The stole was first known as orarium a term derived from the Latin oro or "to pray." The change in name from orarion to stola took place in the ninth century but it wasn't until the 12th century that the new name "stole" became generally used. By the 16th century the stole had become a badge of the bishops, priest and deacons each of whom wore it over the shoulder in their own distinctive way.
The orarium was originally nine or ten feel long and a uniform two to three inches wide. We often worry about clergy that orderCarrot Top Studio stoles that seem to be really long for fear that they'll trip going up the chancel steps. How did they walk while wearing these long stoles in the 12th century? In later years stoles were of a tapered shape and were sometimes finished with fringe or little bells. Pope Innocent III gave a religious significance to the stole, which was originally a secular garment, by calling it the "easy yoke of Christ."
At the end of the Middle Ages, the stole became altered to a shorter, wider shape with an excessive splaying at the ends. Today's trend of a narrower stole became current in the early part of the twentieth century.
Today, in our studio, we see the stole to be a visual link to the Word. We thoughtfully move through the design process of choosing colors and symbols that might assist your ministry. And as the stole in throughout the ages, our stoles (and photography skills!) have evolved over the years.
*Thanks to Textile Art in the Church by Marion P. Ireland for this history