Saturday 26 December 2009

To all readers of this Blog, friends and customers of the Saint Bede Studio, my best wishes for a Blessed Christmas, filled with the graces of this Holy Season.

Photographs of Christmas Matins celebrated at S' Aloysius Church, Caulfield (Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia). Photographs taken by Dr Chris Steward.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

On raising the chasuble at the Elevations

In the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the minister (deacon or altar server) is directed to raise the chasuble slightly in his left hand as the celebrant elevates the Sacred Host and then the Chalice. This direction is given in the Ritus Servandus VIII,8; the Caeremoniale Episcoporum II, viii and a decision of the Congregation of Sacred Rites no 3535.

What is the origin of this practice? It dates from that period when chasubles were voluminous and constrained the celebrant from raising his arms above his head. Lifting the lower right hand corner of the chasuble actually enables the celebrant a greater movement of the arms. Thus, the origin of this ceremonial action is purely practical. Much has been written about mystic and symbolic meanings as being the origin of this action, all of which is complete nonsense.

The ceremonial books direct that the raising of the chasuble be a very subtle action. It was never intended that the chasuble be raised half-way up the celebrant's back or - worse still - be held up by both hands of the minister, making the chasuble seem like some fantastical ecclesiastical sail. Most assuredly such exaggerated movements are distracting both to the celebrant and to the congregation.

If the chasuble is not very ample at all, there is even more reason for its raising at the Elevation to be a very modest action: just a couple of inches at most. Furthermore, this gesture only accompanies the actual Elevations, and not the celebrant's accompanying genuflections.

Attached is a beautiful photograph of a Low Mass celebrated at Prinknash Abbey (UK) in 1940, illustrating perfectly how it should be done.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Maria Regina Vestments

The Saint Bede Studio was commissioned by Saint Mary's Parish, Charleston, South Carolina, to prepare a Solemn Mass set of vestments based upon the Maria Regina design. The Pastor of Saint Mary's is also the Rector of the Charleston Cathedral.

The Studio regularly receives enquiries for the Maria Regina chasuble, which is derived from a design of AWN Pugin.

Pictured adjacent are parts of the set: the chasuble, cope and a tunic.

Click on the photographs for enlarged views.


Friday 11 December 2009

A Rose by any other name but pink

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. Nevertheless, you will find various pronouncements these days (usually on websites) about what the real or authentic shade of rose is which is to be used for vestments.

Newsflash: there is no official shade of Rose designated by the Church, nor has there ever been. The reason for this is rather simple: only in the last century did the process of dyeing fabric become sufficiently sophisticated to ensure that much the same shade of a colour emerged from one batch of fabric dyeing to another.

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.

Another thing is certain: Bubblegum Pink is not Rose, nor has it been a traditional variation for use on these days. Whilst not intending to get into the argument as to whether the use of a such a vibrant pink is a fitting colour for a man to wear, Bubblegum Pink certainly manifests a lamentable lack of liturgical good taste.

At the Blog, The New Liturgical Movement, we find a number of interesting vestments in that shade of Rose commonly found in Italy in centuries past: a salmon colour. Go there and take a look.

Adjacent are three pictures of other shades of Rose. One is a set of vestments worn by Pope Paul VI on Laetare Sunday, 1978 (photographs of L'Osservatore Romano). The vestment is made from dupion silk of a very subdued mushroom-pink, with overtones of silver. Ornamenting it is a column almost fuchsia in colour.

The other picture is the cope made by the Saint Bede Studio for the Latin Mass Apostolate in Melbourne. It has overtones of subdued red in it, yet decidedly unlike the colours used for Liturgical Red. This cope is ornamented with a brocade of forest green, and a braid of Gothic foliage ornament.

Another set of Rose vestments made last year by the Studio for the Cathedral of Atlanta, Georgia can be seen here.


Wednesday 2 December 2009

Penitential Vestments continued

UPDATED 4th December

Continuing today with another work of art depicting sacred vestments and in particular the colour used for Penitential Days and Seasons.

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 our previous 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.