Thursday, 16 August 2012

Chasuble Styles of the Roman Rite: 5


Frequently, the Studio receives enquiries asking about the distinctions between the different styles of chasubles.  Comments are also often seen on websites which indicate that this subject matter is still not well-known.  Although this has been written about before on the blog, I wish to present a series of posts describing the styles of chasuble down the centuries until our own time.  These posts ought to be regarded as brief overviews rather than scholarly treatments of the subject matter.

Previous posts: Part One  Part Two  Part Three Part Four

For this post, we are pleased to quote an excellent monograph first published in 1926 by the English scholar, Raymond James.  The work is titled The Origin and Development of Roman Liturgical Vestments.  Mr James writes (pp 19-20):

(From the Eighteenth) until the 19th century... the story of the development of sacred vestments is a sad one: "development" seems indeed hardly the word to use. It was to this period, and especially to the 18th century - that nadir of all the Christian centuries - that we owe the bib-like chasuble, truncated stole and maniple, shrunken surplices or cottas and other similar vestments - all mere caricatures of the traditional form.

If anything at all is certain, it is that the Church did not initiate the process which resulted in producing these, but rather that she shewed herself on more than one occasion opposed to it.

Mr James, supports his remarks with many quotations from scholars and bishops. But it is seems sensible just to include this one from the Dictionary of Sacred Objects published in Venice in 1735 by the editor Magri (p 24):

Little by little, instead of being turned back at the sides, it was cut away instead, so that it came to resemble no longer a chasuble, but rather a monastic scapular. On this point, the Greeks deserve much praise, since they have retained the ancient shape (the loss of which by the Latin Church has been a great misfortune, since) in the shape of the ancient chasuble much majesty and many mysteries were contained; it originally represented, amongst other things, the Unity of the Church and the Seamless Garment of Christ, and this in its present cut-away condition it manifestly can no longer do.

A once ample chasuble of the 15th century,
mutilated in the 18th century into the "scapular" form.
(The Victoria & Albert Museum)
More on this subject need not be written, except to remark how pitiful it is that so many folk regard this debased form of chasuble as Traditional (or "Super-Trad" as I recently had the misfortune to see written) whilst despising more ample chasubles as being Modern.  Although the "fiddleback" chasuble has been made continuously since the 18th century, how sad to observe that vestment-makers, with renewed vigour, have returned to the making of these caricatures.

The last gasp before the ravages of the 18th century:
A chasuble of Roman origin, but significantly longer and slightly wider
than the so-called "fiddleback".

The logical "development" of clipping-back:
the chasuble no more than a scapular.