Sacristy Tips: The Traditional Way to Wear the Fascia

The fascia (or "sash") is a piece of vesture that is worn by clerics and prelates when wearing the cassock or simar. Many will be familiar with it when worn by cardinals, bishops and monsignors as it is coloured red or purple respectively, thus making it stand out from their cassock. However, a question that frequently arises in our day and age relates to the way in which this piece of vesture is traditionally worn. This comes up because there is sometimes a tendency in our time to see it worn down around the waist, much like one would would wear a belt with a pair of pants for example. If this somehow looks "off" it is because this is not the traditional or "iconic" way to wear the fascia. In traditional usage, the fascia is not worn about the waist like a belt, it is instead worn above the waist, sitting somewhere between the belly button and breastbone -- sitting about parallel to the elbows.

To give a sense of the difference we are speaking about here, below are some side by side comparisons showing one prelate wearing the fascia in the traditional manner (see the prelate on the left), and another wearing it in this modern "belt" like form at the waist (see right):

To the left is the traditional manner of wearing the fascia
Another look, this time from the side:

Left: Traditional placement. Right: Modern waistline placement. 
While this might all seem rather unimportant in the scheme of things, the traditional placement has two practical benefits. In the first instance, it sits more comfortably above the waist, thus making it more comfortable to wear and less prone to becoming wrinkled and folded when seated. In the second instance, the higher placement also helps to keep the fringed end of the fascia higher, thus more visible and away from the feet and ground. (To these practical considerations I would further add that from an aesthetic perspective, I believe the traditional placement also happens to look much more seemly, noble and dignified, but regardless of whether you share in that particular assessment, it at very least it is more "iconic" usage of the two). 

Now, lest one mistake this matter as being something defined by pre and post-conciliar usages, the traditional form of wearing the fascia is by no means a thing of the past, being frequently be seen in contemporary times:

By way of comparison, here are some earlier historical examples also showing this traditional placement:
Cardinal Newman
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
Pope Pius XI
So then, why did we see this shift in placement in our own day? Perhaps it was simply for the reason that from the 1970's onward the use of the cassock and simar had become much rarer, replaced for the most part by the clerical suit. This perhaps created a disconnect in knowledge of how the fascia was traditionally worn simply for reason of lack of familiarity caused by lack of use.

Now that we find ourselves in a time when the cassock and simar are seeing a steady revival, this is an opportune moment to re-familiarize clerics and prelates with the classic placement.

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