The alb (from the Latin albus, meaning white), one of the liturgical vestments of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed and Congregational churches, is an ample white garment coming down to the ankles and is usually girdled with a cincture (a type of belt, sometimes of rope similar to the type used with a monastic habit, such as by Franciscans and Capuchins). It is simply the long, white linen tunic used by the ancient Romans.
As a simple derivative of ordinary first-century clothing, the alb was adopted very early by Christians, and especially by the clergy for the Eucharistic liturgy. In early Medieval Europe it was also normally worn by secular clergy in non-liturgical contexts.
Nowadays, the alb is the common vestment for all ministers at Mass, both clerics and laypersons, and is worn over the cassock, but underneath any other special vestments, such as the stole, dalmatic or chasuble. If the alb does not completely cover the collar, an amice is often worn underneath the alb. The shortening of the alb has given rise to the surplice, and its cousin the rochet, worn by canons and bishops. Post-Tridentine albs often were made with liturgical lace. Since then, this detail has fallen out of style, except in parts of the Anglo-Catholic movement and some very traditional Arab Catholic parishes.
A chasuble-alb is a contemporary Eucharistic vestment that combines features of the chasuble and alb. In the Roman Catholic Church, it was first adopted in France, though without official approval. In France it is no longer fashionable, but it has been officially approved in some tropical countries such as the Philippines, and in Hawaii in the United States. It is always white in colour. A stole of the colour appointed for the Mass of the day is worn outside it, in place of the normal white alb and coloured chasuble.
A cassock-alb is a vestment that combines features of the cassock and alb. It developed as a more convenient undergarment worn by clergy and as an alternative to the alb for deacons and acolytes.
- Piponnier, Françoise, and Perrine Mane; Dress in the Middle Ages; p. 114, Yale University Press; 1997; ISBN 0-300-06906-5
- Eternal Word Television Network, Global Catholic Network of January 25, 2003.
- Bishop Larry Silva’s Liturgical Catechesis Archived 2009-01-08 at the Wayback Machine at the Hawaii Catholic Herald