ROCHET (Lat. rochettum, from the late Lat. roccus, connected with the O.H.Ger. rock, roc and the A.S. race; Fr. rochet, Ital. rocchetto, Sp. roquele, Ger. Rochett, Chorkleid), an ecclesiastical vestment. In the Roman Catholic Church the rochet is a tunic of white, and usually fine linen or muslin (battiste, mull) reaching about to the knee, and distinguished from the surplice by the fact that its arms are narrow and tight-fitting. The lower edge and the sleeves are usually garnished with lace, lined with violet or red silk in the case of prelates, or more rarely with embroidered borders.
The rochet is proper to, and distinctive of, prelates and bishops: but the right to wear it is sometimes granted by the pope to others, especially the canons of cathedral churches. It is not a iiestis sacra, and cannot therefore be used as a substitute for the surplice, e.g. in the administering of the Sacraments (Decree of the Congregation of Rites of Jan. 10, 1852). None the less, since it is used at choir services and is ordered to be worn over the everyday dress at Mass (Missa rom. Ril. celebr. i. 2), it may be included among liturgical vestments in the widest sense.
The earliest notice of the use of the rochet is found in an inventory of the vestments of the Roman clergy, dating from the 9th century. In this it is called camisia, a name which it retained at Rome until the 14th century, and it seems to have been already at that time proper to particular members of the clergy. Other Roman names for the vestment were succa, sucta; it was not till the 14th century that the name rochcttum appeared at Rome, but it was not long before it had superseded all the native designations. Outside Rome, too, the vestment is early met with, e.g. in the Prankish empire (gth century) as alba clericalis, in contradistinction to the liturgical alb, and in England (10th century) under the name of of er slip in the 46th canon of the ecclesiastical laws of Edgar. At the beginning of the 12th century the rochet is mentioned, under the name of camisia, by Gilbert of Limerick and by Honorius, and, somewhat later, by Gerloh of Reichersperg as tunica talaris. From the 13th century onward it is frequently mentioned. The name rochettum is first traceable in England; in Germany and northern France the rochet was also called saroht (sarrotus) or sarcos (sarcotium).
Outside Rome the rochet was, until well into the 14th century, a vestment common to all the clergy, and especially to those of the lower orders; and so it remained, in general, until the 16th century, and even, here and there, so late as the igth. Moreover, in further contradistinction to the Roman use, it had especially in the German dioceses a liturgical character, being used instead of the surplice.
The rochet was originally a robe-like tunic, and was therefore girdled, like the liturgical alb. So late as 1260 the provincial synod of Cologne decreed that the vestis camisialis must be long enough entirely to cover the everyday dress. A good example of the camisia of the 12th century is the rochet of Thomas Becket, preserved at Dammartin in the Pas de Calais, the only surviving medieval example remarkable for the pleating which, as was the case with albs also, gave greater breadth and more elaborate folds. In the 15th century the rochet only reached half-way down the shin; in the 16th and i?th to the knee; in the iSth and igth often only to the middle of the thigh. In the middle ages it was always plain. The rochet is unknown in the Eastern Churches. (J. BRA.)
Church of England. In the English Church the rochet is a vestment peculiar to bishops, and is worn by them, with the chimere (q.v.) both " at all times of their ministration " in church and also on ceremonial occasions outside, e.g. in the House of Lords or at a royal levee. In general it has retained the medieval form more closely than the Roman rochet, in so far as it is of plain, very fine linen (lawn), and reaches almost to the feet. The main modifications have been in the sleeves. At the time of the Reformation these were still narrow, though already showing a tendency to expand. The portrait of Archbishop Warham at Lambeth, for instance, shows a rochet with fairly wide sleeves narrowing towards the wrists, where they are confined by fur cuffs. This fashion continued until, in the i;th century, the sleeves became much fuller; but it was not till the 18th century that they developed into the familiar exaggerated balloon shape, confined at the wrists by a ribbon, beyond which a ruffle projected. About the same period, too, arose the custom of making the rochet sleeveless and attaching the " lawn sleeves " to the chimere. This fashion survived throughout most of the 19th century, but there has since been a tendency to revert to the earlier less exaggerated form, and the sleeves have been reattached to the rochet. The ribbon by which the wrist is confined is black, except when convocation robes are worn, when it is scarlet. The rochet is worn without the chimere under the cope by those bishops who use this vestment. At his consecration the bishop-elect is, according to the rubric, presented to the consecrating bishops vested in a rochet only; after the " laying on of hands " he retires and puts on " the rest of the episcopal habit," i.e. the chimere. (W. A. P.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)