Friday, May 20, 2016

Of Mitres and Men II

Previously, we spoke about the antiquity of the mitre.  Back when it was plain even on the most solemn of celebrations (here).  Now, let's explore some of the trends in adornment it picked up through the centuries.


The ornamentation of the mitre can take many forms.  The first known was the addition of the titulus (vertical band) and the circulus - the horizontal one that runs along the bottom edge.  Of this type, are the oldest extant mitres scattered throughout certain lucky cathedral museums in Europe - often rescued from old tombs and restored for exhibition by textile curators.

This modality has remained popular from the beginning of the last millennium until the present day.

Pope Francis makes almost exclusive use of these even on the most solemn of feasts - Easter and Christmas - which is quite correct even if admittedly, we'd love to see more of the wearable works of art in the Papal Sacristy in good use...

The perpendicular bands signify this is a "mitra pretiosa" even if no other embellishment is present.  If you are a bishop, it is likely your work-horse mitre.  It works on all occasions when the simplex is not called for, since it may even be used during Lent and Advent which otherwise calls for the mitra auriphrygiata in the Official Rubrics.
Image result for pope francis easter

One step above in embelishment is encountered in the 12, 13 and 1400s.  It is the same mitra pretiosa but this time with at least two rondels or "jewels" on the white spaces.  At this period, we also begin seeing mitres of colours besides white  - which Leovigildus would probably disapprove of - as does the Roman Caeremoniale Episcoporum, most emphatically by the 1700s.   

Eventually these jewels proliferated - but the titulus & circulus remained:

And then, we have the last set of mitrae pretiosae...  where they no longer have the distinguishing titulus & circulus, but instead, showcase a veritable garden of jewels strewn throughout. They were specially common from the 1700s on, like the fiddleback chasubles, which makes them the most Roman in taste.  Indeed, right before Vatican II, every western bishop of the Roman Rite (aka Tridentine Rite, and now Extraordinary Form) would have had at least one for the most solemn of occasions.

Depending on the style of vestments you wear, the architecture of the basilica or cathedral... some are more appropriate than others, though technically, they are all the same: mitrae pretiosae.

Stay tuned for: 
... next week!

Of Mitres and Men: I

The title of the post will become clear at a later date, but for now, let's focus on that headdress par excellence of the episcopal order in the Western Church: the mitre.

Supposedly, it didn't come about until the tenth or eleventh century... or so, scholars and most liturgists capriciously repeat... quoting each other... over and over... as they are wont to do.

Already in the seventh century, Saint Isidore (yes, the Patron Saint of the Internet) had described them within his encyclopedic works.  And no, this isn't another case of << "The problem with internet quotes is that they can't be checked" - Abraham Lincoln >>  You can go to Spain and see it written in parchment and smelling of that moldy musk that only centuries-old manuscripts can afford... yet to prevent possible bubonic plague, or incarceration for doing the good old "scratch and sniff" on a priceless manuscript... here's a web-link to the first transcribed text by persons who have already gone through the motions:

The translation being along the lines of: << 6: To the priestly state also belonged the cidaris, which is called a mitre by many. >>

Cidaris [from the Greek Kidaris] was an ancient ceremonial headdress worn in Persia.  Here, it is the name used for the hat worn by bishops. It should be noted that sacerdotes, which correctly translated means priests, was used in Spain to mean bishops - for these were considered "priests of the first order" (as in: they embodied the fullness of the priesthood) - whereas the "priests of the second order" were properly termed presbyters.  Such it is in the Liber Ordinum, Missals, and other extant texts.

By the ninth century, we hear another well documented mention of the mitre-cidaris.  This time the writer is Leovigild, a presbyter from Cordoba, who wrote a treatise on the vestments of the Catholic clergy in Spain titled "De Habitu Clericorum" - which you can reach here by downloading the pdf from the Cervantes site.

The bit that interests us at the moment, though, is this:

Which translated means: << In the episcopal ordination, the bishops use a cidaris ... and in the solemn festivities, it is placed on their head... >>

Leovigild also says that the pure-white cidaris-mitre symbolizes the white-hair of old age (canitie), and hence, why the headdress is placed on the newly-elected pontiffs [presumably as a symbol of the wisdom accumulated by those who come to have a white head...] with these words:

Inde qum in clero talis fuerit qualis apostolus designabit inuentus cidarim mundam fibrisque perfusa super caput eius inponitur ut honorem senectutis plene inter collegas uteri uideatur et uenerationem canitie ut dictum est ab hominibus tribuatur senectus inquid Sarae prolis uenerabilis est non diuturna neque annorum numero conputata cani sunt autem sensus hominis et etas senectutis uita inmaculata.  Ob hanc rem canitie similis episcopi ponitur capite et a candore eius equm est uertix ipsius ornare. 

