Gold Pontifical Set of Napoleon III

Previously we have shown some of the vestments donated by Napoleon III, and we have also shown a bit of this chasuble before in the context of a review of an important catalogue of vestments coming from the Holy Land. Given the especially strong interest that exists in the use of bees as symbols in liturgical art, it seemed that a closer look would be in order.

The fascination with the symbol of the bee is one that I share. I suppose in part that is due to the prevalence of this symbol within Rome in relation to the Barberini family and that family's papal representative, Pope Urban VIII. In part, too, it is simply interesting and rich as Christian symbols go, what with its strong connection to the natural world.

In this particular instance it also happens to be the symbol that was utilized by the Emperor Napoleon III (1808-1873) -- a symbol long associated with the sovereigns of France. The set in question is a pontifical set, made in France in 1853, having originally been made for the wedding of the Emperor (which took place in Notre Dame Cathedral in the same year).

The bees are, of course, the primary attraction of the set, and they are placed upon the various vestments in different proportions (as you will see from the chasuble and cope) as symbols of "power managed industriously for the social good." The vestments would eventually be donated to the Franciscans in the Holy Land where they still reside today.

Some closer details:

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