The Difference between a Surplice and an Alb

Buckle up and get ready for a wild ride because we’re going to take a quick look at what the difference is between a surplice and an alb. The days of wondering and bewilderment are over for you, because from this point forward, you will no longer be able to feign plausible deniability when the question arises and a heated debate ensues.

From this point forward, you will be the officiator of the debate, for you, yourself, will hold the keys to the answer of the enduring question: What is the difference between a surplice and an alb.

They’re both white garments, but the difference ends there. Actually, we’re just kidding. The difference ends there. There is really only one difference between them, and that has to do with the length, although there are some subtle differences between the people that wear them and when. So, with no further ado, here’s what gives:

An Alb:

– Is a long, white liturgical garment, often made from linen or other cloth material, that reaches to the ankles.

– It has to be white, or it isn’t an alb. That’s the point. In fact, it’s very name comes from this (alba means white in Latin)

– Sometimes albs are decorated or accented with liturgical lace and other ornamentations.

Who wears an alb?

– As a general rule, only priests wear the alb, and they only do so when they are officiating certain services.

– Members of the Roman Catholic Church are those who most frequently wear the alb, although some members of the Anglican church do as well. There are some Protestant denominations that wear them, but this is less common.

The Surplice:

– Is a white liturgical garment, often made from linen or other cloth material; but it reaches onto the hips or a little bit farther – not to the ankles. If it did it would be an alb.

– Surplices often have a square yoked neck and wide sleeves.

– Surplices are also white.

– Like albs, they can be decorated with lace or other features.

Who wears a surplice?

– Choristers and choir members can wear a surplice.

– It is also common for acolytes and altar servers to wear this particular garment.

– Sometimes priests wear it over a cassock.

In case you need it spelled out for you in utterly unambiguous terms, the difference between a surplus and an alb is fundamentally in the length. A surplice reaches to the hips or a little further, and an alb reaches to the ankles. In color, design, ornamentation and construction they are otherwise the same.

If you have additional questions, or you just want to see what types of albs and surplices you can find for sale, check out the collection you can find for sale online at

Divinity Clergy Wear, operating on their website listed above and in their showroom in Hamilton, New Jersey, will be your best asset when you’re shopping, either liturgical vestments themselves or for information about them. Check out their website today or give them a call at 877-453-3535 to learn more today.

For more information about Clergy Attire and Cassock Please visit : Divinity Clergy Wear.

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