Scottish Ecclesiastical Dress

The Rev William McMillan, Ph D, DD, St Leonard’s Church, Dunfermline

The reader is reminded that there was almost no instruction as to the dress of post-Reformation clergy. The wearing of a black gown seems to have been carried on from medieval times and both Knox and Calvin were thus attired. James IV issued a proclamation in 1610 ordering all ministers to wear a gown when officiating and this seems not to have been found controversial.

Inevitably the turmoil which ensued during the course of the two periods of Episcopacy in the 17th century extended well into the area of ecclesiastical dress, though when the Kirk entered into a much more influence amongst their people if they wore “something of an ecclesiastical habit.” In 1696 the Synod of Dumfries passed an act recommending the brethren to adopt the earlier custom of black gowns and bands adding that they should “study gravity in their apparel and deportment in every manner of way.” McMillan notes that practice throughout the country varied enormously though he quotes Patrick Walker, a Covenanter commenting that there were many “toom” pulpits in Scotland i.e. the gown did not necessarily ‘make’ the minister.

The article contains a very rich vein of illustrations and quotations gathered by the author as the arguments for and against robes and special clothing flourished in this so very disputatious period of Scottish church history. The interested reader may peruse these at leisure while the serious student will be able to follow up a wealth of information.

Volume 19 1949, p25
PDF icon Scottish Ecclesiastical Dress3.87 MB