Thursday, 17 October 2019

REMINDER : New Commissions

A reminder to readers of the Saint Bede Studio blog.  If you are considering placing a commission with us for new vestments, NOW would be an opportune time to begin a discussion.

Enquiries :

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Vestments in honour of the Blessed Virgin

The Studio was pleased to prepare for an English customer a variation on our well-known Maria Regina vestments.  Our customer is a priest of the Diocese of Shrewsbury (UK).

The vestments were made from a jacquard in a brighter shade of white and lined in a rich shade of blue taffeta.

Please click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : Visit this page

Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Shrewsbury.

Monday, 7 October 2019

On the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary

The Saint Bede Studio
Recently, the Studio had the pleasure of completing a set of Marian vestments for a returning customer in the United States.

Our customer requested a set of vestments in the Ave Maris Stella style.  A brocade in a muted shade of gold was used,  ornamented in the Gothic style with one of the Studio's unique braids.  The lining was made from taffeta in a lovely shade of blue.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : Visit this page

The Saint Bede Studio

Marian vestments

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Vestments for Sweden

The Saint Bede StudioRecently, the Studio had the pleasure of completing a set of vestments for a customer in Sweden, being our first commission from the Scandinavian countries.  This was for the Parish of Christ the King in Gothenberg (Archdiocese of Stockholm).

Our customer requested a set of red vestments in the Saint Philip Neri style.  A beautiful English ecclesiastical brocade was used, simply ornamented in the Roman style with an outlining galloon.  The lining was made from dupion silk in a lovely shade of purple.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : Visit this page

The vestments seen during the offering of Holy Mass in
the Church of Christ the King, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Image : Mrs Terez Uram.

Red vestments

Monday, 23 September 2019

Saint Martin vestments

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 Saint Martin style - an ample cut of chasuble.

This restrained but elegant set of vestments was made from crimson-red dupion silk and lined in a slightly-contrasting shade of silk taffeta.  The ornament is also simple, being a column front and back.  These columns were formed from one of the Studio's unique braids, Saint James, laid upon a panel of brighter-red dupion silk and outlined with a narrow braid in burgundy and gold.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Saint Augustine's Church Ramsgate

Low Mass in the Church of S' Augustine's Ramsgate
Image :
Facebook page of Father Terence M Naughtin OFM Conv.
We are pleased to reproduce this photograph depicting the Australian Franciscan Father Terence Mary Naughtin celebrating Mass at an altar in the church of Saint Augustine's Ramsgate (UK).  Father is wearing a chasuble made by the Saint Bede Studio in 2012.  Read more about these vestments here.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

New Vestments in the Borromeon form

The Saint Bede Studio
The Saint Bede Studio recently completed a set of Festal vestments in the Borromeon form for a returning customer from the United States.

The vestments were made from a cream-coloured English brocade and lined in a brassy-coloured taffeta.  The ornament was formed from a semi-metallic brocade in rich colours of gold and burgundy, outlined with a galloon in similar colour.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : Visit this page

The Saint Bede Studio

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Priestly Ordinations 2019 : 5

Father Bill Van Wagner
Figure 1
Father Van Wagner pictured during his
First Holy Mass.
One of the ordinands for whom this year the Saint Bede Studio prepared a set of vestments, kindly wrote to us to thank us for our work.  We are pleased to include here a message from Father William Van Wagner of the Diocese of Madison (Wisconsin) USA, together with some photographs he sent us of his first Holy Mass.

I wanted to pass along some photos from my First Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving at S. Cecilia's Catholic Church in Wisconsin Dells,  for which the vestment I commissioned with you was worn. The compliments on the beauty of your work were numerous, with many acknowledging how the dignity and artistry of the chasuble inspired true worship of God almighty. Thank you for your brilliant work. I myself was deeply edified to be vested in such manner as to give due reverence to the solemnity of the occasion. Know of my prayers for you and for you work.

Please pray for Father Van Wagner and for all newly-ordained priests.

Please click on the images for an enlarged view.

Father William Van Wagner
Figure 2
Father Van Wagner pictured with sacred ministers and
concelebrants at the conclusion of his
First Holy Mass.

