1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Amice

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AMICE (earlier forms: amyt, amys, O. Fr. amit, Lat. amictus, from amicire, to throw or wrap round, the change of t to s being probably due to an early confusion with the aumuce: see Almuce), a liturgical vestment of the Western Church. It is a rectangular piece of cloth which is wrapped round the neck, shoulders and breast. Sometimes, more particularly in Germany, it is called the humerale (from humerus, shoulder). According to modern Roman use, laid down by the decree of the Congregation of Rites in 1819, the amice must be of linen or of a hempen material, not wool; and, as directed by the new Roman Missal (1570), a small cross must be sewn or embroidered in the middle of it. In putting it on it is first laid on the head, then allowed to fall on the shoulders, and finally folded round the chest and tied with the strings attached for that purpose (see fig. 1).

Amice 1.jpg

From Braun, Liturgische Gewandung, by permission
of the publisher, B. Herder.

Fig. 1.—Amice of the Present Day.

The amice is now worn under the alb, except at Milan and Lyons, where it is put on over it. The vestment was at first a perfectly plain white cloth, but in the 12th century the custom arose of decorating the upper border with a band of embroidery, the parure (parura) or “apparel.” This was abandoned at Rome about the end of the 15th century and is not prescribed in the Missal; it survived, however, in many parts of Europe till much later. This apparel, when the vestment has been adjusted, forms a sort of stiff collar which appears above the chasuble or dalmatic (see fig. 2). In some exceptional cases, as at Milan, it has become detached from the amice and is fixed like a collar to the chasuble.


Amice 2.jpg

Redrawn from Braun, Liturgische Gewandung.

Fig. 2.—Medieval Method of putting on the Amice.


The Latin word amictus was applied to any wrap-like garment, and, according to Father Braun, the liturgical amice originated in the ordinary neck-cloth worn by all classes of Romans. It had at the outset no liturgical significance whatever, and was simply adopted by the clergy for the same reason that the clergy of the 18th century wore wigs—because it was part of the full dress of ordinary life. The first record of its ecclesiastical use is at Rome in the 8th century, when it was worn only with the dalmatic and was known as the anabolagium (anagolaium, anagolagium, from Gr. ἁναβὀλαιον), a name it continued to bear at Rome till the 13th century. In the 9th century it spread to the other countries that adopted the Roman use: it is mentioned in an inventory of vestments given by Abbot Angilbert (d. 814) to the monastery at Centula (St Riguier) and in the de clericorum institutione of Hrabanus Maurus (c. 820). The amice was worn first simply as a shoulder-cloth, but at the end of the 9th century the custom grew up of putting it on over the head and of wearing it as a hood, either while the other vestments were being put on or, according to the various uses of local churches, during part of the Mass, though never during the canon. This ceased at Rome at the same time as the apparel disappeared; but two relics of it survive—(1) in the directions of the Missal for putting on the amice, (2) in the ordination of subdeacons, when the bishop lays the vestment on the ordinand's head with the words, “Take the amice, which symbolizes discipline over the tongue, &c.” The priest too in putting it on prays, “Place on my head the helmet of salvation, &c.”

The amice, whatever its origin or symbolism, became specifically a vestment associated with the sacrifice of the Mass, and as such it was rejected with the other “Mass vestments” in England at the Reformation. Its use has, however, been revived in many Anglican churches, the favourite form being the medieval apparelled amice. (See Vestments.) A vestment akin to the amice is also worn in the Armenian and some other oriental churches, but it is unknown to the Orthodox Eastern Church.


Amice 3.jpg

From Braun, Liturgische Gewandung.
Fig. 3.—The Papal Fanone.

Akin to the amice is a vestment peculiar to the popes, the fanone (Med. Lat. fano, “cloth,” Goth. fana, “cloth,” Mod. Ger. Fahne, “a flag”), also called the orale (from ora, an edge, border). This is at present a circular broad collar of two thicknesses of silk, ornamented with gold stripes and a gold-embroidered cross (see fig. 3). It is put on after the alb, &c., and under the tunicle, dalmatic and chasuble, but then drawn up so as to fall over the latter like a collar. The fanone was originally a cloth like the amice and was wrapped round neck and shoulders; until the 15th century, moreover, it was not worn with the amice. Since then, however, both vestments have been worn, one under, the other over, the alb. It is worn by the popes only on certain special days or occasions, and forms part of the vestments in which they are buried.

See Joseph Braun, S. J., Die liturgische Gewandung, pp. 21-56 (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1907), and bibliography to the article Vestments.