Altar clothes, along with special vestments worn by Catholic priests, hold specific meaning in the church and act as a unifying symbol to Catholic worshipers throughout the world. According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Pope Innocent III was one of the first to emphasize the distinctive colours circa 1216. The four symbolic colours used in Catholic ceremonies are: Red, White, Violet/Purple and Green, while Black is sometimes used for funerals which in most occasions, are rare.

Purple altar clothes are used to represent Suffering, Mourning and Penitence. It is used during the season of Lent, when Catholic worshipers often give up worldly pleasures and make an extra effort to give up vices, in honour of Christ’s sacrifice and its attendant Crucification on the cross. It is also used during Advent, except for the third Sunday of the season, when it is replaced with pink. Other occasions for purple throughout the year include Rogation days, Ember days and Vigils. Also, Bishops, Archbishops and Patriarchs of the church traditionally dress in Purple.