St. Kolbe's Vestments and Mass Items Offer Glimpse of Roman Beauty

One very interesting place of pilgrimage in Poland that I have visited is Niepokalanów, the Franciscan settlement in rural Poland.  Here St. Maximilian Kolbe founded in 1927 his own friary-publishing house in the rural village of Teresin.  A local prince from Warsaw had given the Franciscans a parcel of land from his estate and the friars built, with Kolbe as the first guardian, establishing here his printing press.  Kolbe lived at the friary from 1927 until 1930 when he left to be a missionary in the Far East.

Today the property consists of 28 hectares where the friars continue his work of reaching the world through print, radio and internet.  Of the original buildings, only a few survive, including the chapel, where the saint lived.  Kolbe's bedroom - which is open to the public - was a small room in the sacristy.  The chapel, sacristy and cell are open daily for pilgrims to visit.  Mass is celebrated in the original chapel, albeit sadly not on the original altar where the saint celebrated.  Visitors to the sacristy can see in windowed cabinets the liturgical items that were utilized by the saint and his Franciscan community.  These gems include his altar missal, altar cards, chalice and an assortment of vestments.

I have always said no epoch of vestment making is less known and appreciated than the Golden Age, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  The vestment samples date from the early twentieth century, in sharp contrast to the simplex vestments used in the chapel today.  The saint's vestments are beautiful, in Roman style, a local expression (with embroidery) of the Roman baroque that reflects in some way the greatest artistic commission in the history of Christendom, of which all the artistic forces of the best artistic age were concentrated - St. Peter's in Rome.  The Roman rite carried with it a little piece of Rome and St. Peter's to every corner of the world, including this rural village near Warsaw.  It carried beauty and truth, mixing them together indistinguishably - a spiritual idea expressed in the best artistic form which has proven to resonate with people of every age, proving it classical, facilitating even future generations not yet born to apprehend deeper truths through the sensory liturgical experience.   

Kolbe died a martyr at Auschwitz on August 14, 1941, prisoner #16670.

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