The Tradition of Floral Vestments: Apropos to Eastertide, Marian Feasts, Spring and Summer

Now that we are in the liturgical season of Easter, it is natural that one's thoughts should likewise turn to the new season of calendar year we find ourselves in, namely spring. It is at this time of the calendar year, after all, that the cold of winter gives way to the blooming of flowers and the budding of trees; that muted tones give way to more colourful one's and crisp, scentless air gives way to the more fragrant and inviting scents of the warmer seasons. This convergence also lends itself to the particularly festal time of the liturgical year we find ourselves in, Eastertide, as those same flowers now blooming can be easily harvested to adorn altars over the course of the Easter season.

It is for all of these reasons that my mind turns toward a particular tradition of vestment design at this time of year; namely, festal white vestments ornamented with colourful floral designs and greenery. While these vestments would be, strictly speaking, liturgically licit for any solemnity requiring white, they seem to me particularly well suited to the Easter season, Marian feasts, and for the solemnities of the spring and summer more generally. Why is that they bring a synthesis of the cycles of the natural world with the liturgical; of the 'resurrection' of new life around us in nature with the Resurrection of Christ.

This, of course, also brings to bear a more basic point: that the selection of vestments should ideally not be limited to a simplistic consideration of basic liturgical colours; rather, wherever possible (and this is significantly dependent on how well stocked a particular sacristy is) it should also take into consideration factors such as these in order to determine what is most symbolically appropriate.

With that in mind, I wanted to share a few examples of some of the sorts of vestments to which I refer., beginning with those embroidered with silk threads.

Italian, 18th century (Source)
Italian, 18th century (Source)
Italian, 18th century. (Source)

Beyond silk embroideries, another manifestation of this tradition can be found in the use of patterned textiles of similar designs and palettes, but rather than being accomplished through embroidery are instead woven into the textile itself. Here are just a few examples taken from within a liturgical context to give a better appreciation for how these "feel."

There are plenty more examples of this sort of work out there of course, but I hope these few examples will suffice to give readers an appreciation for this design tradition and also the potentialities of it when utilized in a way that lends itself to this broader convergence of the natural and liturgical seasons.

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