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A liturgical vestment composed of a strip of material from two to four inches wide and about eighty inches long.It has either a uniform width throughout, or is somewhat narrower towards the middle, widening at the ends in the shape of a trapezium or spade.The use of the stole is also customary in the Oriental rites, in which, as in the West, it is one of the chief liturgical vestments (Greek, 6pdpiov, the deacon's stole, and irrrpa X~Xtop, the priest's stole; Armenian, urar; Syrian and Chaldaic, uroro; Coptic, batrashil).According to present Oriental custom the stole is a strip of silk about seven or eight inches wide, having at the upper end a hole through which the head is inserted; it is either undivided (Syrian, Coptic, and Armenian custom ) or opens down the front from the opening for the head (Greek custom ).In the ninth and tenth centuries in the Frankish Empire the priests were commanded to wear the stole constantly as a badge of their calling, especially when on a journey.In Spain and Gaul in the pre-Carlovingian period, the deacons wore the stole over the tunic like the Greeks; in Southern Italy this practice was continued until at least the thirteenth century; at Milan the stole is still worn over the dalmatic.At the ordination of deacons the bishop places it on the left shoulder of the candidate, saying: "Receive from the hand of God the white garment and fulfil thy duty, for God is mighty enough to give thee His grace in rich measure." At the ordination of priests the bishop draws the part of the stole that rests at the back of the candidate's neck forward over the breast and lays the two ends crosswise, saying: "Receive the yoke of the Lord, for His yoke is sweet and His burden is light." The Sacred Congregation of Rites has given a large number of decisions concerning the use of the stole.As a general rule it may be stated: the stole is only used, and must be used, at a function peculiar to the deacon, priest, and bishop, a function that presupposes the order (e.g., at the celebration of Mass, when the Blessed Sacrament is touched, when the sacraments are administered), but not for example, in processions or at Vespers.
The stole is not a specific mark of parochial jurisdiction.
The custom for the priests to wear the stole crossed in front of the breast at Mass was known as early as the Synod of Braga (675), but did not become general until the late Middle Ages .
Very little is known concerning the nature of the stole in the pre-Carlovingian period.
Originally it was probably a cloth folded into the form of a band, and gradually developed into a simple band.
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the stole was very long, and at the same time extremely narrow.
Among the Syrians and Chaldeans the subdeacon also uses the stole, but he first twists it like a scarf around the neck, the ends being then let hang from the left shoulder in front and behind.