Sunday 3 April 2011

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 an old post on 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.  But don't be mistaken about that particular shade of Rose being universal: it was used in Italy, but probably not much elsewhere.

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-orphrey almost fuchsia in colour.  Sadly, these vestments have not been seen in Papal Masses of recent years: now lamentable sets of bright pink vestments, of rather unimaginative fabric and design, are used instead (not to be looked at before breakfast).

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.