A rationale, also called superhumerale (from Latin super, "over", and [h]umerus, "shoulder"; thus a garment worn "over the shoulder[s]"), is a liturgical vestment worn exculusively by bishops mostly in the Roman Catholic Church. It is mainly characterized as a humeral ornament - yet also adorning chest and back - and is worn over the chasuble. The term rationale originates from a Latin translation of the Ancient Greek λόγιον logion for the Hebrew חֹשֶׁן hoshen by St. Jerome, referring to the sacred breastplate worn by the High Priest of the Israelites, according to the Book of Exodus.
During the Middle Ages it was worn by several Bishops, primarily in the Holy Roman Empire, as far spread as Regensburg, Prague and Liège. Its use largely died out in the 13th century, although there is evidence that it was worn at Reims until the 16th century. Some rationales can be found preserved at Eichstätt, Bamberg and Regensburg. The earliest pictures of rationales that exist are two pictures of Bishop Sigebert of Minden, a miniature and an ivory tablet, which were both incorporated in a Mass Ordo belonging to the Bishop.
The only Bishops who wear rationales in the 21st century are:
- the Bishop of Eichstätt, Germany - Gregor Maria Franz Hanke, O.S.B. (since 2006),
- the Metropolitan Archbishop of Paderborn, Germany - Hans-Josef Becker (since 2003),
- the Bishop of Toul, now Nancy (-Toul), France - Jean-Louis Papin (since 1999), and
- the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kraków, Poland - Stanisław Dziwisz (since 2005).
The modern rationale is a humeral collar, ornamented in the front and back with appendages.
Rationales are occasionally still worn by episcopi vagantes in the Celtic Christian Orthodox Church, a small community with historical links to the Old Catholic independent movement and Eastern Orthodoxy.
- "Rationale". The Catholic Encyclopedia XII. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1911-06-01.
- Since 1165, whenever the bishop of Toul officiated pontifically, he wore an ornament called surhumeral, or rationale, a sort of pallium covered with precious stones, which decoration he alone of all the bishops of the Latin Church wore. A brief of 16 March 1865, restored this privilege to the bishops of Nancy and Toul.
- "Vestments of the Celtic Orthodox Christian Church". celticchristianity.org.
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