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Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen wearing the ferraiolo, 1952.
Cardinal Sarr of Dakar wearing his ferraiolo of watered silk

The ferraiolo (also ferraiuolo, ferraiolone) is a type of cape traditionally worn by clergy in the Catholic Church on formal, non-liturgical occasions.[1] It can be worn over the shoulders, or behind them, extends in length to the ankles, is tied in a bow by narrow strips of cloth at the front, and does not have any 'trim' or piping on it.


The ferraiolo originated as a knee-length item of clothing for Roman nobility. It became a church garment in the 15th century when colours were associated with ranks in the church hierarchy.[1]

Colour and material[edit]

The colour of the ferraiolo is determined by the rank of the cleric, being black for secular priests, violet for protonotaries apostolic and bishops, and scarlet for cardinals.[2]

Before 1969, members of religious orders could use a ferraiolo that matched the color of their habit. The colors also changed during sede vacante.[1]

Cardinals, and patriarchs who are not cardinals, use a ferraiolo of watered silk. Archbishops, bishops and protonotaries may use silk but not watered silk, unless specifically permitted.[1] Lesser prelates may use faille but should use wool and wear the ferraiolo behind the shoulders.[1]

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, wearing his purple ferraiolo


Pope Paul VI encouraged wearing the ferraiolo at formal, non-liturgical occasions.[1]

The Pope may use a cape but does not wear a ferraiolo.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g James-Charles Noonan Jr. (1996). The Church Visible. Viking. p.312-314. https://archive.org/details/churchvisiblecer0000noon
  2. ^ Ceremonial of Bishops, Cæremoniale Episcoporum. Congregation for Divine Worship, 14 Sep 1984. 1205.