Monday, 2 September 2019

In Dark Times for the Church

Almighty, Eternal God, by ever giving strength to our weakness, you enable the Church to flourish even amidst its trials, so that when it appears to men to be utterly cast down, then rather does it gloriously prevails.  Whilst then, it accepts affliction as a proving of its faith, let it persevere, by your grace, in triumphant loyalty.  Amen.

A Collect from the Missal of Robert of Jumieges, 11th century.

This edifying image of Holy Mass being offered at the Benedictine Abbey of Downside (Bath, United Kingdom) is from the Facebook page of Father Terence M. Naughtin OFM (Conv.).

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Mutual Enrichment

Remember some years ago, we used frequently to hear on Blogdom about mutual enrichment between the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite?  Pope Benedict advocated this in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.  Perhaps you have noticed that this has not been discussed so much for a few years.  One might go so far that there is now hostility to the concept.  Such a Reaction seems unnecessary and unhelpful.

In this post, let us discuss this from the perspective of mutually enriching the aesthetics of the two Forms for, although the external appearances are of a lesser degree of importance than the prayers and rituals of the Mass, these external forms do, nevertheless, make a strong impression upon those who look at them, namely the congregation.

For the purposes of this discussion, let us consider the scenario where both Forms of the Roman Rite are offered in the same Church or Parish, using the same sanctuary or altar and by the same priest and community.

The Benedictine Abbey of Le Barroux: 
Contemporary vestments intended 
for the Extraordinary Form.
Whilst it is true that there are in use worldwide tasteful vestments and tasteless vestments, there is no stipulation that a particular style of vestments is appropriate to one Form of the Roman Rite more than another.  Readers of liturgical blogs might be excused for thinking this is not the case: they might be forgiven for thinking that the only appropriate style of vestments for the Extraordinary Form is the Baroque chasuble (sometimes mistakenly referred to as the "Roman" chasuble, or, more derisively, the fiddleback).  They might be forgiven this, because every day we see photographs appear on numerous Blogs of celebrations of the Extraordinary Form with Baroque vestments.  Just as frequently, we see Extraordinary Form Masses being celebrated with brand new Baroque vestmentsWell, the equation of Baroque vestments with Catholic Tradition simply is a non-sequitur

When the approach is taken that Baroque vestments must be used for the Extraordinary Form, we risk moving away from Tradition into the Re-Creation of bygone eras.  Tradition isn't about Reaction or Re-Creation; that is a very shallow interpretation of Tradition and Continuity.  Read more about that here.

In short, one obvious sort of mutual enrichment of the two Forms of the Roman Rite is when people observe that the same styles of vestments are appropriate for both and there is no required disjunct between the two.

Another is the manner in which altars are set up.  Leaving aside the question of the Orientation of the Extraordinary Form, an altar may be set up for Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form simply with two candlesticks and a Crucifix, resting on the mensa of the altar.  Tragically, some have now implemented the practice that, for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form, a timber shelf is placed on an altar, sometimes with a faux-tabernacle built into it, in order to make the altar seem more like "a Traditional High altar".  This frightful practice is not only nonsense, it is also unliturgical.  Is it not disrespectful of the dignity of a consecrated altar to place portable shelves on it?

Processional Cross as the altar Cross.
Vest the altar in worthy antependia (altar frontals) and with cloths of white linen.  If you find altar cloths (the cloths that cover the mensa of the altar) in your church which are made in the liturgical colours (another frightful practice) instead of pure white, dispose of these with a just penalty.

You don't have to place six candlesticks on your altar for the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form.  It became fashionable to do this, adopting what people referred to as the Benedictine Arrangement.  Two good-sized, worthy candlesticks will do, particularly if the altar is a small one.  If you do use a set of six candlesticks, make sure they are a matching set and proportionate to the altar.

Here is another suggestion: if you have a free-standing altar, locate the Processional Cross in the very centre of the altar (at the front of the altar for the Ordinary Form and at the back of the altar for the Extraordinary Form).  Anciently, the Processional Cross was used this way before there was ever a thought of placing a Cross on the altar.  A processional Cross so located can serve for both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms.

Secondly, then, ornament the altar for both Forms of the Roman Rite in much the same manner, even if the Orientation of the celebration is different.

