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.

Enquiries : Visit this page

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Pontificals of S. Charles Borromeo

S' Charles Borromeo as
Archbishop of Milan.
A painting of c. 1578.
In the Museum of the Archbishop's Sanctuary of the Beata Vergine dei Miracoli in Corbetta (Archdiocese of Milan) is a little known portrait of S. Charles Borromeo by the artist Lattuado.  It is thought that this portrait - which is about half life-size and housed in an ornate baroque frame - was painted around the year 1578, but certainly during the saint's time as Archbishop of Milan.

Although not a felicitous likeness of Saint Charles, it is a clear depiction of him vested in the pontificals of a late 16th century bishop.  We are pleased to describe this in detail.

S. Charles is shewn wearing a white dalmatic and tunicle beneath his chasuble.  The sleeves of these are long and closed around the arm, where they are ornamented with a narrow golden galloon.

The chasuble is silver in colour, but ornamented with gold embroideries.  A large TAU can be seen on the chasuble, formed from narrow galloons.  The decorative scheme is entirely of stylised scroll-work.

Interestingly, the chasuble itself, reaching only to the elbows, is not as wide as S. Charles had regulated himself for use in the Archdiocese of Milan.  But it is typical of chasubles found in Italy in the 16th century.  Over the chasuble, S. Charles is wearing his pallium as Archbishop of Milan.  It is small in size and shaped so that it sits around the shoulders of the wearer.

S. Charles is wearing a liturgical glove, embroidered in gold with a Cross.  That portion of the glove which extends beyond the hand itself and onto the arm terminates in a small tassel. But otherwise the glove is free of ornament.  In his left hand he is holding a crozier of silver and gold but ornamented quite simply. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this portrait is the mitre worn by S. Charles.  Although the detail of the painting in this reproduction is far from clear,  the mitre is seen to be ornamented with traditional circulus and titulus , with the addition of embroidered medallions on either side.  What is striking is the
shape of the mitre, which is quite unlike other examples from the period : indeed, it is quite like our modern mitres in its shape.  Elsewhere in Italy and Europe throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, mitres had become increasingly more lofty, until they reached their most exaggerated and unattractive form in the 17th and 18th centuries.  S. Charles' mitre is in contrast with these excesses and has much more to do with the ancient traditions of the mitre.

Comparing this painting with the image of S. Peter Damian discussed in our previous post, we can see continuity between the early 15th century and the late 16th century, but also several differences.  One difference is the rule that all the vestments were to be of the same liturgical colour - quite unlike the practice beforehand.  The decoration and shape of chasubles, moreover, had changed considerably, chasubles being narrower and less flowing and their ornamentation being more stylised and less pictorial.

Monday 22 July 2019

Mediaeval Pontificals : Saint Peter Damian

Mediaeval vestments
15th century painting of S' Peter Damian.

When looking at mediaeval depictions of bishops or popes vested for Mass, we find certain things in common with the Pontifical vestments of a 21st century Catholic bishop, but some significant differences. The most striking difference is the usual lack of an Episcopal dalmatic amongst the vestments of a modern bishop. Even when a dalmatic is worn, it is usually an affair so non-descript as to be hardly noticeable.

Before Pope S' Paul VI entered Saint Peter's Basilica to celebrate Mass solemnly in 1965, bishops or popes had - since the earliest centuries of the Church (certainly since the Constantinian period) - worn a dalmatic underneath the chasuble. *   Paul VI was the first to break this tradition, when he appeared in a flowing chasuble, with no dalmatic beneath. As a matter of fact, until the end of his Pontificate in 1978, typically he left aside the use of the dalmatic. His successors, John Paul I, S. John Paul II and Francis all likewise have left aside the dalmatic. Benedict XVI was an happy exception to this, adopting quite early on in his Pontificate the use of the dalmatic beneath the chasuble on all solemn occasions.

The pity of this is that the dalmatic worn with the chasuble symbolised the fullness of Holy Orders enjoyed by a bishop. A bishop is incompletely vested if he lacks the dalmatic. The claim that it is too burdensome to wear a dalmatic beneath the chasuble is, to say the least, pitiful.

In this post, we look at a painting which once formed part of altarpiece from Faenza in Italy of the early 15th century, which depicts Saint Peter Damian. The artist Peruccino - who was known as the Master of Saint Peter Damian - prepared this likeness from the effigy on the sarcophagus of the saint.

The saint is depicted wearing a style of vestments commonly known in 14th and 15th century Italy; namely : a flowing linen albe which is unadorned with either apparels or embroidery; a red semi-conical chasuble whose Tau ornament is formed from embroidered cameos of the saints and upon his head a precious mitre of white silk ornamented and embroidered with goldwork and precious stones.

