Friday, 29 December 2017

On the Feast of Saint Thomas Becket

Figure 1.
Medallion figuring
Saint Thomas Becket.

Image : Mulholland Restoration
& Decorating.
Today is the Feast of the great English mediaeval bishop, Thomas Becket, who was martyred for his defence of the Church in 1170 within his own Cathedral of Canterbury by knights of King Henry II.

To commemorate this Feast, we wish to continue our description of restoration work on a church in Sydney (Australia) which is under the patronage of Saint Thomas.  The church of Saint Thomas of Canterbury (also known as Saint Thomas Becket's) was erected in 1887 in the Sydney suburb of Lewisham. Because of its proximity to the railway line which runs into the centre of Sydney from the North, the splendid Gothic Revival tower of the church is seen by thousands of people each day as they pass by in the city's trains.

Figure 2.
The splendid tower of Saint Thomas' seen through
the wiring and gantries of the railway.
Earlier this year, the Saint Bede Studio was approached to be a consultant on the restoration of the interior of this church.  Walking into Saint Thomas' for the first time on Easter Monday 2017, the impression was of an Old Lady of great dignity, who had escaped dramatic changes, but of greatly faded glory, cluttered by successive generations of alterations and accretions. It was a great challenge to devise a near-complete interior re-ornamentation within the constraints of available time.

The Studio's commission was to devise a colour scheme for the repainting of the church, to devise an ornamental scheme for the Chancel and its adjacent chapels and to advise on heritage restoration generally.  In this work, we received much practical support from the pastor, Father Samuel Lynch,  parish assistant Mr Stephen Smith and artisans Mulholland Restoration and Decorating of Melbourne.

Figure 3.
A photograph taken in Saint Thomas' before the
reinstatement of the pews.
This illustrates the newly-polished timber floors, the new
central aisle of tessellated pavement
and the new colour scheme for the walls of the building.

On our other blog Where Heaven and Earth Meet, we will be presenting a series of posts detailing the philosophy underpinning the Studio's work at Saint Thomas' as well as the stages of the buildings development and restoration.

For today, however, just a few photographs of the interior work, as an appetiser.

Figure 4.
Detail of the stencilwerk designed by the Studio
for the east wall of the chancel.

The photograph was taken before the completion
of the decoration.
Image : Mulholland Restoration and Decorating.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Priestly Ordinations 2017 : 4

The Saint Bede Studio

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

In this post, we are pleased to draw attention to the ordination of Father Joseph Fessenden of the Diocese of Nashville (Tennessee USA).  Father Fessenden was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in the Cathedral of the Incarnation on 23rd June by His Eminence Cardinal Rigali.

Father Fessenden commissioned a set of festal vestments from the Studio in the Gothic Revival style.

The vestments were made from an ecclesiastical brocade of silk and metallic threads in a shade of gold and ornamented with a braid of crimson and ivory.  The vestments were lined in burgundy taffeta.

Please pray for Father Fessenden and for all newly-ordained priests.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

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Ordination in the Nashville Cathedral.

Monday, 25 December 2017

A Blessed Christmas

To all friends, customers and readers of this Blog, sincere wishes for a Blessed Christmas.

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be made low; the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain; and the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.
Isaiah 40:4-5.

Michael Sternbeck
The Saint Bede Studio.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Festal Vestments

Festal vestments
The Studio recently completed this set of Festal vestments for a returning customer.  These distinctive vestments were made from a lovely silk damask of a very muted shade - platinum - and were lined in a deep red coloured taffeta.

The ornamental scheme of the chasuble was derived from vestments common in Italy in the fifteenth century and rendered in one of the braids designed by the Studio, named Saint George.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Priestly Ordinations 2017 : 3

Father Robert Whitney
Father Whitney with altar servers following his
First Holy Mass

Image: Ron Nicholl
Each year, the Saint Bede Studio has the privilege of preparing sacred vestments for priestly Ordinands. Happily, this year has been no exception.

In this post, we are pleased to draw attention to the ordination of Father Robert Whitney of the Archdiocese of Anchorage (Alaska USA).  Father Whitney was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in the Co-Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe on 23rd June by the Most Rev'd Paul Etienne, Archbishop of Anchorage.

Father Whitney commissioned a set of Marian vestments from the Studio in the Gothic Revival style.

The vestments were made from an ecclesiastical brocade in a shade of ivory and ornamented with a braid of blue and gold, especially designed and made for the Saint Bede Studio and based on the work of AWN Pugin.  The vestments were lined in blue taffeta.

Father Whitney
Father Whitney incensing the offerings during his
First Holy Mass.

Image: Ron Nicholl

We are pleased to include here some photographs of the First Holy Mass of Father Whitney in the Cathedral of the Holy Family, Anchorage, taken by Ron Nicholl.

