Saturday, 9 December 2017

Penitential Vestments in Art

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 another 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.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Saint Philip Neri vestments

Baroque vestments
Recently, the Studio completed a set of vestments for an Australian priest, resident in Victoria.

Our customer commissioned vestments in the Saint Philip Neri style. The chasuble (shewn adjacent) was made from a lovely ecclesiastical brocade in ivory and straw-gold and was ornamented in the Roman style with a silk damask outlined with narrow braids in the colours of burgundy and gold. The vestments were lined in a shade of lemon taffeta.

Please click on the image for an enlarged view.

Enquiries :

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Festal Vestments

Gothic vestmentsRecently, the Studio completed a set of vestments for a priest celebrating the Jubilee of his ordination.  Our returning customer is from the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois.

These Jubilee vestments are made from a beautiful silk damask in the colours of ivory and straw-gold. The chasuble's orphrey is formed from a braid having a monogram of the Blessed Virgin upon it; outlining this braid is a narrow galloon.  All these braids are in colours of blue, white and gold upon a red base.

The vestments were lined in Royal Blue taffeta.

Please click on the image for an enlarged view.

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Thursday, 2 November 2017

All Souls' Day 2017

Borromeon vestments
For the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, we are pleased to present this post about a set of Requiem Mass vestments, recently completed by the Studio for a young priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska (USA).

These vestments are made from a black ecclesiastical brocade and ornamented with narrow galloons and a brocade of black and straw colours, which depicts in its design the Crucifixion.  The Studio has made vestments similar to this previously.

Please click on the image for an enlarged view.

Our customer kindly wrote this appreciation and reflection about the vestments, which are being used for the first time today.

Thank you for all the hard work you put into searching for the fabrics and adornments.  This vestment, in its dignity and grandeur, is a testimony to his Mercy and those experiencing it presently in the purifying state of Purgatory.
The very existence of the Holy Souls demonstrates the insurmountable mercy of our Saviour.  That He continually gives us these opportunities to turn towards him and grow closer to him, even after death, is a testimony of His Supreme Love for humanity.

My childhood pastor always wore black for all the ferial days during the month of November, and always celebrated Masses for the dead on those particular days. He had a deep devotion to the Holy Souls and so he made a point of instilling that devotion into his parishioners.  So, wearing black vestments was the normal thing and the idea/duty of praying for the Poor Souls was just a part of our parish culture, impressed upon me from an early age. He was my pastor for 21 years of my life. So in a real sense, this vestment is a testimony to the example that one priest can make on an individual’s spiritual life.

Enquiries :

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Priestly Ordinations 2017 : 2

Each year, the Saint Bede Studio has the privilege of preparing sacred vestments for priestly Ordinands. Happily, this year has been no exception.

In this post, we are pleased to draw attention to the ordination of Father Bradley Jantz of the Diocese of Birmingham (Alabama USA).  Father Jantz was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in Saint Paul's Cathedral, Birmingham (USA) on 24th June by the Most Rev'd Robert Baker.

Father Jantz commissioned a set of vestments from the Studio in the Gothic Revival style.

The vestments were made from an English brocade in a lovely shade of ivory and ornamented with a braid of red, blue and gold, especially designed and made for the Saint Bede Studio.  The vestments were lined in red taffeta.

Please pray for Father Jantz and for all newly-ordained priests.

The Cathedral of Saint Paul, Birmingham USA.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Restoration of a Landmark Sydney Church : 1

Tower and northern transept
of Saint Thomas' church, Lewisham NSW.
Earlier this year, the Saint Bede Studio was approached to be a consultant on the restoration of the interior of a famous church in Sydney NSW.

The church of Saint Thomas of Canterbury (also known as Saint Thomas Becket's) was founded in 1887 in the Sydney suburb of Lewisham. Because of its proximity to the railway line which runs into the centre of Sydney from the North, the splendid Gothic Revival tower of the church is seen by thousands of people each day as they pass by in the city's trains.

This is the first in a series of posts about the restoration of S' Thomas', to which the Saint Bede Studio has been pleased to contribute.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Father Adrian Fortescue and the 18th Century

Father Adrian Fortescue
"In the eighteenth century a desolating wave of bad taste passed over Europe.  It gave us Baroc churches, tawdry gilding, vulgarities of gaudy ornament instead of fine construction.  It passed over clothes and gave us our mean, tight modern garments.  And it passed, alas! over vestments too, and gave us skimped, flat vestments of bad colour, outlined in that most impossible material, gold braid, instead of the ample, stately forms which had lasted until then....For these curtailed shapes are not the historic ones which came down hardly modified for so many centuries. They are a quite modern example of Baroc taste...Skimped chasubles, gold braid and lace are not Roman; they are eighteenth century bad taste."

So wrote one of the most illustrious ecclesiastical scholars of the early twentieth century, the Rev'd Dr Adrian Fortescue. This is an extract from a lecture which he gave to the Altar Society of Westminster Cathedral in 1912. Dr Fortescue's name is better known for the ceremonial manual which he prepared in order to raise money for the building of his Parish church: The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, which has run into many editions, over almost one century.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Prayer for the Needs of the Church

Mosaic of Christ in Majesty, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome.

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 prevail. Whilst, then, it accepts affliction as a proving of its faith, let it persevere, by your grace, in triumphant loyalty.

Missal of Robert of Jumieges - 11th century

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Priestly Ordinations 2017 : 1

Each year, the Saint Bede Studio has the privilege of preparing sacred vestments for priestly Ordinands. Happily, this year has been no exception.

In this post, we are pleased to draw attention to the ordination of Father Andrew Bowden of the Venerable English College.  Father Bowden was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood in Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint George Church, Enfield (UK) on 15th July by the Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster.

Father Bowden commissioned a set of Marian vestments from the Studio in the Gothic Revival style.

The vestments were made from a muted gold damask and ornamented with a braid of blue and gold, especially designed and made for the Saint Bede Studio and based on the work of AWN Pugin.  The vestments were lined in blue taffeta.

Please pray for Father Bowden and for all newly-ordained priests.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Terrible Threats of Nature

O God, to whose nod all Nature's elements give obedience
and to whom the earth owes its firm foundation,
we humbly entreat you,
that by your calming of Nature's menace, 

a dread threat may become 
a cause for the praise of your Power.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Adapted from two votive Collects in the Roman Missal.

The Saint Bede Studio sends prayers of support to anyone reading this column who has been affected by recent natural disasters in the Americas.