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An over-tunic usually made of fine white linen (cambric; fine cotton material is also allowed), and reaching to the knees. While bearing a general resemblance to the surplice, it is distinguished from that vestment by the shape of the sleeves; in the surplice these are at least fairly wide, while in the rochet they are always tight-fitting. The rochet is decorated with lace or embroidered borders—broader at the hem and narrower on the sleeves. To make the vestment entirely of tulle or lace is inconvenient, as is the inordinate use of plaits; in both cases, the vestment becomes too effeminate. The rochet is not a vestment pertaining to all clerics, like the surplice; it is distinctive of prelates, and may be worn by other ecclesiastics only when (as, e.g., in the case of cathedral chapters) the usus rochetti has been granted them by a special papal indult. That the rochet possesses no liturgical character is clear both from the Decree of Urban VII prefixed to the Roman Missal, and from an express decision of the Congregation of Rites (10 Jan., 1852), which declares that, in the administration of the sacraments, the rochet may not be used as a vestis sacra; in the administration of the sacraments, as well as at the conferring of the tonsure and the minor orders, use should be made of the surplice (cf. the decision of 31 May, 1817; 17 Sept., 1722; 16 April, 1831). However, as the rochet may be used by the properly privileged persons as choir-dress, it may be included among the liturgical vestments in the broad sense, like the biretta or the cappa magna. Prelates who do not belong to a religious order, should wear the rochet over the soutane during Mass in so far as this is convenient.
The origin of the rochet may be traced from the clerical (non- liturgical) alba or camisia, that is, the clerical linen tunic of everyday life. It was thus not originally distinctive of the higher ecclesiastics alone. This camisia appears first in Rome as a privileged vestment; that this was the case in the Christian capital as early as the ninth century is established by the St. Gall catalogue of vestments. Outside of Rome the rochet remained to a great extent a vestment common to all clerics until the fourteenth century (and even longer); according to various German synodal statutes of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (Trier, Passau, Cambrai, etc.), it was worn even by sacristans. The Fourth Lateran Council prescribed its use for bishops who did not belong to a religious order, both in the church and on all public appearances. The name rochet (from the medieval roccus) was scarcely in use before the thirteenth century. It is first met outside of Rome, where, until the fifteenth century, the vestment was called camisia, alba romana, or succa (subta). These names gradually yielded to rochet in Rome also. Originally, the rochet reached, like the liturgical alb, to the feet, and, even in the fifteenth century still reached to the shins. It was not reduced to its present length until the seventeenth century.
BRAUN, Die liturg. Gewandung im Occident u. Orient (Freiburg, 1907), 125 sqq.; BOCK, Gesch. der liturg Gewänder, II (Bonn, 1866), 329 sqq.; ROHAULT DE BLEURY, La Messe, VII (Paris, 1888).