Monday, 9 December 2019

The Colours of Advent : an Annual post

Often it is asserted by liturgical commentators and other internet experts, that there are "correct" colours for the vestments used during Lent and Advent. Curious as to the history of these colours in Liturgical use, some years ago we researched and posted an article  here and here, about use of penitential colours for the Seasons of Advent and Lent. If you have wondered what colour the Church recommends for these Seasons, you might find the article illuminating.

We include here an historic work of art to illustrate the practice of our forebears. This work (adjacent) was painted by an artist known as The Master of Osservanza in the year 1440 and depicts a Low Mass being offered at a side chapel in the Siena Cathedral (Italy).

Some observations. The chasuble being worn by the celebrant is violet: in other words, much the same colour as the flower "violets". It is a blue-ish colour, not purple and it is not too dark either. The chasuble is the full conical shape and is ornamented with a simple column-orphrey of dark fabric (possibly even black). Most likely, the front of the chasuble would have been decorated with the familiar "tau". The celebrant is wearing decorative apparels on his alb and amice, which match the colour of the chasuble's ornament. That is a very typical practice of the Mediaeval period. Note, too, the very full folds of the alb.

We see, also, that the young cleric assisting the celebrant is wearing a full-length surplice or rochet, according to the style typically found in Renaissance Italy. Those who claim that such surplices are a "Church of England", or a "Low Church Party" garment should note this well.

Lastly, the altar itself. It is clothed in a dark antependium or altar frontal, ornamented with scarlet red. On the altar is a Crucifix and a single candle. Although it may seem peculiar that there is but a single candle instead of a pair, it might be remarked that not until the 16th century was it a usual practice to have a pair of candlesticks on an altar.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

In this Season of Advent

The Saint Bede Studio
The vestments described in this post were commissioned - together with a number of other vestments - for a Monastic Community in Brazil. Adjacent is pictured the new set of vestments in the Borromeon style.

This elegant set of vestments was made from a violet-coloured ecclesiastical brocade and lined in Royal Blue taffeta.  The ornament at the front of the chasuble is a stylised version of the TAU.  The orphrey was formed from one of the Studio's unique braids, Saint Chad, laid upon a panel of violet dupion silk and outlined with a narrow braid in blue and gold.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : Visit this page

The Saint Bede Studio

Saturday, 30 November 2019

30th November 1969

As has been discussed extensively in various places, 30th November 1969 - being the First Sunday of Advent - was the formal introduction day of the New Order of Mass devised by Father Annibale Bugnini CM and his Consilium.  This rite was approved (at every stage of development) by and published under the authority of Pope Saint Paul VI.

Between 1964 and 1968, step by step, changes were made to the Mass of the Roman Rite, so that the final stage of an entirely New Ordo Missae did not seem so dramatic.  But indeed it was significant.  Many of the words were the same as before, but they were ritually arranged in a very different manner.  Under the veil of "restoration" to the "earlier norms of the Fathers", ritual and textual revision took place to the Order of Mass, which were not properly restorations but often complete inventions, not based on liturgical Tradition.

The beginning of Mass used for the first time on
Advent Sunday 1969.
The most significant change in December 1969 was what is known as The Introductory Rite.  This beginning to the Mass of Pope Paul VI was a complete construct of Fr Bugnini and the Consilium and had no precedent in the rites of the East or the West. It was the Mass as a face-to-face dialogue between the celebrant and the Assembly (the term used in the General Instruction of the New Missal).  For the first time, the celebrant offered parts of the Mass standing at a chair and directly facing the congregation.

The relative merits of these revisions have been argued at length over the last 50 years and such is not the intention of this series of articles about the Liturgical books 1964 - 1970.  An earlier post may be found here.

At the beginning of the liturgical year 1969, there were no proper liturgical books for the celebration of the New Order of Mass.  The typical edition of the new Roman Missal (in Latin) was published subsequently, during 1970 and not available in an English translation until 1975.  Initially, the propers found in the liturgical books created during the period 1964 - 1968 (now referred to as the Interim Rite) continued to be used.  In some countries, an Order of Mass leaflet or booklet was inserted into the older Missals.  The Collect, Secret and Post Communion orations of the old Missal continued to be used for a few years.

The Australian Order of Mass book.
The cover was unadorned, lacking any
Cross or other religious symbol.
In Australia, a nicely-bound Order of Mass was released in January 1970.  The Order of Mass was given both in English and Latin, side-by-side.  It was common in Australia for this Order of Mass to be used in conjunction with a hand missal from the Interim Rite period for the texts of the Orations.  Images in this post illustrate the contents of this Australian Ordo Missae.

