A Spanish Penitential Cope from 1438

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently displaying a Spanish cope that they date to 1438.  The cope originally came from the treasury of the cathedral of Burgos and is now part of the Cloisters collection in New York City.  

The cope is made of a deep blue silk and embroidered in metallic thread, with dimensions of 56.5" x 112" (143.5 x 284.5 cm).

As noted in some recent articles, while many today tend to associate blue with Marian intentions, historically blue was an apparently acceptable variant on black / violet as a penitential colour. Indeed, when one looks at the symbolism of this particular cope, one will note that it is particularly Lenten in its imagery with the hood or shield depicting the Pieta (i.e. the Blessed Virgin holding the body of the dead Christ at the foot of the Cross) which in turn is surmounted on the orphrey above with an image of Christ resurrected (his stigmata clearly visible) and on the front panels of the orphrey are visible two angels holding symbols of the Passion -- the one holding the Veil of Veronica and the other the Cross itself.  While, regrettably, we cannot see what the other angels are holding down the rest of the orphrey, this collection of symbols and scenes of the Passion leave little doubt about the likely penitential and Lenten purpose of the cope in question.

The Pieta and Resurrected Christ above

The angel holding the Cross

An angel holding the Veil of Veronica

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