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Isidore of Pelusium (Menologion of Basil II).jpg


Middle English mantel, from Anglo-French, from Latin mantellum


  • 1a : a loose sleeveless garment worn over other clothes : cloak
b : a figurative cloak symbolizing preeminence or authority <accepted the mantle of leadership>
  • 2a : something that covers, enfolds, or envelops
b (1) : a fold or lobe or pair of lobes of the body wall of a mollusk or brachiopod that in shell-bearing forms lines the shell and bears shell-secreting glands (2) : the soft external body wall that lines the test or shell of a tunicate or barnacle
c : the outer wall and casing of a blast furnace above the hearth; broadly : an insulated support or casing in which something is heated
  • 3: the upper back of a bird
  • 4: a lacy hood or sheath of some refractory material that gives light by incandescence when placed over a flame


A mantle (from mantellum, the Latin term for a cloak) is a type of loose garment usually worn over indoor clothing to serve the same purpose as an overcoat. Technically, the term describes a long, loose cape-like cloak worn from the 12th to the 16th century and during the American Civil War by both sexes, although by the 19th century, it was used to describe any loose-fitting, shaped woman's outer garment similar to a cape. For example, the dolman, a 19th century cape-like garment with partial sleeves is often described as a mantle.

A mantle (Greek: μανδύας, mandyas; Church Slavonic: мантия, mantiya) is an ecclesiastical garment in the form of a very full cape which extends to the floor, joined at the neck, that is worn over the outer garments.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic churches, the mantle is a monastic garment worn by bishops, hegumens, archimandrites, and other monastics in processions and while attending various church services, such as Vespers or Matins; but not when vested to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Unlike the Western cope, the mantle is worn only by monastics. The klobuk is worn over the mantle.

The mantle was originally a cape worn simply to ward off the cold. The mantle was first mentioned in the Old Testament, as a garment worn by several prophets including Elijah and Elisha. In 2 Kings 2:11-14, the mantle passing from Elijah the prophet, to Elisha, his successor, symbolizes the passing of prophetic authority:

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.

Depictions of monks on icons show the mantle in use from the earliest Christian times. The original monastic mantle was of simple material: black, brown or grey, depending on what was at hand. As time went on, the use of mantles of a particular color and style came to be established as specific monastic vesture. Over the years distinguishing colors and ornamentation came to be applied to the mantle to distinguish monastics of higher positions within the church, while still reminding them of the need for monastic humility.

In the contemporary practice of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Monks & Nuns wear solid black mantles. They also wear veils, differing between traditions and rank. In common practice, monks wear a black veil that covers a Kalimavkion, a cylindrical hat. Abbesses also wear this same veil and hat while nuns only wear the veil. The practice of wearing a kalimavkion below the veil has only arisen in the last 300 years, and prior to this period, monks either wore no veil, or wore a pointed veil, as seen in many Russians of the old rite and icons of African saints. Nuns have been wearing a veil, in addition to the mantle since at least the 11th Century.