In Remembrance: Urn Palls for use at Funerals

It has been a while since our last post – spring is flying by and summer is just around the corner. This spring has been eventful, as usual. Some of the eventful was anticipated and gave cause for rejoicing while other events were more somber in nature. We have had a few unexpected trips to visit ill family members and have had the loss of a dear grandfather a few short weeks ago. In the midst of loss there is always hope. And with the prayers and support of many we continue on with our daily vocations.

As we relax this Memorial Weekend and spend time with family and friends, we also remember those who have fought and died defending our country, as well as family members and friends who have preceded us in death.  As a child, I remember our family tradition of visiting with relatives on Memorial Weekend. After our picnic, we would go to the cemetery at the local church and put flowers and wreaths on the graves of aunts and grandparents. We would also take the time to look at the headstones of the great-great grand parents who came over from Germany in the Mid 1800’s. There was Peter and Otto, and then my grandfather Henry. The names on many of the stones were all but worn away with wind and weather and time.

When I make church vestments, I prefer to work in a quiet, contemplative space. It is a time to think and reflect. And tonight is no exception. The current project before me is one that naturally leads to reflective thoughts, just by the very nature of what the item is.

Urn pall for funerals

The item before me is an Urn Pall.  For those not familiar with the Palls or their use, it is helpful to take a read from Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin’s Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume, Compiled from Ancient Authorities and Examples.


The Palls used for ecclesiastical purposes were of four kinds: 1 Pall for covering the bier and coffin at funerals, already described  2 Palls for extending over tombs* 3. Ornamental Palls, to hang in choirs on festivals, ………………. 4 Linen cloths to cover altars……………

Tradition within the church is to use a Pall to cover the coffin for funerals. At the time of Pugin (early to mid 1800’s) Palls were elaborate items, often embellished with extensive embroidery and gold work. Palls are still used today to cover a coffin during a funeral service. They are frequently white in color with a cross or other appropriate design applied. While churches may own a Pall for covering a coffin, they may not have a pall for covering an urn. The use of urns to replace large coffins is becoming more common.

An urn pall can take on many forms of design. The  Urn Pall that has been recently on my work table is simple yet tasteful. It begins with a lovely brocade fabric. Suitable choices would be Fairford, Florence, and Litchfield brocades to name a few.  In this case Cloister Brocade is the fabric being used. Cloister has a nice all over patterns that works will with the Urn Pall. For some churches the use of white may be as a remembrance of baptism and the putting on of Christ’s Righteousness, while other churches may have slightly different beliefs and traditions.

Urn palls may be purchased ready-made. Or if someone within the church is handy with fabric, needle, and thread, they may wish to make an Urn Pall for use at funeral services.

Urn Palls are similar to chalice veils. They are usually square in shape.

They are often trimmed with cross. This style has a cross formed by narrow braid with a small cross applique located at the center.


Satin lining adds the finishing touch on the back side of the Urn Pall.  Urn Palls are usually around 26 inches square which allows for the variety of shapes and sizes of Urns that may be used.


The use of Palls as part of the funeral service is stepped in historical tradition. Often family members contact me for these items when the church does not have one available. If your church does not currently have a separate Urn Pall,  this may be an item to consider adding to the vestment inventory to have on hand when it is needed. As always, it is a good idea to check with your pastor, priest, elders, or altar guild hand book to ensure the correct use of Palls within your church body.  The white Urn Pall is a current style. A black urn pall will be available shortly. Stay tuned.

Solli Deo Gloria


Filed under: Ecclesiastical Sewing, Urn Pall Tagged: Brocade Fabric, Ecclesaistical Sewing, Funeral Pall, Urn Pall


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