We also see the Episcopal dalmatic (the tunic can also just be seen). It is immediately noticeable how elaborate the dalmatic is : not a plain affair of simple silk. It is made from a rich damask of deep green ornamented with gold embroidery and outlined with gold braid. One could be forgiven for observing that the dalmatic has a richer appearance than the chasuble itself. But certainly the dalmatic enriches the appearance of the wearer and is not intended to be invisible.

Imagine how dignified a modern bishop would look if he were to wear a dalmatic of such nobility beneath his chasuble? One can but hope.

* In addition, a bishop would also wear a tunic, being the vestment of the subdeacon, but this requirement for the celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite lapsed when the subdiaconate was abolished as a Major Order in 1973. 

Saturday 20 July 2019

Papal Liturgies of the Sixteenth Century

At an old post the blog Idle Speculations, we found the adjacent image of a fresco and a description of the Coronation of the Spanish King Charles as Holy Roman Emperor at Bologna.

The Coronation was performed by Pope Clement VII in the Cathedral of San Petronio, Bologna on 24th February 1530.

The fresco is not painted onto a wall, but on the ceiling of the office of the Mayor of Florence in the Palazzo Vecchio.  It was painted by the artist Giorgio Vasari after 1555.

Vasari's depiction of the Coronation is quite interesting for students of the history of sacred vestments because, since it is painted in the middle of the 16th century, a transitional point from mediaeval to baroque styles is illustrated.

A detail of Vasari's 16th century fresco.
In the detail shewn above, Pope Clement is placing the crown upon the head of the Emperor. We find the Pope vested in a linen albe, with close fitting sleeves and whose skirt is ornamented with an embroidered apparel. It would appear that the cuffs of the albe are enriched in some way. Notice, however, that there is no sign of lace in the Pope's albe. Over the albe, the Pope is wearing an ample golden chasuble. The chasuble is very flowing and partly folded back at the arms. Not unusually, we find the painting does not represent the Pope dressed in full pontificals, since he lacks the tunicle and dalmatic, but most importantly, he is lacking the pallium. An extremely short and narrow maniple is upon the left forearm of the Pope. This is a far-cry from the exaggerated spade-ended maniples of the High Baroque.

Assisting the Pope are two deacons, vested in matching dalmatics which are also quite ample. The dalmatic are ornamented with the clavi, but also an apparel at the upper back (presumably also upon the breast). A roundel upon the apparel appears to be embroidered with IHS. Pendants of tassels hanging from the shoulders of the dalmatic are also depicted, a feature of late mediaeval / early baroque ornamentation. It is believed that such tassels were originally an elaboration of the lacing used to tie together the front and back of the dalmatic at the shoulders. Subsequently, they became purely decorative.

Another detail of Vasari's fresco.

Another detail of Vasari's fresco is shewn above, which depicts some of the bishops present at the Coronation. These bishops are all depicted wearing Mass vestments: amice, albe, cincture, stole, maniple and chasuble. In each case, the amice of the bishops is ornamented with an apparel: a survival of mediaeval usage. Although their albes are unornamented, the close-fitting cuffs appear to be decorated. The four bishops are wearing chasubles which are less ample than the one the Pope is depicted as wearing, but nevertheless appear to be gathered away from the elbows and are long and flowing. Each of the chasubles is decorated with the TAU Cross, which was the usual form of ornament in Italy. The bishop in the centre, with hand raised, also wears a diminutive maniple.

We might also comment on the mitres worn by these bishops, which are more or less identical to each other. They are the simplex mitres worn by non-officiating or concelebrating bishops, just as happens today. These mitres are also in the style of the 15th century (which differed little from that of the 14th century) being neither excessively tall (these ones are approximately 12" tall) nor with rounded sides (a style which became fashionable in Rome in the 16th century and persists to this day).

Although the scene depicted by Vasari is probably not very accurate as a presentation of a Papal Liturgy, nevertheless it undoubtedly depicts the style of vestments used throughout Italy in the 16th century. Those who believe lace albes, 18 inch tall mitres and "fiddleback" chasubles are the touchstone of Tradition would do well to examine such works of art as this to gain a broader appreciation of tradition.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Thursday 18 July 2019

Saint Catherine of Siena

On the website of the J Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles) we find a description of this beautiful work of art by Domenico Beccafumi painted in the second decade of the 16th century:
This small panel depicts an episode from the life of the Dominican tertiary and mystic, Saint Catherine of Siena. Upon arriving at church late one day because of her difficulty walking, Saint Catherine was dissuaded by her companions from taking communion because they knew her ensuing ecstasy would last for several hours. She concurred but prayed for God's help in receiving the Eucharist. Miraculously, an angel took a piece of the consecrated host and gave it to the saint. Celebrating Mass at a side altar, her confessor looked around with concern for the missing piece of the host. Neither he nor the others could see the miracle, so their expressions reflect bewilderment.