Priestly crossing of the stole.
Thirdly, for priest readers: start crossing your stole when you vest for Mass in the Ordinary Form.  It might be immediately objected that this is forbidden by the GIRM (a debatable point),  but if you crossed your stole, would anyone mind that much?  If they do, they don't have enough to do with their time. It is an ancient practice to cross the stole and it reinforces the distinction between the threefold Orders of deacon, priest and bishop.  Give it a try.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Priestly Ordinations 2019 : 4

The Saint Bede StudioEach 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 Saint Philip Neri form.

The vestments were made from a brocade with a large woven design and in a shade of off-white.  The ornament, in the Roman manner, was formed from an attractive silk damask in rust-red and gold, outlined with golden galloons.  The vestments were lined in a red-coloured taffeta.

Please pray for for all newly-ordained priests.

Please click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : Visit this page

The Saint Bede Studio

The Saint Bede Studio

The Saint Bede Studio

Friday, 16 August 2019

To what purpose Sacred Vestments ?

Solemn Mass at the Abbey of 
Saint Madeleine, Le Barroux.
If we were to accept the notion that a priest is the "president of the christian assembly" then what he wears to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy would be merely an expression of his personality or tastes. The notion of presider is an entirely modern (and a protestant) concept. A priest, bishop or Pope celebrates the Sacred Mysteries. In the East, the term used is to serve.

Because the celebrant is least of all a "presider", what he wears during the Sacred Liturgy should not essentially be about his own preferences and personality. Might the celebrant ask of himself :

Is what I am wearing worthy of my ministry standing between God and man to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy?

Will what I am wearing draw those who look upon me during Mass into a closer appreciation of the Sacred Mysteries, in other words, will it raise their hearts and minds to God?

Or will it act as a distraction - for various reasons - to the Faithful attending Mass?

Monday, 12 August 2019

Australian Readers

A special edition of the Studio's newsletter has been released describing our special work within Australia.  Any reader wishing to obtain a copy of this pdf-file newsletter may send us an e-mail headed :

Saturday, 10 August 2019

A few words from a Saint Bede Studio customer

After a year of ups and downs for the Saint Bede Studio, this Appreciation, offered by one of our American customers, we are pleased to share again with our readers :

Up until recently, it seems that major producers of liturgical vesture were more intent on recreating the Catholic aesthetic rather than reverencing it: catering to fads and novelty, rather than appealing to beauty and tradition.  Now, however, we can be grateful that truly dignified vesture is becoming more readily available to those concerned with cultivating authentic Catholic worship. The Saint Bede Studio has firmly established its place within this renewal, through the intelligently researched and carefully executed efforts of the Studio's proprietor, Michael Sternbeck. His workmanship and professionalism is to be highly commended, and customers will discover all those qualities to be expected in any true art: attention to detail, expert knowledge of methods, and quality materials.  Not unimportantly, in the Saint Bede Studio we have Catholic artisans working only for the Catholic Church.

A further word about materials is needed, however.  One of Saint Bede's most treasured assets must be its wide range of orphrey braids. These are designed by the Studio for the Studio's vestment-making use.  Few other producers of worthy Catholic vesture have access to materials made only for themselves. Without exaggeration, then, these unique braids thereby distinguish the Saint Bede Studio from every other producer of liturgical vesture. Certainly anyone in search of exceptional quality vesture of the Gothic Revival need look no further than the Saint Bede Studio. Still, as customers have come to understand, the work of the Studio hardly limits itself to this one style alone.

In the end, we can only be hopeful that renewal of Catholic worship will continue in many places. Quite simply, the Saint Bede Studio is to be highly, highly recommended. May God continue to bless and sustain its work: ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Our Newsletter

The Saint Bede Studio newsletter, illustrating the range of our work over the last year or so, has now been published.

If you would you like to receive a copy of the newsletter, please send an e-mail titled NEWSLETTER to our address :

Saturday, 3 August 2019

The Studio Blog

Each day, the Saint Bede Studio receives enquiries from those seeking vestments from many parts of the world and often the first response is to direct the enquirer to the Studio Blog.  The Blog has been designed to be as comprehensive as possible, within its limits.  It has been set up for viewing via a computer screen, tablet (or equivalent), but is not best navigated via a smartphone.

