A STITCH IN TIME: faith, art and history in thread

A STITCH IN TIME: faith, art and history in thread

‘Receive,’ says the Bishop at ordination, ‘the priestly vestment by which is signified charity’. The Chasuble is certainly the most important and conspicuous garment worn by the clergy. This vestment (Latin for clothing) traces its origins to the Greek and the Roman world.

Initially, the priest would dress in the secular style while discharging duties at the altar. Gradually, a sense of the sacred was attributed to these garments. They had to be cleaner and neater than those used in daily occupation. Thus a refined appreciation for special liturgical garments developed.

Etymologically the word Chasuble is derived from the Latin word ‘casula planeta’ signifying ‘little house.’ It was a garment used by the lower classes and by women in bad weather. From the 5th century, a richer style was adopted by the Roman upper class for ceremonial use. This then formed the immediate ancestor of the present-day chasuble. The chasuble consists of a square or a circular piece of cloth, in the center of which a hole is made, through which the head is passed. It resembles a little house, a shelter for the priest.

The chasuble in consideration is taken from the collection of the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum, Goregaon. Gothic in style, it is embellished with history, art and faith. It was designed by a world renowned company in Netherlands called Atelier Stadelmaier, as affirmed by a stamp on the reverse.

This company was set up in 1930 by Arthur Stadelmaier who at one point was described as the ‘fashion king of the spiritual.’ His garments were meant to be innovative and yet pious in pattern. They were used popularly by Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.

The vestment in regard is a part of a set specially designed for the Inauguration of the St. Pius X College, Diocesan Seminary at Goregaon in 1960. It was worn by H.E. Valerian Cardinal Gracias, first cardinal of India and Cardinal Agagianian, the Prefect of the event. Subsequently it was also used during the 38th International Eucharistic Congress in 1964.

 Resting within a damasked field of gold thread is a Y or fork orphrey in peacock blue. It is embroidered in blue, red, white and gold thread. It defines blood and water through which springs forth a flower bearing tree. The reverse bears the Tree of Life which enhances our liturgical understanding. The triform zari rays illuminating Christ head signify the Trinity; the crowning red halo, His humanity and the exquisite white aureole, His Divinity. He is crucified not on wood but on a life giving stream of blood and water which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of love and mercy.

The crucified Christ in profile is delineated by elaborate tapestry embroidery. The details of the five wounds, the clenched stomach, the muscles, the halos, the loin cloth and the blood ridden face bring the scene to life. It announces not defeat but hope and personifies the body and blood, soul and divinity of the Savior. It radiates His love and mercy and manifests beauty in holiness and holiness in beauty!

Joynel Fernandes

Asst. Director – Archdiocesan Heritage MuseumChasubleChas

The Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm.

For a guided tour please contact 022 – 29271557

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