Ecclesiastical Garments of the 13th Century: The Amice

Today is my attempt tog get ahead by a few posts as I will be camping with my in-laws in a couple of weeks and won’t have internet access. So please forgive what may be the next few erratic posts as I’m hyped up on sweet tea!

13th C. Amice Line Drawing

In this post I’m going to tackle the long forgotten amice. The amice was a simple rectangular piece of linen with strings attached to two corners on a long side. (see the picture at left) It was the first of the sacred vestments to be put on, first resting on the head and at the end of getting dressed, adjusted around the neck as a sort of cowl. It was presented to a sub-deacon upon his ordination and so I assume that no cleric below a sub deacon wore this particular piece.* The strings are fairly long having to go under the arms, cross in back and get tied in front. The amice has long fallen into disuse as the tailoring of the alb has improved over time, negating the purpose of the armice. The sole purpose of what I can only think of as a glorified and over sized handkerchief, was to protect the costly silk of the chasuble or dalmatic from touching the skin.

While the simple drawing I have made above is  rectangular there is proof that the measurements for this item varied. The armice supposedly belonging to St. Thomas of Canterbury is square with the apparel (or decoration) running the length of one side. An existing armice located at the V&A museum is more like my drawing to the left. I have included the picture of it from the V&A collections below. At the moment I have no idea what the red thing is. It is folded and you cannot see it well but it is rectangular in shape and has a much smaller apparel. The label reads as follows: “Armice, linen, with crimson silk apparel on which are sewn ornaments in silver and silver gilt. German, fifteenth century, 4 ft. 2 in. by 2 ft.” I have also found an image of an amice being worn with the direction that the right side was always to be worn crossed over the left. I’m not sure how accurate that is but neat to see a modern picture!

15th C. German Armice
Modern day armice

*Mary G. Houston, Medieval Costume in England and France: The 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries (New York: Dover, 1996) 23.
**Thurston, Herbert. “Amice.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 29 Jul. 2011 .
*** JPSONNEN. “The Roman amice: how to vest…” Orbis Catholicvs. Orbis Catholicvs. 28 July 2008. Web. 29 July 2011.

Categories: 13th Century, Armice, Ecclesiastical | Leave a comment

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