Frequently we are asked if the Studio has a catalogue.  The answer is here .

In the right-hand column (or sidebar) of each page of the Blog are helpful links for visitors.  Some of these are links to important pages detailing Studio policies, how to place an order &c.

Below that are links with images to pages describing the styles of vestments which are frequently enquired about.

After that is a list of links; mostly these refer to posts about vestments in the various liturgical colours and our styles.  These are a good guide to the range of materials and ornaments we use for our vestments and the best substitute for a catalogue we can offer.

The Studio quite deliberately does not have an online store because it is our policy to supply our vestments only to those in Communion (broadly speaking) with the See of Peter.  We cannot ensure this if purchases are made online.  Although this does limit our business, we feel that this is the best approach to our work.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Priestly Ordinations 2019 : 3

The Saint Bede StudioEarlier this year, the Saint Bede Studio completed a set of Solemn Mass vestments for an ordinand in the United States.

These lovely vestments were made in the style known as "Gothic Revival".

A brighter red English ecclesiastical brocade was ornamented quite simply with new braids designed by the Studio.  The wider of the two braids - which is derived from the designs of AWN Pugin - is named Lux Aeterna.  Its geometrical ornament, in a pewter colour, is upon a black background.  The lining of these vestments was in a deep shade of gold, tending towards brown.

This set consisted of a chasuble and two dalmatics, one of which is illustrated in the adjacent image.

Please click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : Visit this page

The Saint Bede Studio

The Saint Bede Studio

Friday, 26 July 2019

Styles & Tradition in the chasuble of the Roman Rite

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 1
S. Charles Borromeo.

Image : National Library of Victoria.
If Saint Charles Borromeo (Cardinal-Archbishop of Milan 1560-1584), were alive today I suspect he would be regarded as hero to those who cherish the traditions of the Church. An important figure at the Council of Trent and confidant of Popes, he was anxious to preserve traditions and not allow fashion, false doctrine or laxity to push Tradition to one side. As Archbishop of Milan he wrote and legislated in minute detail about the Sacred Liturgy and everything associated with it. 

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 2
Vestments of S. Charles Borromeo on display 
in the Basilica of S. Mary's Major, Rome.
Saint Charles laid down regulations about the dimensions of vestments for the Sacred Liturgy because, it would seem, he was concerned that the form of the vestments, which had been handed down for centuries, was being cast aside in favour of something convenient and “fashionable”. The chasuble, derived from the Latin word for “a little house” had been for centuries an ample garment. In the 15th and 16th centuries, there had been significant divergence from this Tradition, however, resulting in a form of chasuble that was not ample, but cut right back so that it comprised a sort of narrow pendant, front and back, on the wearer. We know this form of chasuble as the “Roman” or “fiddleback” chasuble, and some claim that this is the form of the chasuble that is truly “traditional”. But Borromeo did not think that: he thought it represented a break with Tradition. And he specified the minimum size to which he expected chasubles to conform. They were to be at least 51 inches (130cm) wide and, at the back, they were to reach down almost to the heels of the wearer.

So, why was the chasuble drastically modified? Let us answer that question by first tracing the origin and early development of this garment.

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 3 
Archbishop Maximian (at right) 
wearing the planeta and pallium.
Church of S' Vitale Ravenna 
6th century.
The ancestor of the chasuble is a Roman garment called the paenula. It was a semi-circular cloak, sewn together down the front and completely covering the arms. It was a garment for everyday wear by the lower classes, but was also worn by the upper classes and by women for travel and in bad weather. From the 5th century, a garment of similar shape but made in richer material was adopted by the Roman upper classes for ceremonial wear and this planeta was the immediate ancestor of our chasuble. Then, from the 9th century, a third name was given to a cloak which was still in the shape of the early paenula, and like it was a protective outer garment for the poor: casula (Latin for “little house”). For a time, the secular and liturgical use of these three similar garments continued side by side. It was the shape of these garments, rather than their use which came to be associated with the liturgical chasuble.