Until the publication of the translation of the typical edition of the Roman Missal in English in 1975, only a limited number of Prefaces appeared in these Ordo Missae volumes.  These were :  Advent I; Advent II; Christmas; Epiphany; Sundays in Lent; Weekdays of Lent; The Holy Cross; Easter; Ascension; The Sacred Heart; Christ the King; The Holy Spirit; The Holy Trinity; Sundays of the Year I; Sundays of the Year II; The Eucharist; The Blessed Virgin; Saint Joseph; The Apostles; Common Preface I; Common Preface II; The Dead.

To be continued ...

The decree from the Prefect of the Congregation for
Sacred Rites concerning the commencement
of the New Order of Mass. 

The decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship
permitting the Bishops of Australia to publish a
volume for the New Order of Mass in English.

Letter of Pope Paul VI
forming a preface to the New Order of Mass
liturgical books.

In 1969, an earlier translation of the Nicene Creed
continued to be used for the Order of Mass.

The prayer at the Offertory devised by
Father Annibale Bugnini CM.

The Advent Preface I
which was the preface first used when the
New Order of Mass was introduced in 1969.

Shewing the opening of the Roman Canon
which became known as Eucharistic Prayer I

In the Appendix of this volume,
ICEL texts for Gloria, Creed &c were
included, but which had not been approved for use
in November 1969.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Liturgical Art in Troubling Times : 2

Many thanks to all who visit the Blog of The Saint Bede Studio, either on a daily or an occasional basis, to look over our newly-made vestments, or to read our liturgical commentaries. We appreciate your support. 

In a previous article, we spoke about the downturn in custom experienced by the Studio and, indeed, by liturgical artists generally at this time. Something is wrong and it is affecting so many livelihoods in the business of ecclesiastical supply. It is commented upon by economic analysts that when there is disturbance in the market or an economy - whatever the cause may be - people stop spending on whatever is not essential. We seem to be at such a moment.

The Church being in a troubled state, there is every reason why the Saint Bede Studio should also accept its share of hardship; it is not fitting to complain about this too much. On the other hand, at the Studio we like to think (not a delusion we hope) that by our work we are making a significant contribution to the beautification of the Sacred Liturgy and the art of the Church. We would like that contribution to continue.

Would you agree?

Miss Bronwyn Jones and Michael Sternbeck
of The Saint Bede Studio.

Perhaps you could help us to keep the business going in these difficult times :
  • Enquire with us about a commission for vestments for your Parish;
  • Discuss with us making a gift of vestments to a priest;
  • Speak to people you know who might be interested in our work;
  • Share links to our work from the Studio Facebook page;
  • Pray for God’s Blessing on our Studio, so that we may continue our work.
Please give your earnest consideration to assisting our work.

With our thanks,

Michael Sternbeck

To be continued …

Monday, 25 November 2019

Orphrey braids of the Saint Bede Studio

Each year, the Saint Bede Studio adds to its column of orphrey braids.  Most of our braids are derived from precedents, either Gothic Revival or Mediaeval. They are never merely copies, but always have original touches to enhance the diversity of their use.

These unique braids are designed by the Studio and only used in conjunction with our vestments. They are not commercially available, nor available to any other vestment makers and are reserved under international copyright. *

The braids shewn in the adjacent image are used for orphreys in both the Gothic and Roman  styles of vestments designed and made by the Studio.

A key to the illustrated braids :

  1. Maria Regina
  2. English Rose
  3. Saint Columba
  4. Chi Rho
  5. Saint James
  6. Stella
  7. Saint Marie
  8. Saint Austin
  9. Welbye
  10. Saint George
  11. Saint Edmund (green/red)
  12. Salisbury
  13. Saint Edmund (silver/red)
  14. Saint Chad (green/red)
  15. Saint Giles
  16. Rosa Antiqua
  17. Lux Aeterna
  18. Saint Dunstan
  19. Saint Chad (blue/red).

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Enquiries :

* This measure has been necessary because of an unpleasant experience in which a manufacturer misappropriated one of the Studio's unique designs and then sold it for his own commercial gain.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Solemn Vespers : Lewisham (Australia)

Solemn Vespers for the Feast of Saint Cecilia was celebrated at the Church of Saint Thomas of Canterbury (Becket) at Lewisham in the Archdiocese of Sydney.

The interior of this church was restored and completely re-decorated under the direction of the Saint Bede Studio in 2017.

A YouTube video post of the liturgy is embedded here.

