Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Pontifical Requiem for King Richard III

Westminster chasuble
15th century English embroidery
 of the Crucifixion
on the rear of the chasuble.
The memorable events surrounding the reinterment of the remains of King Richard III of England have been taking place in Britain over the last several days and will conclude with the late King's burial in the Cathedral of the Anglican Diocese of Leicester on Thursday and Friday.

One of the occasions forming part of this was a Pontifical Mass celebrated by the Vincent Cardinal Nichols of Westminster at Holy Cross Priory Church in Leicester. For this Mass, the Cardinal wore a fifteenth century vestment known as the Westminster chasuble. Information about this chasuble may be read here and here.

It cannot be claimed with certainty that this chasuble was worn during a Mass offered in the presence of King Richard, although this is heavily suggested at present. If it were worn, the late King would be surprised to see what the chasuble looks like now, which bears little resemblance to its original condition. The chasuble became part of the patrimony of Ushaw College in northern England in 1867. Perhaps at this time it was transformed from its original mediaeval form to the "Roman" form. The word mutilated is not too strong to be used to describe this modification. An execrable narrow braid of gold lace has been used on the remade chasuble, adding insult to injury.

King Richard IIIWhenever it was modified, undoubtedly it was in bad condition by then, threadbare and unwearable. It is unlikely that the chasuble was just cut-back to make it smaller, but rather completely remade using those sections of fabric (a brocaded velvet) which were still in usable condition.

We see that the fabric on the back of the chasuble is quite different from that on the front. To our modern sensibilities, this may be seem quite strange, but it was hardly unusual in mediaeval times. It would seem that two quite different fabrics, but of the same place of origin were used to make this one chasuble.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art indicates that the velvet used for the front of the chasuble is probably of Venetian origin and from the last quarter of the fifteenth century. A description of an almost identical length of velvet, found in the Museum, is given here.

Westminster chasuble
Prompted by musings on another Blog and the indignation of one of our correspondents, we have prepared the adjacent rendering of how the Westminster chasuble might originally have looked. Quite obviously, this is conjectural, but it is based on some probabilities. By the fifteenth century, when fabrics employed for vestments were heavier and less flexible, the shape of the chasuble had changed from the classical conical or semi-conical form. A fifteenth century chasuble preserved in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna has been used as the basis for our conjecture of the original appearance of the Westminster chasuble. The velvet described above preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been used to recreate the appearance of the front of the chasuble.

How would the chasuble have appeared on fifteenth century celebrants? Given the very much smaller average height of mediaeval people, the chasuble would have been long, but not ankle length, on its wearers. It would also have been quite wide, extending to the wrists. How different from how it appeared as worn by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster last Monday!

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Ladye Day

To commemorate our Lady's Feast, we are pleased to present this Maria Regina chasuble, recently completed for a priest in Western Australia.

The Maria Regina chasuble, especially intended for Feasts of the Blessed Virgin, is based on the style of chasuble commonly found in England and the Low Countries in the 15th and 16th centuries: long and pointed, but reaching only to the elbows. This cut of chasuble was adopted by AWN Pugin at the times of his Revival of "Gothic" vestments in the 19th century. The braids to ornament these vestments were designed by the Saint Bede Studio, inspired by a Pugin orphrey.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Enquiries :

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Lenten Vestments

Lenten vestmentsThe vestment described in this post was commissioned together with a number of other vestments for a Latin Mass Community in Brazil.

This is a chasuble in the Studio's Saint Martin style, being a contemporary interpretation of the mediaeval chasuble. It is a very ample vestment and intended for use in Lent. The vestments are made from a simple silk in a very dark shade of purple and ornamented with a braid of the Studio's own design, but based on the work of AWN Pugin.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

At "The New Liturgical Movement" Blog

Vestments made for an ordinand in 2013 have made a surprise appearance at the blog The New Liturgical Movement.

They are depicted here.

Enquiries :

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Vestment Commissions with the Studio

A note to readers who may be considering commissioning vestments with the Saint Bede Studio or who have made recent enquiries :

Commissions for the LAST QUARTER of 2015 will close on 15th March. Our schedule of work has filled quickly, so please contact us now to avoid disappointment.

This is the last call. Thank you.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

7th March 1965

As has been noted on a number of Blogs, 7th March marks the 50th Anniversary of the celebration by Pope Paul VI of the first Mass offered in Italy according to the modifications in the rite of Mass requested by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul chose a Roman Parish Church for this special Mass.

We will discuss in a forthcoming post this Mass and the specific revisions of the Order of Mass which were promulgated at the beginning of 1965.

