As fall settles in, it is still fun to think back on summer travels with fond memories. It is always fun to get away, and on occasion, have a great time with the unexpected pleasures that sometimes happen while traveling. There was a little side trip to Montana this summer, and while visiting, the opportunity came along for a little Ecclesiastical Sewing and Ecclesiastical Embroidery adventure at the Ursuline Center in Great Falls, Montana. The original posts were here: More Surprises on Summer Travel and here: Summer Travel and Unexpected Surprises
We took a chance and decided to visit the Ursuline Center to see if there might be anything of interest in the way of Ecclesiastical Embroidery or Ecclesiastical Vestments. We visited the Museum at the Ursuline Center as well as the artist tower and found a few hand embroidered pieces and a few hand painted Ecclesiastical Banners. The story left off as follows:
“When we came down from the art tower studio, there was one Sister working in the archive. Our guide asked the Sister if she knew of any Ecclesiastical Embroidery pieces. Her response, “Go down stairs and phone Father. He would be the person who would know.” Down we went to the office and a phone call was made. Father told us to come upstairs to the chapel and we could meet him there in a few moments. So, off we went on the next part of the adventure…..”
The next part of the adventure was a return to the lovely little chapel with the beautiful hand painted murals. We arrived, sat down, and waited. It was not long before a gentleman entered. We had introductions to the Father, and he asked us to explain what we were looking for. When he learned that we were interested to see if he had any hand embroidered vestments, he thought for a few moments, then regretfully said, “No.” He went on to explain that at one time he had a few hand painted vestment pieces and had given them to someone with specific instructions that the pieces were unique, and were to be kept for the archive. Under no circumstances were the pieces to be thrown out. Father went on to sadly say his instructions were not followed, but were completely ignored. The vestment pieces were not kept; they had been thrown out. There was an audible sign of regret.
Then Father thought again for a moment, and after a pause said, “There might be one thing of interest to you.” He then walked into one of the side rooms and returned a few moments later with this:
It was a lovely cream and taupe chasuble that had a hand embroidered figure on the orphrey. The chasuble did not feature the standard “Y” orphrey bands, but had a nice curved detail slightly below the neckline. There were other subtle design differences such as the widening of the orphrey band at the hemline of the chasuble. (Orphreys are bands of trim applied to vestments and altar hangings. They can vary in width from very narrow to quite wide. Often they are highly embroidered, or are made of decorative material. The standard design arrangement for Orphreys on a chasuble is a “Y” design. On this chasuble, the orphrey is a plain fabric).
Contrasting details were also included at the lower edge of the chasuble shoulder seams to create the illusion of a turn-backed cuff. The edges of the taupe orphreys were all finished with a contrast piping to add accent. This is a nice design detail that helps with visibility from a distance.
The Ecclesiastical Embroidery Design has an unusual placement method. Notice that the Virgin’s head and Nimbus (Halo surrounding the Virgin’s head) are placed on the yoke orphrey, and the Virgin’s Feet and the serpent are also placed on the lower orphrey band. There is no orphrey band behind the rest of the figure. While this is a little unusual for the design placement of a figure, it does work for the chasuble and this Ecclesiastical Embroidery Design. The figure has enough weight and substance, and is the same width as the orphrey bands, so it works.
A rose and vine Embroidered Design adorns the central orphrey band at the hemline.
Gold twist, gold passing threads, and other goldwork stitching provide the details of the sleeve and garment edges as well as the divisions between the colors used for the nimbus. Now, take a closer look at the photo above. Notice that the garment folds are stitched with embroidery floss to create the visual impression of draped fabric. The blue in the garment, as well as the facial features are hand painted. The shading for the hands is done with painting, while the definition between the fingers is accented with embroidery. Hand painted vestments are always interesting to look at, especially when combined with Ecclesiastical Embroidery.
My apologies for the photos, as the new camera was having problems with the macro lens. It is amazing to see the detail of this hand painting on Ecclesiastical Vestments.
The use of the colors and a few stitches along with a little goldwork embroidery are all it takes to provide the image of hair for the embroidery.
This was the final little bit of fun to note on this chasuble, giving a clue as to the history of where the vestment came from. We ended up spending a delightful afternoon with Father at the Ursuline Center in Great Falls. And, before we parted, he graciously gave me a gift which is quite a treasure. Another tale to goes with the gift. I look forward to sharing that tale and photos with you soon. Until next time, thank you for reading, and being patient with the photos above. New camera, inexperienced operator. It is all part of the learning!
Solo Dei Gloria
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Filed under: church vestment, Ecclesiastical Embroidery, Ecclesiastical Embroidery Design, Ecclesiastical Sewing, Ecclesiastical Vestments, orphrey Tagged: chasuble, church embroidery, Church Vestment, Ecclesiastical Banners, Ecclesiastical Embroidery, Ecclesiastical Embroidery Design, Ecclesiastical Sewing, Ecclesiastical Vestments, goldwork embroidery, hand painted vestments, orphrey, Ursuline Center Great Falls