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 4
Conical chasuble of S' Vitalis, 11th century. 
A braid covers the seam in the centre 
of the chasuble and reinforces 
the opening of the neckline.
From the 10th century, what we know as the chasuble consisted of a semi-circle of material with the two halves of the straight edge folded together and sewn down the front leaving an opening at the neck. The neck opening was sometimes widened slightly, leaving a short horizontal opening near the top of the centre seam. This shape is referred to as the conical or bell chasuble. It was not until the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries that the chasuble was recognised everywhere as the vestment exclusively to be used for the Mass. But even until well into the 11th century, it continued to be worn by deacons, lectors and acolytes, not exclusively by priests.

It was only from the time of its use exclusive use by the celebrant of the Mass in the 11th century that its decoration became more ornate.

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 5
Modern conical chasuble worn
 by an American bishop 
and shewing how this form 

of chasuble folds up on the arms 
of the wearer.
Perhaps three significant reasons brought about a desire to reduce the dimensions of the chasuble. The first was the introduction in the 13th century of the Elevations during the Canon of the Mass. The second was the rise of the private Mass, in other words, a Mass where the celebrant would not be assisted by a deacon and subdeacon (who were to lift and hold back the chasuble at certain points in the Mass to free the arms of the celebrant). Consequently, the celebrant had the need for a greater freedom of movement for his arms and the chasuble was redesigned in order to accommodate that. Additionally, the types of fabrics used for vestments changed from the 13th century and were heavier (often embroidered) and stiffer than the silks and wools used in previous centuries. In short, there were practical reasons to modify the dimensions of the chasuble.

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 6 
Chasuble of the 12th century, shewing the first 
modification to the conical or bell shape, 
the length of the shoulder line is reduced and 
the chasuble comes to a point, front and back. 
A modern Italian reproduction 
of the chasuble of S' Bernard of Clairvaux.

How what is modified? Modification happened in stages and not uniformly across the Church in the West. In the first instance, the semi-circular shape of the chasuble was cut back in such a way that the bulk of fabric to be supported on the arms was reduced. Subsequently, shoulder seams were introduced and the length of that seam reduced from the conical form. The chasuble of S’ Thomas Becket is an example of this earliest modification (see figures 6-7). Notice that what had been a bell-shaped garment has become pointed. Once shoulder seams were introduced, it became possible progressively to reduce the length of that seam. The chasuble attributed to Saint Bernard is another example of this modified form.

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 7 
16th century chasuble shewing 
the modification to reduce the 
slope of the shoulders and the 

width of the vestment 
compared with 
the earlier conical form.
But the more significant modification to the chasuble was that the angle of the shoulder line was decreased. This measure substantially changed the way the chasuble sat on the celebrant, so that it no longer wrapped around him in folds, like the ancient Roman toga, but instead rested on him somewhat like the modern-day Mexican “poncho” (see figure 7). This measure would have freed the arms of the celebrant significantly. 

Not content with that, however, vestment makers cut back the width of the chasuble more and more. These latter modifications (beginning in Northern Europe in the 15th century), went beyond what was needed to make the chasuble more practical for the celebrant to wear. In the 16th century, Saint Charles, objecting to these extreme modifications, laid down his regulations to remind priests and vestment-makers of the importance of preserving the centuries-old Tradition. It was obviously regarded by S. Charles as most important that the chasuble continue to be a garment that fully covered the celebrant, being both long (reaching almost to the heels) and wide (51 inches, between the elbow and the wrist).

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 8
Chasubles of the 16th century. 
 S' Pius V (contemporary of S' Charles 
Borromeo & S' Philip Neri) singing 
Mass in S' Peter's Basilica 
attended by the Papal Court 
(vested variously in chasubles, 
copes and dalmatics). 
 Over the dalmatic and tunic, 
Pope Pius is wearing 
an ample chasuble, together
with the fanon & the pallium.
When “The Borromeon style” of chasuble is referred to, it is important to remember that the cut of chasubles varied and were the work of craftsmen, not mass-manufacturers. We can be rather sure that the vestments used by Saint Charles himself were not all precisely the same in cut. Furthermore, other styles were also prominent in the 16th and 17th centuries. One style we find in the various paintings of Saint Charles’ contemporary, Philip Neri. This chasuble was narrower than the 51 inches set down by S. Charles, but it was still very long. A variant of this “Philip Neri” style of chasuble was found in northern parts of Europe and in England. Yet another form, the Spanish style, is depicted in the famous painting of Saint Idelfonso.

