Cope chests

Date: ca. 1290 (York Minster), ca. 1245 (Salisbury Cathedral)
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): England
Medium: Wood, Iron
Dimensions: 79 cm high, 190 cm deep (York Minster), 4 m diam. (Salisbury)
Description: Very large wooden chests were used to store the long semicircular cloaks, called copes, worn by priests in liturgical processions. The word cope derives from the Latin cappa, meaning cape. The decorative ironwork on the oak cope chest from York Minster, complete with dragons emerging from the foliage, is comparable to that on the door of the York chapter house, dated ca. 1280–90. The Salisbury chest, also made of oak, likely dates to the mid-thirteenth century. Most copes were repurposed during the Reformation, when such vestments were not seen as suitable for Protestant ministers, and only seven medieval cope chests survive in English cathedrals.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 8, 9
Image Credits: Linda Safran

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