An English Chasuble of the Sixteenth Century

Many of our readers are interested in the historical development of vestments and so when I saw this recently, I thought it might be worth sharing. The chasuble in question is kept at St. John's Seminary in Wonersh, UK, and it has been dated to the 16th century in its present form.

The question that naturally arises with such examples is whether this was once a much "fuller" vestment that was then later cut back in successive centuries (which is often attributed to matters of style, and while that may be part of it, much of this also has to do with liturgical practicality -- namely, the freeing up of the priests arms for the celebration of the sacred rites). In this particular instance, the orphrey seems to be fully intact on both the front and the back but that certainly doesn't mean that other parts may not have been modified at some point in time. 

Regardless, whether it was or wasn't modified is of less interest to me than is showing how the shape of the chasuble organically developed over the course of the centuries. One may well find themselves wondering what, exactly, this would look like when worn and fortunately that is easily shown as the pattern was replicated by Watts & Co. of London. Here was the end result:

As you will see, the end result is very much in alignment with what many would today consider "Borromean" and given the dating of this chasuble (at least in its present form) to the 16th century, this would make manifest sense. In essence then, what is shown here is an example of a style of chasuble that would have been familiar to the 16th century. 

I would conclude by noting that this particular shape of chasuble is very much a bridge between the earlier, more fulsome forms, and the later baroque forms. Within this shape one can readily see both what preceded it and what came thereafter: lengthen the arms and one quickly has a conical; short them up a bit more and the baroque form is  visible. The lesson here is that these shapes are no so disparate as they might at first seem -- especially when taken in view of centuries of development and variation. 

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