Something might be included here about the ornamentation of chasubles. The early casula and planeta largely lacked any form of ornamentation. Because there was but one seam that formed the garment into its bell shape, that seam (which ran vertically down the front of the chasuble) came to be covered with a narrow braid-like band. In order to strengthen the fabric around the opening for the head, braid was also added. This is the origin – purely practical – of what is referred to as the “tau” style of ornament (“tau” being the letter of the Greek alphabet which corresponds to our “tee”).

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 9 
Forms of chasuble ornament. 
A miniature of 1170 shews 

a bishop wearing the pallium 
over his chasuble: a narrow 
golden braid reinforces 
the neckline opening and 
conceals the central seam of
 the chasuble.
It was a logical step from here to find that a corresponding strip of braid was applied to the back of the chasuble (even though it was purely decorative and not supporting seams etc.). The width of these braid-like ornaments came to be increased over the centuries from something that was no more than 3 – 5cm to something that became up to 20cm in width. And, very early on in the development of the chasuble, these strips ceased to be purely functional and became the focus of elaborate ornament and embroidery. 

By the 14th century the chasuble had come to be ornamented in three common forms (with many variations). One is the Y-shaped orphrey (thought to be derived from Roman and Jewish ceremonial garb), which was mainly found in Northern Europe and England. Another is the “tau” shaped orphrey, which was an ornament applied to the front of the chasuble, but with the back of the chasuble ornamented with a simple column. This was the usual Italian or Roman style. The third form consisted of the back being decorated with a Latin Cross. This last style was not so frequently found in Italy, but was very common elsewhere in Europe.

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 10  
Forms of chasuble ornament. 

A German chasuble of the 16th century, 
shewing the Crucifixion scene form of orphrey.
In the 17th and particularly from the 18th century, authorised by no Ecclesiastical authority, the form of the chasuble almost universally used was that pendant-like form which we call the “Roman” chasuble. There were only a few voices raised in objection to setting aside the Tradition of the ample chasuble. And then, although it only occurred by degrees and over a period of time, that pendant form of chasuble, which to S. Charles represented such a break with Tradition, became regarded as THE legitimate Tradition. Pause to reflect on this, when you read expressions such as “Traditional Roman vestments” etc. We have the strange situation where the very dimensions of chasuble that Saint Charles strove to preserve, have been described by many latter-day “Traditionalists” as “un-traditional”!

We should also be careful about the use of the term “Roman” vestments. Roman vestments are those used for the Roman Rite: they do not refer to any particular style or shape. The pendant-style chasuble did not have its origin in Rome, but in northern Europe. Rome did not readily adopt it. Saint Charles legislated against it.

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 11
An interesting French painting of the 17th century
shewing the procession at a Pontifical Mass.
 The bishop is wearing a chasuble identical
with the cut of the 16th century,
together with a more mediaeval form of mitre.
 Note the small boys, vested in albes assisting as acolytes.

From the 19th century, scholars began promoting a return to the earlier, more ample style of chasuble. We find such chasubles appearing in England and parts of Europe. Sometimes these are referred to as “Gothic” vestments, although it is not certain why. These “Gothic” vestments were similar to the proportions insisted upon by S. Charles. Strangely, Rome (which for two centuries had held out against the introduction of the pendant-like vestments) did not welcome the 19th century interest in reviving these “Gothic” or “Borromeon” chasubles and in 1863 letter warned against the use of vestments that departed from the “received form”.  How short, it would seem, was the Roman memory.  

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 12
Gothic Revival Solemn Mass set designed by
AWN Pugin for S. Edmund's College Ware (UK)

Image : LMS Society of Great Britain

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 13
A Gothic Revival chasuble of great dignity used
for the Requiem of Cardinal Meisner at the Cathedral
Cologne in 2017.

