Superpelliceum nostrum aligerum (1)

Our choristers sometimes receive quizzical looks, ultimately resolved by bolder souls with a direct question, when we sing in the Liturgy vested in a surplice that looks like a blouse with scandalously long side trains sewn at the sleeves. As doubtless we will once again be seen in this indumentary peculiarity, let this be an answer to the collective question of an inquisitive public: what we are wearing is called the Mozarabic surplice. The long trains at the sides are called wings, for which reason it is also called the winged surplice. These can be either pleated or left plain as is; if pleated, the surplice is then called the pleated surplice or the folded surplice.


This terminology is set forth in chapter III of title IV of this Choir’s draft Enchiridion Consuetudinum Praecipuarum et Morum, which is just a fancy way of calling a handbook of our customs.

Amongst the choristers of the Choir, the winged surplice, known elsewhere as the pleated surplice, and generally as the Mozarabic surplice, enjoys pride of place amongst other surplices and similar vestments used by the Latin Church.

Superpelliceum aligerum, denominatum alibi superpelliceum plicatum, plerumque superpelliceum mozarabicum, apud choristas Cappellae primo loco inter alia superpellicea similiaque indumenta Ecclesia Latina usitata gaudet.

Now, let us go to the more important questions: Why on earth do we wear something that is Mozarabic? Aren’t we of the Roman Rite? The simple answer is, of course, precedence: Its use in the Philippines has been established not only circumstantially (we were a colony of an empire with Mozarabic connections; we had to have used that surplice in the past) but substantially (Filipino churchmen indeed wore that surplice). Chronologically, below was how we established precedence:

1. Guam used the Mozarabic surplice. Since Guam once belonged to the then Diocese of Cebu, then that surplice must have been used in the Diocese of Cebu.

Procession in Guam
A procession in Guam with servers in Mozarabic surplices with shortened sleeves. Notice the characteristic triangular opening of the neckline, which happens when the sleeves are parted.

2. Priests attending the First Provincial Council of Manila wore the Mozarabic surplice. Since this Council encompassed the entire Philippine archipelago (it was only called provincial and not plenary due to the fact that at that time Manila was the only ecclesiastical province), then that surplice must have been used throughout the archipelago.

Padres del Primer Concilio Provincial de Manila
At the foreground are seated the prelates Msgr. Thomas Augustine Hendrick of Cebu, Msgr. Jeremiah James Harty of Manila, Dom Ambrose Agius, O. S. B. (Apostolic Delegate), Msgr. Dennis Joseph Dougherty of Nueva Segovia, and Don Jorge Barlín Imperial of Nueva Cáceres. Behind Barlín is Don Juan Gorordo y Perfecto who would later become the first Filipino bishop of Cebu. At the left stand the canons of the metropolitan cathedral of Manila, among which are Don Eulogio Sánchez and Don Silvino López Tuñón. The rest are the theologians and the synodal fathers in full-lace Mozarabic surplices. Notice again the triangular opening of the neckline and the clearer seam separating the sleeves and the bodice.

3. Philippine art attests to the use of the Mozarabic surplice. If the Mozarabic surplice appeared in a work of art featuring a moment in Philippine history, albeit portrayed in a biased manner, then the depiction of the Mozarabic surplice had to have a basis in real life.

Resurrección Hidalgo - El asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante y su hijo
In this fragment from El asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante y su hijo by Félix Resurreccion Hidalgo y Padilla in 1884, the crucifer at the extreme right is wearing full-lace Mozarabic surplice.

4. Aglipayans continued to use the Mozarabic surplice. While their nativist leadership criticised, lampooned, maligned, condemned, and scorned the Roman Catholic Church for the foreignness of Her hierarchy, and the alleged unscriptural-ness of Her doctrines, it looks like they nevertheless had no qualms copying Her customs, even those more intimately linked to Spain (the collarpieces and the Mozarabic surplice) than to Christendom in general.

The dignity holding what looks like a staff is wearing a full-lace Mozarabic surplice. Aglipay in chasuble and mitre is seated in the middle flanked by ministers, one in tunicle, another in dalmatic, both with collarpieces.

For now, let us content ourselves with this exposition.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

4 thoughts on “Superpelliceum nostrum aligerum (1)

  1. Excellent post! I always wonder where I can get patterns for the Mozarabic surplice, though.

    Hopefully there would really be evidences of tunicled acolytes in this country as well.


  2. Pingback: Superpelliceum nostrum aligerum (2) – Cappella Gregoriana Sanctæ Cæciliæ olim Xicatunensis

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