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Most priests wear a stole, a vestment that appears to be similiar to a long scarf, although it is flat and worn against the chest, rather than 'round the neck.

Reading through the wikipedia article, the suggestion is that the stole is derived from Roman aristocracy - but of that is true, it completely conflicts with the notion that priests wear robes with rope belts because they were the clothing of the poor.

So, the question is, where did the stole come from? What is the theological statement that is implied by this vestment?

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Maybe they're supposed to serve both the poor and the rich? –  Mason Wheeler Oct 1 '12 at 19:03
    
In Orthodox tradition, the Stole has particular vesting prayers associated with it, short psalm verses referencing the beard of Aaron. The style may derive from Roman aristocracy, but that doesn't make it 'nonpoor' clothing. –  RiverC Oct 1 '12 at 20:04
    
I also see that there are different kinds of 'stole' - orthodoxwiki.org/Stole <- you're referring to this, right? It's a Roman style orarion, essentially. So the style is Roman aristocratic, but the essential garment is the 'orarion' or 'epitrachelion' - priestly neck garments that are probably older than history. –  RiverC Oct 1 '12 at 20:08
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http://orthodoxwiki.org/Stole

According to my understanding, it is a Roman adaptation of the Epitrachelion and Orarion - essentially priestly neck-garments. I wouldn't read too much into the clothing style itself, as it changes infrequently and often erratically and illogically. But the garment itself, functionally, is simply the symbol of the priesthood or diaconate, but styled differently. It's also important to note how simple they can be, so it is likely that they were adapted as priestly garments some time after they were in common use by aristocracy.

The interesting part is that while in the Orthodox tradition the stole is two different garments for the priest and deacon, in the West it is almost the same garment simply worn differently, albeit with the final effect being identical: the priest's is symmetrical and comes down like a beard, and the deacon's is asymmetrical and worn like a sash.

This suggests a common origin to all of the stoles, but does not tell us what the proto-garment was, or if one of the two was the proto-garment. I would be inclined to assume the Orthodox garments, partly because of the Oriental Churches (Non-Chalcedonians):

http://sor.cua.edu/Vestments/index.html

http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/english/miscellaneous/sacramental.html

etc... the naming is Western (stole) but it seems like the garment is mostly unchanged and similar to the Eastern Orthodox one.

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