Monday, 14 July 2008

Vestments for His Holiness Benedict XVI

In March, the Saint Bede Studio was contacted by the Archdiocese of Sydney with a request to submit designs for sets of vestments for the Papal Mass in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, Saturday, 19th July. Designs were prepared for vestments decorated in three different styles: the Gothic Revival; Carolingian; and according to the traditions of Rome. These designs were then submitted by the Archdiocese of Sydney to the Prefect of Pontifical Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, who selected the design for vestments ornamented in the Roman style.

A chasuble and stole, Pontifical dalmatic and mitre were to be prepared for the Pope’s use, in addition to the three dalmatics for the deacons assisting the Pope at the Mass.

In preparing the design, certain considerations were paramount. Firstly, that the vestments be beautiful and dignified, as is fitting for vestments used by His Holiness. Secondly, that the vestments be convenient for the use of His Holiness. Lastly, that the vestments be visually related to Roman traditions for ornamenting sacred vestments.

The design for the chasuble is inspired by a 16th century Saragossan painting of Saint Martin of Tours. But the semi-conical shape of that chasuble was changed to accord more with the shape and dimensions set down in the same century by Saint Charles Borromeo.

The fabric for these vestments is the magnificent silver and gold "Edwardine" silk damask which is figured in the Italianate style of 18th century. The front of the chasuble is decorated with the “tau”: an ornament in continual use in Rome for almost 1000 years. The ornament of the chasuble, Pontifical dalmatic and dalmatics of the three deacons is in yellow "Lovebirds" silk damask, trimmed with a 2cm wide qautrefoil braid of red and gold, especially designed by the Saint Bede Studio. All the vestments are lined in crimson-red silk and bear the Papal coat of arms.

The mitre is made from cloth gold upon which is embroidered mediaeval scrollwork in gold, silver and crimson thread. These embroideries are derived from the historic mitre of Saint Thomas Becket (12th century) kept at the Sens Cathedral. The lappets of this mitre are also embroidered with scrollwork and bear the Papal coat of arms. The embroidery of the mitre was carried out splendidly by Fullerton Design Embroidery (Lithgow NSW).

Attached images shew the original design submitted to the Holy See; the individual Papal vestments; the mitre of Saint Thomas Becket and a reproduction of the painting of Saint Martin of Tours, upon which the vestments were based.

The Saint Bede Studio has regarded it as the most tremendous privilege to make these vestments and has given of its best to produce something worthy. It was a project with its ups and downs but, protected by the Divine Hand, it was possible to bring it to a happy conclusion. But there were also human agents whose generous assistance I gratefully acknowledge: Fr Don Richardson, Sydney Archdiocesan Prefect of Ceremonies; Mrs Louise Thygesen (Canberra), Mrs Helen McLoughlin (Maitland), Mrs Barbara Little & Mrs Kyoko Peacock (Newcastle) and Mrs Sandy Fullerton (Lithgow) whose practical support enabled this project to be completed in time for the Papal visit.

Ut in omnibus Deus glorificetur!