The Saint Bede Studio

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Saint Martin Vestments

Recently, the Saint Bede Studio completed this set of vestments in the Saint Martin style for a returning customer a young priest from Croatia.  These vestments are both ample and simply decorated.  They are lightweight and comfortable to wear.  Our customer requested a colour-scheme of white and silver.

The vestments are of handmade dupion silk from India and ornamented with a braid of celtic knotwork, outlined with a galloon in colours of grey and burgundy.  The set is entirely lined with a taup-coloured taffeta.

Please click on the image for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : Visit this page

Monday, 18 November 2019

Bishop Athanasius Scheider

The Saint Bede Studio
The Bishop imposing hands on the Ordinand.
Image : The New Liturgical Movement.
During a visit to Australia in July 2015, the Saint Bede Studio had the privilege to make and present a cloth-gold mitre to Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan, an heroic Apostle and worthy bishop.  The mitre was especially made for the Bishop's convenience in his travels.

These photographs were taken at the Ordination and First Holy Mass of the Reverend William Rock, of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter.  These rites were held in the beautiful church of Saint Mary in Providence (Rhode Island USA).  The photographs were taken by Claire Gruneberg and Tony Beretto and were found at the blog The New Liturgical Movement.

Please note that the vestments depicted were not made by the Saint Bede Studio.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

The Saint Bede Studio
The Bishop anointing the hands of the Ordinand.
Image : The New Liturgical Movement.

The Saint Bede Studio
The Bishop blessings the sacred vessels of the ordinand.
Image : The New Liturgical Movement.

Saturday, 16 November 2019


THE LITURGICAL COLOUR "Violaceus" in the Roman Rite (Part Two)
by Michael Sternbeck
First published on this blog, 2007.

In the twelfth century, Pope Innocent III was the first to specify the colours of the vestments that were to be used for the Roman Rite; almost certainly this reflected prevailing custom in Rome, not an invention on his part. Although a separate subject from this article, it is well to remember that it was only towards the end of the 1st Millenium that the question of vestment colour became a significant one.  Black was designated for penitential and funeral liturgies, but violaceus was indicated as a substitute for black. Pope Innocent’s treatise De sacro altaris mysterio (Book I, chapter 65, which was written before his election as pope in 1198) seems to be the first indication that violaceus had come to be regarded as a penitential colour for the Roman Rite.

If the Royal Purple colour which emerged in Late Antiquity Europe as a substitute for Tyrian Purple incorporated what Innocent III refers to as violaceus how did it come to be regarded as a colour of Penance rather than Status? The answer to that is not clear. Extensive research is needed into how the word violaceus was used in Late Antiquity. We do know that the flowers we know as violets were known in antiquity and that the words viola and violarium described the flower, violaceus being an adjective derived from those nouns.

So, what colour is indicated by Innocent’s use of the word violaceus? Let’s consider that question differently: not what the colour was, but what process was used to produce the colour.

It is likely that at this time (12th century) Tyrian or Imperial purple was still being used in Rome, but it had become the colour used exclusively by the Pope and by nobility. So, when Innocent used the word violaceus, instead of purpura, it would seem very unlikely that he was recommending that violaceus-coloured vestments were to be dyed from the expensive process for producing Tyrian purple. That expensive process would be unaffordable and unavailable to Western clergy. Rather, it would seem likely that Innocent’s violaceus was intended as Royal purple , a colour produced from the less expensive non-Murex dyes. It should be carefully noted that these less expensive dyeing processes could produce a violet-coloured dye or an amethyst (or fuchsia) purple coloured dye. But they were colours not so dark as Tyrian purple. I would suggest, therefore, that Innocent’s use of the word violaceus has nothing to do with an attempt to make a distinction (as some scholars have suggested) between the colours we recognise as violet and purple.

Whilst I suggest that it is an error to interpret Innocent’s violaceus as intending only the colour violet as we recognise it today, it should also be noted that his treatise in a separate section (Chapter 32) discusses the use of the Mosaic colours (cf Exodus 28:5) scarlet, flax-gold, blue and purple, the latter which Innocent describes as signifying the authority and royal dignity of a bishop. In short, purpura still had the connotation of prestige in the time of Innocent III (quite distinct from a penitential use).

I would add that it is certain that Innocent’s violaceus was not the dark violet-blue colour indigo which is commonly understood today as liturgical violet. Indigo, an ancient colour, was a blue quite distinct from violet or amethyst purple. Furthermore, it was not a commonly-used colour in Europe until the 16th century, when it came to be imported from India (hence the name Indigo).

