A descendant of a riding cloak, the chimere resembles an academic gown but without sleeves, and is usually made of scarlet or black cloth. In modern English use the garment is worn as part of the ceremonial dress of Anglican bishops. It is a long sleeveless gown of silk or satin, open down the front, gathered in at the back between the shoulders, and with slits for the arms. It is worn over the rochet, colored either black or scarlet (a combination referred to as "convocation robes").
The chimere is worn by the bishops of the Anglican Communion as a component of their choir habit. It comes in the colours of scarlet, Roman purple, purple, blue purple, and black. The bishop's cassock and the wrist-bands of his rochet typically match his chimere.
For Anglican bishops, the chimere is part of their formal vesture in choir dress — typically the chimere would be worn over a purple cassock and the rochet, and would be accompanied by a black scarf known as a tippet, with an optional academic hood. The chimere may be worn when vested in the cope, but not necessarily. The chimere is not normally worn when celebrating the Eucharist, except by some low church bishops.
On the analogy of the Catholic mantelleta certain Anglican prelates, American and colonial, have from time to time appeared in purple chimeres. As the Rev. N. F. Robinson pointed out (in "The black chimere of Anglican Prelates: a plea for its retention and proper use", in Transactions of the St Pauls Ecciesiological Soc. vol. iv., pp. 181-220, London, 1898), this innovation has no historical justification, and its symbolism is rather unfortunate.
- In some churches the lead singer in the choir is permitted to wear a chimere.
The word, from the Latin chimera, chimaera (Old French chamarre, Modern Fr. simarre; Italian zimarra; cf. Spanish zamarra, a sheepskin coat) possibly derived ultimately from Greek cheimarios ('wintry'), originally referred to a winter overcoat (cf. the cognate mythological monster Chimaera).
Its secular precursor was worn also by the Roman Senators, and is still worn by some university professors.
The origin of the chimere has been the subject of much debate; but the view that it is a modification of the cope is now discarded, and it is practically proved to be derived from the medieval tabard (tabardum, taberda or collobium), an upper garment worn in civil life by all classes of people both in England and abroad. It has therefore a common origin with certain items of academic dress.
The word chimere, which first appears in England in the 14th century, was sometimes applied not only to the tabard worn over the rochet, but to the sleeved cassock worn under it. Thus Archbishop Scrope is described as wearing when on his way to execution in 1405 a blue chimere with sleeves. But the word properly applies to the sleeveless tabard which tended to supersede, from the 15th century onwards, the inconvenient cappa clausa (a long closed cloak with a slit in front for the arms) as the out-of-doors upper garment of bishops. These chimeres, the colors of which (murrey, scarlet, green, etc.) may possibly have denoted academical rank, were part of the civil costume of prelates. Thus in the inventory of Walter Skirlawe, bishop of Durham (1405-1406), eight chimeres of various colors are mentioned, including two for riding (pro equitatura). The chimere was, moreover, a cold weather garment. In summer its place was taken by the tippet.
By a late abuse the sleeves of the rochet were, from motives of convenience, sometimes attached to the chimere.
In the Anglican form for the consecration of bishops the newly consecrated prelate, hitherto vested in rochet, is directed to put on the rest of the episcopal habit, i.e. the chimere. The robe has thus become in the Church of England symbolic of the episcopal office, and is in effect a liturgical vestment. The rubric containing this direction was added to the Book of Common Prayer in 1662; and there is proof that the development of the chimere into at least a choir vestment was subsequent to the Reformation. Foxe, indeed, mentions that Hooper at his consecration wore a long scarlet "chymere" down to the foot (Acts and Mon., ed. 1563, p. 1051), a source of trouble to himself and of scandal to other extreme reformers; but that this was no more than the full civil dress of a bishop is proved by the fact that Archbishop Parker at his consecration wore surplice and tippet, and only put on the chimere, when the service was over, to go away in. This civil quality of the garment still survives alongside the other; the full dress of an Anglican prelate at civil functions of importance (e.g. in parliament, or at court) is still rochet and chimere.
The continental European equivalent of the chimere was the zimarra or simarre, which ecclesiologists (Moroni, Barbier de Montault) define as a kind of soutane (cassock), from which it is distinguished by having a small cape and short oversleeves (manches-fausses) reaching to the middle of the upper arm and decorated with buttons. In France and Germany it is fitted more or less to the figure; in Italy it is wider and falls down straight in front.
Like the soutane, the zimarra was not proper to any particular rank of clergy, but in the case of bishops and prelates it is ornamented with red buttons and bindings, it never has a train (cauda 'tail').
It was not universally worn, e.g. in Germany apparently only by prelates. G. Moroni identifies the zimarra with the epito glum which Domenico Magri's Hierolexicon (ed. 1677; repeated in the 8th edition, 1732) calls the uppermost garment of the clergy, worn over the soutane (toga) instead of the mantellum (vestis suprema clericorum loco pallii), with a cross-reference to Tabardum, the usual upper garment (pallium usuale). From this it appears that as late as the middle of the 18th century, the zimarra was still in common use as an out-of-doors overcoat. But according to Moroni, by the latter half of the 19th century the zimarra, though still worn by certain civilians (e.g. notaries and students), had become in Italy chiefly the domestic garment of the clergy, notably of superiors, parish priests, rectors, certain regulars, priests of congregations, bishops, prelates and cardinals.
In the Catholic Church, the zimarra was never a liturgical vestment nor part of choir dress. It was merely a more or less loose cloak, originally associated with academics, that the clergy sometimes used as part of their everyday civilian dress.
A black zimarra lined with white, and sometimes ornamented with a white binding and gold tassels, was worn by the pope.
More analogous to the Anglican chimere in shape, though not in significance, is the purple mantelletta that, in presence of the pope or his legates, was worn over the rochet by Catholic bishops and by others authorized to wear pontificalia (the episcopal insignia). This symbolized temporary suspension of the episcopal jurisdiction (symbolized by the rochet) so long as the pope or his representative was present. Thus at the Roman Curia, Cardinals and prelates wore the mantelleta, while the pope wore the zimarra, and the first act of the camerlengo after a pope's death was to expose his rochet by laying aside the mantelleta; the other Cardinals followed his example, as a symbol that during the vacancy of the papacy the pope's jurisdiction is vested in their Sacred College.
As an item of academic dress, a slightly modified version of the chimere is, for instance, prescribed at the University of Oxford for doctors in Convocation Dress — and as such it is referred to as the Convocation Habit. The differences are that the chimere is worn open and the Convocation Habit is worn closed with two large buttons.
- the Report of the British parliamentary sub-committee of Convocation on the ornaments of the church and its ministers, p. 31 (London, 1908);
- Herbert Druitt, Costume on Brasses (London, 1906)
- G. Moroni, Dizionario dell erudizione storico-ecclesiastica (Venice, 1861), vol. 103, s.v. Zimarra
- X. Barbier de Montault, Traité pratique de la construction, etc., des églises, ii. 538 (Paris, 1878).