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!

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