Sunday, 31 July 2011

Papal Mitres: part 2

Amongst the many remarkable features of Benedict XVI's Pontificate is the rather singular distinction of having used more mitres as Pope as all of his predecessors of the last 200 hundred years put together!  This is the second in a series of posts about the Papal mitres which I find pleasing, together with a description of them.

The mitres of Pope Benedict fall (almost) into two categories: those used during the tenure of Marini the First (Piero Marini) and those used during the tenure of Marini the Second (Guido Marini).  

The second in our series, shewn above, is part of the Marini the First range and was worn at Vespers in the Basilica of Saint Paul-without-the Walls in January 2008.  This mitre is a very inventive adaptation of the mediaeval mitre.  A similar mitre was used by Pope John Paul II.

As we know, the most common form of ornamentation for the mitre, as it developed in Tradition, was for a decorative band to be run around the crown of the head.  This band was called the circulus.  Another band extended at right angles to the circulus, forming an upside-down "T".  This vertical ornamentation was called the titulus.  Often, the circulus and titulus were lavishly embroidered.  During the mediaeval period, that area of the mitre on the left and the right of the titulus, which forms almost a triangular shape, came also to be decorated, often will geometrical medallions studded with jewels.  For the purposes of our description, let us call these areas of the mitre quadrants.

Returning to the mitre of this post, it is made from a gold fabric and its circulus and titulus are formed from a beautifully-conceived cross-hatching of golden braids.  This would have been sufficient to create a worthy mitre.  But the designer of this mitre took a bold step and ornamented the quadrants of the mitre, not with embroidery and jewels, but with an applique of black and gold silk damask, carefully enhanced with further gold braiding.  The shape and height of the mitre are very well proportioned, according to the manner of the early mediaeval period and well-suited to the stature of its wearer, Pope Benedict.

On that occasion, the Pope was given to wear a cope matching the mitre (adjacent photograph).  This cope is made from a magnificent straw-coloured silk damask.  Like the mitre, the cope's orphrey is formed from a  cross-hatching of golden braids, broken up with squares of the same black and gold silk damask.  The decoration is beautiful and striking.  There is nothing about this  Italian-made mitre and cope which makes it incongruous with the Baroque style of Catholic Rome.

Noteworthy, also, is the magnificent Morse, or clasp used to hold the cope together.  Obviously a modern work, but beautifully conceived and ornamented. Unhappily, a clearer image was not available.