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History of Verging and Vergers

The role of the verger in the church today is not exactly as it was in the early days of verging and the verger, but we share certain similarities and traditions.

The office of verger has its roots in the earliest days of the Church's history and it shares certain similarities with the former minor orders of "porter" and "acolyte." Generally speaking, vergers were responsible for the order and upkeep of the house of worship, including preparations for the liturgy, the conduct of the laity, and even grave-digging among many other duties in the church.

Although there is no definitive historical survey of the office of verger, evidence from Rochester, Lincoln, Exeter, and Salisbury Cathedrals indicates the existence of vergers as far back as the 12th century. A familiar sight in English cathedrals and on television broadcasts of royal weddings, funerals, and the Vicar of Dibley, vergers have maintained the buildings and furnishings of the Church, led the liturgy, and served God in the church for many centuries.

In medieval times, the verger (spelled "virger" in England and older texts) was the Protector of the Procession. The verger led the way for the procession as it moved from the vestry around the church or cathedral and into the front doors.

The procession often moved through crowds of people and animals, and the verger was there to clear a pathway with his virge (mace or "Staff of Office"). The verger had to be the first person in the procession as they cleared the way for the thurifer, crucifer, acolytes, choir, and sacred ministers by swinging the virge in front of them.

The Church of England Guild of Vergers (also known as the CEGV), was formed in 1932 and represents the fellowship of vergers within the Church of England.

The Vergers Guild of the Episcopal Church (also known as the VGEC) was formed in 1989 to serve vergers within the Episcopal Church in the United States and all vergers world-wide.

More information about the VGEC may be found in The History of the Guild in the About Us section.

We also have an extensive collection of archival material located at archives.vergers.org.