French Stylings: Chasuble Designs from Nineteenth Century France

While there is a tendency to break down chasubles into very basic categories (e.g. "gothic" or "Roman") the reality is that there is quite a bit more distinction than this that can be found, not only in relation to their particular cut, but also in relation to their particular ornamentation.

Today I wanted to focus on one particular type of 'Roman' chasuble which is typically referred to as the French style. (To clarify, what is often referred to as the "French" style is more particularly the 19th century French style.) As a general rule, the 19th century French form is narrower in its cut than its Italian counterpart and one finds them made either in silk or in velvet. Ornamentally, this form usually includes a cross on the back, the axis of which is typically decorated with some sort of Christian symbol -- the Lyonese form being the exception. This particular type and form of Roman chasuble is one of the two most popular forms -- the other being, of course, the Italian form.

Let's take a look at a few examples, beginning with green silk and red velvet examples that utilize the very distinctive and very popular French form of cross (sometimes referred to as 'Parisian'):

Here are two others, this time in violet:

However, where crosses are concerned, another common form seen in France is the embroidered cross which typically is more ornamental in its shape, but still includes the usual traits such as flowers and vine work and some sort of symbol within the axis of the cross:

Quite common in the French form as well is the so-called "spade" or "shovel" end to the stole and maniple -- so-called because that is what its basic shape looks like.

In the case of French embroidery, the embroideries of this period are very rich, frequently made up of rich metallic gold threads made into sculptured embroideries.

One of the more distinctive French forms is the Lyonese form. The primary difference here is the Lyonese cross which is an apparent mixture of the Italian and French orphrey designs (the Italian having the cross on the front and a single column on the back).

Their particular ornamental differences aside, what is common to all of them is their use of rich colour, impressive textures and a particular attention to Catholic symbolism.

But before we leave this subject, I would be remiss if I did not make mention of one other frequently seen French variation from this period. Essentially it is the same as the first example with the typical French, or Parisian, form of cross, but instead of embroidered designs and symbols, a patterned textile (generally bold in colour and floral in design) makes up the ornament. Sometimes it is only the cross itself which utilizes such fabrics, and other times is the entire chasuble. Here are two examples:

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