This panel and its companion, Saint Catherine of Siena Receiving the Stigmata, were probably made for the predella of an altarpiece dedicated to the saint.
We find the celebrant vested in a flowing linen alb ornamented with apparels to the skirt and cuffs.  He is wearing a cloth gold chasuble of very sparing ornament.  The shape of the chasuble is typical of this period, according to the specifications of S' Charles Borromeo, being very long (and pointed) but reaching only just beyond the elbows.

At an adjacent altar, a very large reliquary is seen resting upon the altar itself.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

A Night Prayer

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; 
and by thy great mercy defend us 
from all perils and dangers of this night; 
for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

This brief but lovely prayer is found in the 1559 version of The Book of Common Prayer, and had its antecedent in pre-Reformation English Catholic use. The prayer was intended to be said at Evensong, the last Hour of the day.  But this prayer was of Catholic origin, being the last prayer of the Office of Compline in the Sarum Use.

The redoubtable Father Hunwicke has an exposition of this prayer for us, which is most interesting.

Whatever the intention of the ancient author of this oration, we can now look at Cranmer's choice of the translation "lighten" in two ways :

"Shed your light upon our darkness"   or

"Lift the burden of our darkness".

In such an understanding, Darkness may refer to our sinfulness, or to our spiritual or intellectual blindness. It is certainly a prayer for those who wish to be at rights with God before sleep descends.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Gothic Revival Festal Chasuble

Father Patrick May
In this post, we describe a set of vestments in the Gothic Revival style, which was commissioned by an ordinand in the United States.

These vestments, in the Studio's Saint Austin style were made from a fine English ecclesiastical brocade and ornamented with one of the Studio's unique braids, named Saint Marie.

Unfortunately, the simple elegance of this item of liturgical art was disturbed by our customer's subsequent addition of a disproportionate and unsuitable vesica or medallion to the front of the chasuble.

The Gothic Revival chasubles of the Studio, all of which feature our unique braids, are designed not to incorporate vesicas.  But most especially we have a policy of not placing vesicas on the front of any chasuble.  This will be the subject of a further post.

Readers may enjoy the adjacent image of this particular set of vestments as the Saint Bede Studio made them.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Vestments in the Mediaeval style

We are pleased to feature this set of semi-conical vestments, recently completed by the Saint Bede Studio for a returning customer from Canada.

The vestments were made from a beautiful English silk damask, in a shade of cream, with a lining of red silk.  The ornament is in the form of the Y orphrey, enriched with a chevron of red and gold brocade.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : Visit this page

Wednesday 3 July 2019

For the Season "Per Annum" 2019 : 1

The Saint Bede Studio
As the Season Per Annum continues, we feature this simple set of green vestments, recently offered for sale by the Saint Bede Studio.

The vestments were made from a simple brocade which has beautiful drapery. The chasuble is unlined, but has a facing on the underside of the neckline to give a neat and substantial finish to the opening.

These vestments are in a lovely deep shade of green : quite distinctive. The ornament is formed from an orphrey braid designed by the Studio, being derived from the work of AWN Pugin. The colours of the braid are blue, gold upon a red base.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Monday 1 July 2019

Quality versus Expediency :
If spending money on God's House is justified

Good-quality vestments, especially if they are handmade and use silk fabrics, are quite costly.  Indeed, they always have been.  In Australia, there is a prevailing mentality that spending significant amounts of money on such things is inappropriate and the Church should celebrate its liturgy more simply; its ministers should not appear to be ostentatious by wearing a richer quality of vestment. This same mentality is found all around the world, of course.

Is it perhaps not surprising that those who are uncomfortable with beautiful vestments being used for the Sacred Liturgy see little problem with having the latest electronic devices, very comfortable residences and annual overseas holidays?

Some years ago, on a website, was found a strategy for being able to afford a vestment which seemed too expensive.  It may be useful for readers.  It goes something like this...

Father had his heart set on a particular set of vestments, but didn't have the money to purchase them. The Parish had many commitments and could not justify making such a purchase. But the Parish did buy them and then they were put on display in the Church, with this sign:

"These new vestments were recently purchased. When we have raised enough money to cover their cost, they will be used at the Altar. Until then, they are only for display."

It didn't take too long for the money to be raised for the vestments to be used for Mass and more besides; in fact, enough for another set to be purchased! The Parish loves the vestments and loves to see Father wearing them for Mass.

There is another facet of this story which many priests will be familiar with : the Faithful appreciate being asked to contribute to the beautification of their Parish church and its Sacred Liturgy. After all, it is the Faithful who look at the vestments worn by the priest. Is it not natural to wish to look at things of beauty?