In the meantime, our attention is drawn to this photograph of the Mass, shewing the Pope wearing (probably for the first time) one of the more ample chasubles which became common in Rome thereafter. This chasuble was made of purple silk. It appears to have a silken lining. Its ornament, being a simple column back and front, is not visible in the photograph. Of note is that the chasuble is not of the same proportions as those which were common later in the reign of Pope Paul and the reign of Pope John Paul II. Being not too long, it is possible clearly to see the Pope's albe.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Colours of Lent

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 ( posted  here and here ), about the 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 boy assisting the celebrant is wearing a full-length surplice, according to the style typically found in Renaissance Italy. Those who claim that such surplices are "Church of England" 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, 21 February 2015

Mediaeval Pontificals : 1

When looking at mediaeval depictions of bishops or popes vested for Mass, we find certain things in common with the Pontifical vestments of a 21st century Catholic bishop, but some significant differences. The most striking difference is the usual lack of an Episcopal dalmatic amongst the vestments of a modern bishop. Even when a dalmatic is worn, it is usually an affair so non-descript as to be hardly noticeable.

Before Pope Paul VI entered Saint Peter's Basilica to celebrate Mass solemnly in 1965, bishops or popes had - since the earliest centuries of the Church (certainly since the Constantinian period) - worn a dalmatic underneath the chasuble. *   Paul VI was the first to break this tradition, when he appeared in a flowing chasuble, with no dalmatic beneath. As a matter of fact, until the end of his Pontificate in 1978, he left aside the use of the dalmatic. His successors, John Paul I, John Paul II and Francis all likewise have left aside the dalmatic. Benedict XVI was a happy exception to this, adopting quite early on in his Pontificate the use of the dalmatic beneath the chasuble on all solemn occasions.

The pity of this is that the dalmatic worn with the chasuble symbolised the fullness of Holy Orders enjoyed by a bishop. A bishop is incompletely vested if he lacks the dalmatic. The claim that it is too burdensome to wear a dalmatic beneath the chasuble is, to say the least, pitiful.

In this post, we look at a painting which once formed part of altarpiece from Faenza in Italy of the early 15th century, which depicts Saint Peter Damian. The artist Peruccino - who was known as the Master of Saint Peter Damian - prepared this likeness from the effigy on the sarcophagus of the saint.

The saint is depicted wearing a style of vestments commonly known in 14th and 15th century Italy; namely : a flowing linen albe which is unadorned with either apparels or embroidery; a red semi-conical chasuble whose Tau ornament is formed from embroidered cameos of the saints and upon his head a precious mitre of white silk ornamented and embroidered with goldwork and precious stones.

We also see the Episcopal dalmatic (the tunic can also just be seen). It is immediately noticeable how elaborate the dalmatic is : not a plain affair of simple silk. It is made from a rich damask of deep green ornamented with gold embroidery and outlined with gold braid. One could be forgiven for observing that the dalmatic has a richer appearance than the chasuble itself. But certainly the dalmatic enriches the appearance of the wearer and is not intended to be invisible.

Imagine how dignified a modern bishop would look if he were to wear a dalmatic of such nobility beneath his chasuble? One can but hope.

* In addition, a bishop would also wear a tunic, being the vestment of the subdeacon, but this requirement for the celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite lapsed when the subdiaconate was abolished as a Major Order in 1973. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Where Heaven and Earth Meet

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Montmatre.
In December, the Saint Bede Studio commenced a subsidiary Blog to present another facet of our work and ongoing study. The new blog is titled Where Heaven and Earth Meet.

The purpose of this blog is to provide materials helpful to those re-ordering our Churches or building new ones. The focus will be on illustration by means of available photographs.

Observations on ecclesiastical architecture (particularly as it pertains to the Sacred Liturgy and its aesthetics) will be presented at the new blog. Restoration and re-ordering work of our churches will also be discussed, in addition to newly-built churches.

To date, there have been twenty posts put up on the Blog. These may be of particular interest to readers:

Pugin's Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Saint Giles' Church, Cheadle UK :

Friday, 23 January 2015

For the Season "Per Annum" 2015

The vestments shewn in the adjacent photograph were prepared for a newly-ordained priest in the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Germany.

This chasuble, in the Saint Bede Studio's Saint Austin design, is made from an English ecclesiastical brocade and is lined in taffeta. The vestments are ornamented with an orphrey braid of the Studio's own design in colours of green and gold upon red. The braid is directly based on a design by AWN Pugin.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.