Please pray for Father Whitney and for all newly-ordained priests.

Father Whitney
Father Whitney with fellow priests
of the 
Archdiocese of Anchorage.
Image: Ron Nicholl

Father Whitney
Father Whitney blessing altar servers
after his First Holy Mass.
Image: Ron Nicholl

Friday, 15 December 2017

Rose Vestments 2017

Twice a year, the Church breaks the tone of its penitential seasons by the use of rose-coloured vestments.  Rose-coloured vestments were never commonplace and they still are not.  Many different colours have been deemed by the Church as acceptable as liturgical rose.  Some of these are a salmon shade; some a silvery-pink, almost mushroom-colour; some close to what we would call Bishop's purple or fuchsia; and some red with overtones of gold.

We are pleased to feature this dalmatic made to match a chasuble for a returning customer in the United States. This is a lighter shade of rose, with more pink in evidence, but with silvery overtones.  The vestments are made from dupion silk and lined in silver taffeta. The orphrey of this chasuble is formed from a braid designed by and made exclusively for the Saint Bede Studio in colours of purple, red and silver.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Penitential Vestments in Art

Shewn adjacent is a vignette from a larger painting titled Scenes from the Life of Saint Augustine. It was painted in Bruges around 1490 by the artist who is referred to as The Master of Saint Augustine. This painting is housed now in the marvellous setting of The Cloisters, from whose website I was able to obtain this enlarged view.

Saint Augustine is shewn here being ordained a priest. What Augustine, the bishop and the lesser ministers are wearing is typical of the style of vestments found throughout the Low Countries (what we would now identify as the Netherlands and Belgium) in the 15th century. Let us examine that in detail.

All four are wearing well-gathered albs, which are decorated with rectangles of damask (called apparels) along the lower edge on the front and the back and also on the cuffs. Note also, how closely-fitting the sleeves of the albs are, and that the apparels of the ministers match the violet colour of the priest's chasuble. Apparelled albs and apparelled amices like this were worn all over Europe (including in Rome) throughout the mediaeval period.

An exceedingly slender maniple and stole is worn by Augustine (a form typical of England and Northern Europe) which are made from the same fabric as the apparels of his alb and amice.

Both the chasubles are decorated with the Y shape of orphrey. Although this form of decoration was centuries old when this work was painted, it was more commonly found in some places and less in others.   It was not as common in Germany and southern Europe.

The ornament of the Augustine's chasuble appears to be tabernacle-like work of saints, embroidered on a dark background. This contrasts beautifully with the lighter violet colour of the chasuble. In another post, shewing Mass being offered in Siena Cathedral, we find the a very similar colour scheme of chasuble and ornament. The colour is blue-ish and not too dark. Note how much more penitential and striking in character these sombre orphreys are compared with the all-too-common use of gold on purple or violet vestments (a decorative scheme which displays a real lack of imagination).

Both chasubles are semi-conical in form, or perhaps more precisely a modified version of the semi-conical shape. Were Augustine and the bishop pictured to have their arms by their sides instead of raised, the chasubles they are wearing would fall just about to their wrists. This is a more abbreviated width from earlier centuries. The curving folds from the bottom of the chasuble were produced when the shoulders of the vestments were very steeply sloped: quite unlike the poncho-like form of the modern chasuble and the sandwich-boards effect of the fiddleback chasuble.

The bishop is shewn in Pontificals. Beneath his chasuble of scarlet-red is seen an ornamented golden dalmatic. The tunic cannot be seen. He is wearing a precious mitre; the horizontal and vertical ornamental bands are worked onto a base of gold fabric and enriched with precious stones.

Lastly, a word on the colours of the vestments. The more modern concept of matching colours did not exist in the mediaeval period, when the whole scheme of the Liturgical Colours (as we know them now) was far less developed. A practical reason for this "mix and match" was the lack of available fabric in matching colours. But that does not fully account for the more familiar approach we see in paintings and illuminations of the mediaeval period, where a chasuble was made up from one fabric, but the stole, maniple and apparels were made up from another, and usually contrasting, fabric. What a varied and pleasing effect this produces!

Thanks to Brother Stephen O. Cist for helping to clarify the scene depicted in this vignette.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Saint Philip Neri vestments

Baroque vestments
Recently, the Studio completed a set of vestments for an Australian priest, resident in Victoria.

Our customer commissioned vestments in the Saint Philip Neri style. The chasuble (shewn adjacent) was made from a lovely ecclesiastical brocade in ivory and straw-gold and was ornamented in the Roman style with a silk damask outlined with narrow braids in the colours of burgundy and gold. The vestments were lined in a shade of lemon taffeta.

Please click on the image for an enlarged view.

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