12 March 2020

Design of the sacred: the new catalogue of liturgical vestments and fabrics


The new catalogue of the Terra Sancta Museum dedicated to sacred vestments, edited by Maria Pia Pettinau Vescina with the contribution of Danièle Véron-Denise, a well-known expert in liturgical and profane embroidery, has just been published.

The production of the series dedicated to the artistic heritage of the Custody of the Holy Land continues. The second volume is dedicated to the vast collection of liturgical fabrics and vestments from Europe. The result of an in-depth study and research that lasted four years, the catalogue is to all intents and purposes considered a work of valorisation of sacred vestments.

The catalogue, published by Edizioni Terra Santa and edited by Maria Pia Pettinau Vescina, is the result of an ambitious project, aimed at telling the value of vestments from an artistic, but above all historical point of view.

Dalmatics, stoles, copes, planets, each of these elements is the result of a unique design and an exceptionally valuable manufacture. Floral patterns, exotic and oriental motifs, sacred and devotional images together with the combination of colours, the choice of edging, the convergence of warp and weft contribute to create a real scenography: all the elements that make up the priestly vestments, the focal point of the eyes of the faithful during religious celebrations, become an integral part of the Liturgy.

The catalogue qualifies and justifies the conservation of this heritage which reveals, to an interested eye, the taste and the exceptional patronage of the textile and embroidery art practised by European craftsmen. In addition to the religious and artistic aspects, there is also a third one, the historical one, which retraces the manifestation and evolution of Christian devotion as time goes by.

All this patrimony, fruit of art and devotion, is in any case not destined to remain only preserved in museum rooms or observed with wonder through the photographs in this catalogue, but continues to find its truest and fullest meaning when it is still used in the celebration, which is via pulchritudinis par excellence

(Brother Francis Patton ofm, Custodian of the Holy Land)

The idea for this catalogue came after an exhibition, held in Versailles in 2013, where for the first time the Terra Sancta Museum revealed the existence of this treasure.

It is really interesting to notice how these gifts – some of them extremely luxurious – were able to survive in the Holy Land, whilst among the same European nations that had sent them, nothing comparable has been preserved. This has been possible thanks to either a miracle, or to the courage and self-sacrifice of the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land. In the simplicity and humility of everyday life they have preserved these works born to celebrate and praise God

(Béatrix Saule, Honorary Director of the Palace of Versailles and Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Terra Sancta Museum)

This work helps us to look at sacred art through the eyes of faith – as it is expressed with weaving, the needle and thread, but more to it, a united work of fraternity. The passionate work gone into compiling this new catalogue, has seen us re-unite – starting from an usual point of view, with Jerusalem and the Holy Land at the centre of world history.


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