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Article from the 1911 Encyclopedia


ALMUCE, or AMICE (O. Fr. aumuce, O. Eng. aumuce, amys, amess, &c., from late Lat. almucia, almucium, armucia. &c.), a hooded cape of fur, or fur-lined, worn as a choir vestment by certain dignitaries of the Western Church. The origin of the word almucium is a philological mystery. The al- is probably the Arabic article, since the word originated in the south (Sicilian almuziu, Prov. almussa, Span. almucio, &c.), but the derivation of the second part of the word from a supposed old Teutonic term for cap--Ger. Mutze, Dutch Mutsche, Scot. mutch (New Eng. Dict. s. "Amice"; Diez, Worterbuch der rom. Sprachen)--is the exact reverse of the truth. The almuce was originally a head-covering only, worn by the clergy, but adopted also by the laity, and the German word Mutze, "cap," is later than the introduction of the almuce in church, and is derived from it (M. H. G., 13th century, almutz; 14th century, armuz, aremuz, &c.; 15th century, mutz, mutze, &c.). The word mulzen, to dock, cut off, which first appears in the 14th century, does not help much, though the name of another vestment akin to the almuce--the mozzetta--has been by some traced to it through the Ital. mozzare and mozzo (but see below).

In numerous documents from the 12th to the 15th century the almucium is mentioned, occasionally as identical with the hood, but more often as a sort of cap distinct from it, e.g. in the decrees of the council of Sens (1485)--non caputia, sed almucia vel bireta tenentes in capito. By the 14th century two types of almucium were distinguished: (1) a cap coming down just over the ears; (2) a hood-like cap falling over the back and shoulders. This latter was reserved for the more important canons, and was worn over surplice or rochet in choir. The introduction. of the biretta (q.v.) in the 15th century tended to replace the use of the almuce as a head-covering, and the hood now became smaller, while the cape was enlarged till in some cases it fell below the elbows. Another form of almuce at this period covered the back, but was cut away at the shoulders so as to leave the arms free, while in front it was elongated into two stole-like ends. Almuces were occasionally made of silk or wool, but from the 13th century onward usually of fur, the hem being sometimes fringed with tails. Hence they were known in England as "grey amices" (from the ordinary colour of the fur), to distinguish them from the liturgical amice (q.v..) By the 16th century the almuce had become definitely established as the distinctive choir vestment of canons; but it had ceased to have any practical use, and was often only carried over the left arm as a symbol of office. The almuce has now been almost entirely superseded by the mozzetta, but it is still worn at some cathedrals in France, e.g. Amiens and Chartres, at three churches in Rome, and in certain cathedrals elsewhere in Italy. The "grey amice" of the canons of St Paul's at London was put down in 1549, the academic hood being substituted. It was again put down in 1559, and was finally forbidden to the clergy of the English Church by the unratified canons of 1571 (Report of the sub-committee of Convocation, 1908).

See du Cauge, Glossarium, s. "Almucia"; Joseph Braun, Die liturgische Gewandung, p. 359, &c. (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1907); also the bibliography to the article VESTMENTS.

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