A Brief Consideration of the Origins of the Maniple

The maniple is one of those vestments which tends to get a fair bit of attention and interest, in part because it was one of the vestments 'de facto' lost in the post-conciliar liturgical reforms (though, as was famously noted by the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, it was merely something that fell into "disuse" but "was never abrogated" -- thus making it perfectly possible to be used within the context of the modern post-conciliar liturgy.)

In talking about vestments, curiosity naturally inclines toward their origins. How did it come about that certain ranks of clerics wear, what looks like, a miniature stole on their left arm?  The history and origins of vestments is often shrouded in a certain amount of necessary ambiguity of course, given the particular antiquity of these things.

The basics of the history of this particular vestment is succinctly presented within the Catholic Encyclopedia:
In earlier ages the maniple was called by various names: mappula, sudarium, mantile, fano, manuale, sestace, and manipulus, appellations which indicate to some extent its original purpose. Originally it was a cloth of fine quality to wipe away perspiration, or an ornamental handkerchief which was seldom put into actual use, but was generally carried in the hand as an ornament. Ornamental handkerchiefs or cloths of this kind were carried by people of rank in ordinary life. Ancient remains show many proofs of this: for instance, the mappa with which the consul or praetor gave the signal for the commencement of the games was a similar cloth. The name manipulus was given because it was folded together and carried in the left hand like a small bundle (manipulus).
This short excerpt then succinctly identifies its origins as the ancient mappa, or ornamental handkerchief, carried by certain classes in places like Rome.

Flavius Anastasius (consul of the Eastern Roman Empire for AD 517) in consular garb, holding a sceptre and the mappa, a piece of cloth used to signal the start of chariot races at the Hippodrome. (Source)
Eventually, this would develop into the same cloth carried over over the arm that we know as the maniple.

Liturgically, the maniple, as we know it, was first used within Rome at least as early as the sixth century and possibly earlier of course; its use had spread throughout most of Europe by the ninth century.

Finally, let's conclude this brief consideration with the traditional prayer that is said while the maniple is being put on by the cleric, a prayer which also makes reference to its origins as a cloth to wipe away sweat (or tears for that matter):
Merear, Domine, portare manipulum fletus et doloris; ut cum exsultatione recipiam mercedem laboris. (May I deserve, O Lord, to bear the maniple of weeping and sorrow in order that I may joyfully reap the reward of my labors.)

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