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the supply of the Murex shell to produce Tyrian purple dye disappeared. So, in 1464 Pope Paul II authorised an alternative method of production of purple dye, extracted from the cochineal insect. Some scholars have suggested that the purple of the cochineal was much closer in hue to what we call purple and led to our modern conception of purple being a mixture of red and blue. As we have seen, the “purple” Tyrian was dark crimson because of double-dyeing. Others have suggested that Paul II's colour was closer to what we know as the scarlet used by Cardinals. Further investigation of this is required.

Even after Paul II’s introduction of the new process for dyeing, the colours violet and purple continued to be interchanged indiscriminately throughout the Western church for penitential vestments and the robes of bishops up until the 19th century. The 17th century painting of the prelate Ottaviano Prati shows that his vesture is of violet rather than the fuchsia-purple that we are now familiar with.

From the 19th century, as the process of dyeing fabric became more refined, that shade which the Church designated “purple” became more specific. Even so (as mentioned earlier in the first part of this article), it was not until 1933 that Rome specified the shade of purple that was to be used for the robes of its prelates.

A darker version of violet – closer to indigo – became more common in Europe in the 19th century and soon crept into the usage of the Church. Rome resisted this innovation until after the Vatican Council, but we have seen Popes over the last 35 years wearing this Indigo-colour during Lent: a dark colour to reflect a penitential mood.

To conclude, a little summary. The word violaceus used in the ceremonial books of the Roman Rite indicates the colour purple (reddish hues) or violet (bluish hues): the Church does not define the shade violaceus as it applies to sacred vestments. But the Church does define the shade violaceus for the robes of its prelates. Both the reddish purple and the bluish “purple” are colours that have been traditionally used for sacred vestments in the Roman Rite since at least the 12th century. There is a well-established usage in the Church’s Traditions for Tyrian purple, violet and amethyst purple (or fuchsia). But of all the shades of “violaceus” currently in use throughout the Roman Rite, Indigo or dark violet has the least claim to Tradition.

The ceremonial books of the Roman Rite make no distinction between the shade of violaceus for the vestments that are to be worn in Advent, Lent or for funerals.

On the other hand, those books do not prohibit variations, which might enhance symbolism in a particular Season. In other words, the one shade of “violaceus” is not required to be used for Lent, Advent and for Funerals.  In more recent years, for example, Popes have worn indigo-violet in Lent and purple in Advent. In the United States, some liturgists advocate the opposite practice. In Australia, the colour of the violet flower is used in many dioceses for Advent. Since the Church gives latitude on these matters, we are on safe ground when we choose these shades for liturgical use. We are not on safe ground, however, when we insist that a particular shade is the colour that the Church intends. The history of the use of these colours reveals that they were used freely, without specific regulation, right up until our own times.

Some views of my own on these matters, and they are no more than that: views.

For the Ordinary form of the Roman Rite, when red vestments are required to be used for Palm Sunday and Good Friday, I would like to suggest that it is perfectly permissible and even desirable to use that blood red colour which the ancients referred to as Tyrian Purple. Dare I suggest that this purple is also the appropriate colour for Palm Sunday and Good Friday in the Usus Antiquior of the Roman Rite? I risk being accused of archaeologism, of course.

Then, there is the Season in the Usus Antiquior of the Roman Rite called “Septuagesima”. Is it desirable that the importance of the Season of Lent (from Ash Wednesday onward) be enhanced by the use of vestments of a different colour from the colour used in Septuagesima? We know this is the case in the Sarum and other uses, where a special “Lenten Array” of unbleached linen was used specifically for Lent.

I would like to acknowledge assistance from Inge Boesken Kanold and Dr Gerhard Steigerwald, scholars of the history of the colour purple, in the preparation of this article.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Priestly Ordinations

Borromeon vestments
Each year, the Saint Bede Studio has the privilege of preparing sacred vestments for priestly Ordinands. Happily, 2019 has been no exception.

This post features a set of vestments made for an ordinand from the Diocese of Orange (California USA), who commissioned a set of vestments from the Studio in the Borromeon form.

The Borromeon-style chasubles are frequently requested by our customers, because they combine an ample form with a traditional ornament.

These vestments were made from a beautiful silk damask in shades of ivory and straw.  The ornament, in the Roman manner, was formed from a damask in deep-red and straw-gold, outlined with golden galloons.  The vestments were lined in a red-coloured taffeta.

Please pray for for all newly-ordained priests.

Enquiries : Visit this page

The Saint Bede Studio

Borromeon vestments