Funeral embroidery from Old Castille

The occasion of the Feast of All Souls is an excellent opportunity to present a selection of magnificent historical textiles from Spain. Pastrana is a small village on the moors of Guadalajara. While today it may seem insignificant, during the 16th century it lived a period of splendor as the seat of Dukes of Pastrana and Princes of Eboli. The titles were created by King Phillip the II for his close friend Ruy Gomez de Silva and his wife, Ana de Mendoza de la Cerda, the infamous one-eyed princess.

The Collegiate church of the Assumption, where the Dukes built their crypt, has conserved the rich ensemble commissioned for the funerals of the Princess of Eboli, who died in 1592.

The catafalque is particularly noteworthy, with a rich black velvet pall decorated with applique embroidery in gold-yellow silk and the coats of arms of the Dukes. The large platform on which the bier sits is covered by four panels with similar style and decoration, albeit with yellow silk instead of gold.

This spectacular set also includes 12 large and 12 smaller candlesticks and crosses as well as vestments, altar frontals, pulpit drapes, cruets, censers, 8 staffs for the canons and even a pointer for the choirmaster.

Photo credits: PMR Maeyaert, Museo Parroquial de Tapices de Pastrana

The Catafalque is permanently installed in one of the chapels of the church, and continues to be used on occasion, such as the funeral for Pope John Paul II in 2005. The church has also a very interesting textile museum with several large 15th century Flemish tapestries, among other treasures.

The beautiful city of Segovia, with its famous roman aqueduct and medieval alcazar (castle) is crowned by its towering Cathedral. For the last few years an exhibition has been set up during Allhallowtide with a selection of its funerary textiles. While the items are regrettably no longer in liturgical use, it is still a laudable initiative to exhibit them.

The 19th century Pall, in black velvet, is delicately embroidered with gold and silver thread, featuring the emblem of the cathedral chapter, the lily vase, on both ends, accompanied by various symbols of death such as skulls, winged hourglasses and skeletal arms with scythes. This catafalque is surrounded by six large wooden candlesticks painted black and gilt

The exhibition also presents several other interesting items, other palls, a processional cross with its black manga (drape) and some vestments, among which is a spectacular 17th century cope.

While the body of the cope is tailored in black velvet, what stands out about this piece is the colorful embroidery. Embroidered in silk thread, the fimbriae show medallions with the emblems of the Passion, while the hood presents the figure of death draped in crimson, holding the scythe and a tablet which read Omnia mihi subdita – all is subject to me.

Photo credits: Catedral de Segovia

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