Conserving Beauty

Yesterday I went with a priest friend over to a convent of sisters who make vestments to pick up something he had ordered. Most of the sisters who work in the vestment workshop are older and have been doing this work for years. I was glad to see at least one younger sister working there, but one still has the sense that this is a disappearing art form.

The sisters graciously allowed me to photograph one of their works in progress. Since I posted earlier about a chasuble, I thought we might as well make it the theme of the day. Take a look at this:

The back of the chasuble; the embroidered cross is a bit off center – it hasn’t been sewn on yet.

A closeup of the embroidery on the front of the chasuble.

Sister said that a priest from Spain had these antique silk embroideries of the Crucifixion and Our Lady from an old vestment, and wanted them attached to a new one. So they selected this gold fabric (featuring an angel design) to use as the basis for the new Roman-style chasuble.

These antique embroideries are among the finest I have seen. They were certainly hand-done, probably by sisters or nuns “back in the day”, who produced work of amazing detail and profound piety. Sister pointed out to me the tender expression on Our Lady’s face, and how the Crucifixion scene was detailed right down to Our Lord’s toes.

I’m not sure there’s anyone capable of doing this type of hand embroidery anymore. And if there is, I wonder if anyone could afford it!

These old items of beauty are certainly to be conserved, and thank God there are still some places that can do this type of conservation work!

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