The Lost Art of Liturgical Book Coverings

When it comes to liturgical textiles, people are accustomed to the usual vestments of the sacred ministers; likewise they know well of the antependium (i.e. altar frontal) for the altar, or of the tabernacle veil and so on. However, one sort of liturgical textile that is all but forgotten are those which might cover a liturgical book -- be it the Evangelarium, the Pontifical Canon Missae, or the missal. These were fabric coverings, generally of silk or sometimes velvet, which were placed around the actual binding of the book itself.

An example of an 18th Century liturgical book cover
If one wishes to see this practice in liturgical action, the best place to turn are to photos coming from the Solemn Papal Mass in its traditional, pre-conciliar form. Here are just a few examples:

Paul VI, Canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs
Pius XII
Canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs
That said, this practice can be found elsewhere other than the papal liturgy of course, and here are a just a few more examples of these coverings taken from different places and different centuries.

Cover for an Evangelarium from the second half of the 18th century
A red covering from Ravenna, 19th century
A violet covering for an Evangelarium from Pavia, 18th Century
A red covering for an Evangeliarium, Pavia, 18th Century
A white covering from Padova, 20th Century
A rose covering from Ravenna, 20th Century
A red velvet covering from Imola, 18th Century
A white silk covering from the 18th Century
A white silk covering from the 19th Century; this formed a part of a complete pontifical Mass set.
A red Marian themed Missal covering
A simple white covering from Asti, 19th Century


By way of an update, the following photo appeared shortly after the publication of this article which shows a further image of such covers in liturgical use.

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.