And with that, we come to the first mitres... already in use some three centuries before they show up in Rome.

These were white, with red fringe hanging from the lappets, as are still used to this day.  The difference is, of course, that though originally these simple mitres were used for the most solemn and festive of occasions, through the centuries, they have been relegated to be used at funerals, and by those persons privileged by the Pope to wear a mitre albeit not being ordained-bishops.

It is also worn by bishops in choir, and when acting as as concelebrants - while the principal bishop or archbishop makes use of a more ornate version which we will discuss in another post.

Cardinals, instead of the plain white-linen mitre, are themselves privileged to one made of white damask.

But what did the Popes wear before adopting the mitre?

In Rome, the popes used a camelaucium.  This has more in common with the eastern-rite mitres (before they themselves took on the bulbous form common today).  Originally, it was a hard cap inherited from the use of the Imperial court in Byzantium.  Pre-schism, of course...

With time, it developed into the two most recognizable, and exclusive, headdresses of the papacy: the tiara, and the camauro of red velvet lined in ermine.  The first, used for the liturgy, and the latter for less ceremonious occasions. The present pope prefers not to use these, so here's Saint John XXIII to illustrate 'The History of Rome':

In sum, the mitre indeed became widespread by the turn of the millennium after Rome adopted it... But they were already used 300 years earlier... by bishops in Spain - at the very least.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pentecost Green! No, Red. No, Green! :)

Ever since Easter began, we've been busy making vestments in red.  That is the colour for Pentecost in the Roman Rite which practically everyone follows today in the West.

 The reasoning for the red is well documented in every liturgical book printed since at least the 1500s ... and even Wikipedia.  The green, however, is less obvious when one directly associates the holy ghost with red masses.

Green's use  is explained with the descent of the Holy Spirit beginning the period in which bishops went out and evangelized the peoples... in other words, the beginning of Ordinary Time in the Liturgical Year.  Hence follows, that the colour of bishops is green and why the galero on their coats of arms, seat covers and cushions are also by default green.   [Eventually, western-rite bishops began to wear purple (and the rochet, for example) as part of the now well-established privilege of being members of the Roman Pontiff's household.  Monsignori, who may or may not be bishops, thus, also wear purple by the privilege which affiliates them to the Papal household.]  Green represented the time when to carry out the pastoral visits by the bishops - when the fields themselves were green with life.  Green "cassocks" and "hoods" went out of history long ago for bishops, but the vestments and some paraphernalia remained.

Now that some context has been established, here is a rather magnificent set of paraments, presently at The Louvre, which were commissioned for  L'Ordre du Saint Esprit in the 16th century - whose major feast day was: Pentecost!  As you may appreciate, it is green, and replete with the flames associated with the descent of the holy ghost.

On this image one can see the Throne dais whose baldachin has the dove in the centre and the prie-dieu cover bears the royal arms embroidered in the front.  On the rear, the altar frontal, dossal and baldachin can also be seen.  The ceremonial robes of the Knights and Officers of the order also bear a small cape to match, in green, above the long black mantle.
Next, is an image of these pieces in use, during the King's reception of the oath from a new member: The bird which is in reality embroidered on the ceiling of the king's baldachin, is represented as hovering over the sovereign's head in the painting:

L'Ordre du Saint Esprit was established in 1578 by King Henry III in commemoration of having been elected King of Poland, and then inheriting the throne of France, coinciding with the feasts of Pentecost of 1573 and 1574 respectively.
Here can be appreciated the detail of the flames of the green camail (above) and of the overall effect of altar frontal (below) which also bears the King's heraldic achievement of a royal crown over the arms of France, and of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth.  They are circled by the collars of L'Ordre du Saint Michel, and the new Ordre du Saint Esprit.

So there you have it.  Green Vestments and Paraments used at the Royal Court of France for the Feast of Pentecost according to the Parisian Use of the Gallican Rite.  The Gothispanic (aka Mozarabic) Rite also uses green for this feast in the west.

The Eastern rites too, use green:  
Some, still deck the halls with green branches, flowers and trees:
And others go still further and "carpet" their churches with greenery as was attested by the Muslim chronicler, Almakkari, when referring to the Gothispanic mass already in the IX century.

Below, that practice still seen in Romania:

Interesting, yes?