In December 1925, at a time when vestment-makers in Europe and beyond were creating magnificent chasubles of Borromeon proportions, the Congregation of Rites published a rescript that the more ample form of chasuble was not to be used for the Roman Rite, except by special permission of the Holy See.  What a peculiar decision this was, given that earlier in the same year an Exhibition of the Liturgical Arts had been held in Rome and newly-made vestments, according to the Borromeon proportions, were shown in a special audience with Pius XI, who approved their use and blessed them. A famous photograph exists of Pius XI celebrating Mass in S’ Peter’s in a 16th century style chasuble: some years after his Congregation of Rites had attempted to prohibit their use! 

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 14.
 Pope Pius IX in Saint Peter's basilica on S' Joseph's Day 1930.
 He is wearing an embroidered albe and a chasuble made for him
by the Poor Clares of Mazamet, France.
This chasuble is in the Northern European style of the 17th century.

The 1925 letter of the Congregation - which had been widely ignored, especially in Europe - was reversed by a new decision in August 1957, granting Diocesan bishops leave to permit the use of the more ample form of chasuble.  Eight years later (1965), Rome herself followed what was already occurring world-wide. The 18th century style of vestments used in Papal ceremonial was replaced with something very different but austere: somewhat like the ethos of the 1960’s itself. Somebody put to me once that many people were greatly upset and even scandalised when Papal Rome made this change. Consequently, and for precisely this reason, there is a very negative attitude amongst some to modern expressions in the style of vestments. And, to be frank, concerning vestments made from the 1970’s onward, there is ample scope for negativity.

But had 1960’s Rome just invented a new style of vestment and thrown out Tradition? In fact, no. The vestments which emerged in Rome from the mid-1960’s were a modern “take” on the Borromeon form of chasuble (see figures 15-16): this was a return to an earlier tradition. It is a pity that Rome did not take the trouble to make that point very clear.  Comparison of the picture of the Borromeon chasuble in Saint Mary’s Major with chasubles worn by Pope Paul will illustrate this very clearly: the form is almost the same. 

The Saint Bede Studio
Figures 15-16
A comparison of a contemporary Italian sculpture of S. Philip Neri
by Algardi (LEFT) with a photograph of Pope S. Paul VI
reveals an almost identical cut of chasuble.
S. Philip is depicted wearing a cut of chasuble corresponding
the dimensions of S. Charles Borromeo.
 The photo of Pope Paul was taken in Sydney in 1970.

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 17
Pope S. John Paul II wearing an Italian chasuble,
being a modern interpretation of the Borromeon form. 

The Saint Bede Studio
Figure 18
Pope Benedict XVI wearing a magnificent
chasuble of violet and gold damask,
a modern reproduction of the Borromeon form.

If 1960’s Rome had decided to use beautiful and elaborate damasks for the Papal vestments instead of the plainest of silk, perhaps attitudes to the new Papal array might have been different.  For, if anything, the vestments of post-Vatican II Papal Rome have lacked creativity and splendour.  During the later years of the pontificate of Pope S. John Paul II, however,  and frequently during the reign of Pope Benedict,  we observed vestments of greater beauty, made from beautiful damasks and brocades and ornamented in a most artistic manner.  Unhappily this progress towards greater beauty for the Papal vestments has completely disappeared since 2013, along with so much else. 

The above is a revised version of an article first posted on this blog in 2008.

This article has attempted to be a comprehensive, but not an in-depth, study of the history of the chasuble. Consider it more as an illustrated lecture than a scholarly treatise. I refer you to these works for more detailed information:

Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und Orient, Joseph Braun, 1907
The Vestments of the Roman Rite, Adrian Fortescue, 1912
Vestments and Vesture, Dom E Roulin, 1930
The Catholic Encyclopaedia (1911) and The New Catholic Encyclopaedia (1967)
High Fashion in the Church, Pauline Johnstone, 2002
A Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship, 1972.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Priestly Ordinations 2019 : 2

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 Madison (Wisconsin USA), who commissioned a set of vestments from the Studio in the Borromeon form.

The vestments were made from a distinctive lampas in a shade of silver with bronze-coloured woven embroideries.  The ornament, in the Roman manner, was formed from an attractive damask in red and gold, outlined with golden galloons.  The vestments were lined in a red-coloured taffeta.

Please pray for for all newly-ordained priests.

Please click on the images for an enlarged view.

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