either side, 

Exodus 39:5  
And a girdle of the same colours, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 

Exodus 39:6  
He prepared also two onyx stones, fast set and closed in gold, and graven, by the art of a lapidary, with the names of the children of Israel: 

Exodus 39:7  
And he set them in the sides of the ephod, for a memorial of the children of Israel, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 

Exodus 39:8  
He made also a rational with embroidered work, according to the work of the ephod, of gold, violet, purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine twisted linen: 

Exodus 39:9  
Foursquare, double, of the measure of a span. 

Exodus 39:10  
And he set four rows of precious stones in it. In the first row was a sardius, a topaz, an emerald. 

Exodus 39:11  
In the second, a carbuncle, a sapphire, and a jasper. 

Exodus 39:12  
In the third, a ligurius, an agate, and an amethyst. 

Exodus 39:13  
In the fourth, a chrysolite, an onyx, and a beryl, set and enclosed in gold by their rows. 

Exodus 39:14  
And the twelve stones, were engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, each one with its several name. 

Exodus 39:15  
They made also in the rational little chains, linked one to another, of the purest gold, 

Exodus 39:16  
And two hooks, and as many rings of gold. And they set the rings on either side of the rational, 

Exodus 39:17  
On which rings the two golden chains should hang, which they put into the hooks that stood out in the corners of the ephod. 

Exodus 39:18  
These both before and behind so answered one another, that the ephod and the rational were bound together, 

Exodus 39:19  
Being fastened to the girdle, and strongly coupled with rings, which a violet fillet joined, lest they should flag loose, and be moved one from the other, as the Lord commanded Moses. 

Exodus 39:20  
They made also the tunic of the ephod all of violet, 

Exodus 39:21  
And a hole for the head in the upper part at the middle, and a woven border round about the hole: 

Exodus 39:22  
And beneath at the feet pomegranates of violet, purple, scarlet, and fine twisted linen: 

Exodus 39:23  
And little bells of the purest gold, which they put between the pomegranates at the bottom of the tunic round about: 

To wit, a bell of gold, and a pomegranate, wherewith the high priest went adorned, when he discharged his ministry, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 

Exodus 39:25  
They made also fine linen tunics with woven work for Aaron and his sons: 

Exodus 39:26  
And mitres with their little crowns of fine linen: 

Exodus 39:27  
And linen breeches of fine linen: 

Exodus 39:28  
And a girdle of fine twisted linen, violet, purple, and scarlet twice dyed, of embroidery work, as the Lord had commanded Moses. 

They made also the plate of sacred veneration of the purest gold, and they wrote on it with the engraving of a lapidary: The Holy of the Lord: 

Leviticus 6:10
The priest shall be vested with the tunick and the linen breeches; and he shall take up the ashes of that which the devouring fire hath burnt: and putting them beside the altar, 

Leviticus 6:11
Shall put off his former vestments, and being clothed with others, shall carry them forth without the camp, and shall cause them to be consumed to dust in a very clean place. 

Leviticus 8:13
And after he had offered his sons, he vested them with linen tunicks, and girded them with girdles: and put mitres on them as the Lord had commanded. 

Ezekiel 42:14
And when the priests shall have entered in, they shall not go out of the holy places into the outward court: but there they shall lay their vestments, wherein they minister, for they are holy: and they shall put on other garments, and so they shall go forth to the people. 

Ezekiel 44:17
And when they shall enter in at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments: neither shall any woollen come upon them, when they minister in the gates of the inner court and within. 

Ezekiel 44:18
They shall have linen mitres on their heads, and linen breeches on their loins, and they shall not be girded with any thing that causeth sweat. 

Ezekiel 44:19
And when they shall go forth to the outward court to the people, they shall put off their garments wherein they ministered, and lay them up in the store chamber of the sanctuary, and they shall clothe themselves with other garments: and they shall not sanctify the people with their vestments.


The evolution of the Mitre until the 20th Century.

The history of Vestments, their evolution, and usage could be (and I'm sure have been) the subject of many books. For now I leave you with this snippet from a PDF provided by Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, in Picayune, MS, USA:

"Why Does The Priest Wear Special Clothing For Mass?

This special clothing is called vestments. The style of the vestments dates from around the year AD 400; after the Church had emerged from Roman persecution and resembles the clothing worn at that time by Roman citizens. The colors (red, violet, white and green) have special symbolic significance. Red vestments, representing blood, are worn when celebrating the events of Jesus' Passion, and feasts for the martyrs of the Church. Violet, signifying preparation and anticipation, is worn during the time of Advent and Easter; the weeks leading to Christmas and Easter respectively. White, the symbol of purity, is worn for happy celebrations such as Christmas, Easter, and feasts recognizing saints who were not martyrs. Green, the color of life and growth, is worn at all other times.

As to the biblical basis for vestments, see Exodus 28 which not only says for priestly garments to be made, it also gives the details of their construction. There is nothing in the New Testament which prohibits vestments. From the time of Christ until the 5th Century vestments were not worn because of the persecution and a desire not to look like the Jewish priesthood. Once the persecution stopped, the priests no longer kept up with the changing fashions and the vestments of today resulted."


Liturgical vestments are prescribed by God, to the priesthood at it's inception. They are commanded by God, to be holy, beautiful, colorful, and made of fine cloth and with precious stones and Gold. At no point in the Bible are vestments prohibited. Only commanded.

External Links

Vestments, on The Catholic Encyclopedia:

Vestments, on Wikipedia: