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Metropolitan Cornelius of Tallinn and All Estonia wearing a Mantiya of a Metropolitan

A mantiya, Church Slavonic: мантия; Greek: μανδύας - mandyas; English: mantle, is a monastic garment in the form of a very full cape which extends to the floor. It is joined at the neck and is worn over the outer garments.

In the Orthodox Church, and Roman Catholic churches of the Byzantine rite, the mantiya is a garment worn only by monastics, including bishops, hegumens, archimandrites, and other monastics, in processions and while attending certain church services, such as Vespers or Matins. It is not when vested to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.


The mantiya was originally a cape worn to ward off the cold. It was first mentioned in the Old Testament, as a garment worn by several prophets including Elijah and Elisha. In 2Kings 2:11-14, the mantiya, passing from Elijah the prophet to Elisha his successor, symbolizes the passing of prophetic authority. Ancient icons showing monks wearing the mantiya attest to their use from the earliest Christian times. The original monastic mantiyas were made of simple material in black, brown, or grey, depending on what was at hand. As time passed, the use of mantiyas 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 mantiya to distinguish monastics of varying positions within the church, while still reminding them of the need for monastic humility.


As a monastic garment, the mantiya is worn by Orthodox monks and nuns of the Lesser and Great Schemas. In Greek practice the mantiya is use less commonly by those of the Lesser Schema. It is not worn by Rassaphores. The mantiya worn by a simple monk or nun is black, which is the traditional monastic color, symbolizing mourning over one's sins and a reminder of the vow of poverty. It is joined at the neck and hangs down to the feet. In the Russian tradition, the mantiya is usually pleated into 33 pleats for the number of years in the earthly life of Jesus. It may or may not have a train. Over the centuries, much symbolic meaning has come to be attributed to the mantiya:

"[The] mantle is a monastic vestment, which covers the whole person with the exception of the head. Its freely flowing lines typify the wings of the Angels; hence it is called "the Angelic vestment." The folds of the Mantle are symbolical of the all-embracing power of God; and also of the strictness, piety and meekness of the monastic life; and that the hands and other members of a monk do not live, and are not fitted for worldly activity, but are all dead."[1]
"[The mantle] is called 'the garment of incorruption and purity' [in the text of the Tonsure ceremony], and the absence of sleeves is to remind the monk that he is debarred from worldly pursuits. The mantle is given him in token of the 'exalted angelic state' which he assumes."[2]

Schema monks/nuns

The mantiya is bestowed upon a monk when he becomes as Stavrophore (Lesser Schema). The mantiya is bestowed a second time if he becomes a Schemamonk (Greater Schema). An Hegumen (Abbot) or Hegumenia (Abbess) wears the simple monastic mantle. When an Orthodox monk or nun dies, they are vested in their religious habit. A strip of cloth is torn from the bottom of their mantiya and is used to bind their body three times: around the chest, around the waist, and around the feet.


The mantiya worn by an archimandrite is joined in front at the bottom as well as at the neck, and has "tablets" or "pectorals" (Greek: πόματα, pómata; Slavonic: skrizhali)—large rectangular pieces of red or green cloth sewn onto the corners of the mantiya (i.e., two at the neck and two at the feet). The upper two tablets (those at the neck) are embroidered with crosses. The tablets symbolize the fact that the Archimandrites are to guide the brethren according to the commandments of God. The four tablets are symbolic of the Old and the New Testaments, and of the Four Gospels. When an archimandrite dies, his mantiya is laid on his coffin in place of a funeral pall.


There is an episcopal mantiya that is not worn with the other episcopal vestments while celebrating the Divine Liturgy, but when the bishop formally enters the church beforehand, or when a bishop is formally attending (i.e., presiding over) a service in which he is not serving. Bishops use other colors than black: for bishops - red or purple; for archbishops - purple; for metropolitans - blue; and for patriarchs in the Russian tradition - green.[3]

In the Russian tradition, the episcopal mantiya is characteristically decorated with red and white horizontal ribbons, called "rivers" or "streams" (Greek: ποταμοί, potamoí; Slavonic: Istochniki), symbolizing the word of God going out into the entire world (Ezekiel 47:1-12, John 7:38, Revelation 22:1). In the Greek tradition, these rivers are normally gold.

The tablets on the Bishop's mantiya may be more finely embroidered or made of more costly material than those on the mantiya of an archimandrite. The upper tablets (those at the neck) may be embroidered with icons and those at the feet may be embroidered with the bishop's monogram. The episcopal tablets symbolize the four Gospels which must be the focus of a bishop's teachings. The episcopal mantiya always has a train on it[4] and may have small bells attached as well, recalling the bells attached to the Robe of the High Priest (Exodus 28:33-34).

In general, when a bishop celebrates any service other than the Divine Liturgy (or when he is attending, but not celebrating Liturgy), he will wear the mantiya with Epitrachelion, Cuffs and Omophorion (the latter being worn outside the mantiya). He will also stand on an Orlets. When a bishop dies, his mantiya is laid on his coffin in place of a funeral pall.


  1. Isabel F. Hapgood, Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church, (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, 1975), p. xxxix.
  2. Archpriest D. Sokolof, A Manual of the Orthodox Church's Divine Services, Jordanville, NY, Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev, Holy Trinity Monastery, 2001, p165
  3. Different national churches have different traditions regarding the colors worn by bishops. In the Greek tradition, it is common for all bishops, regardless of rank, to wear a red mantle.
  4. There may be some parallel between the development of the episcopal mantle and the cappa magna used in the Roman Catholic Church.