New Book Highlights Treasury of Vestments in the Holy Land: Paramenti Sacri Dall'Europa Alla Terra Santa

As someone who has been fortunate to travel to the Holy Land many times, it has been my privilege to see from time to time a variety of rare and historical vestments that are on display for tourists and pilgrims alike at the Terra Sancta Museum in Jerusalem.  This relatively new museum and its many precious items are under the care of the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, at two separate locations in the holy city.  These same Franciscans take great care in rightly preserving these treasures for happier times when they can again be used for the public worship of the Church.  In fact, some of the items are still brought out for occasional service at the altar.  

Most of the items are kept safely in storage deposits at San Salvatore in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, particular items are periodically put on display in the museum for visitors to admire.  For most who visit, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I have to say how impressed I have been with the museum so far, a work in progress that is still taking shape.  The Franciscans have done a terrific job in preserving and displaying a variety of items used in the sacred cult.  The bulk of the extraordinary collection includes liturgical vestments with the most exquisite fabrics imaginable, one of the most unique liturgical arts collections seen anywhere in the world.  The museum fittingly puts the art within reach of all people of good will who may wish to see and admire while visiting the holy city of Jerusalem, paying a small entrance fee as a donation (a small contribution to the expensive charge of curating such a large collection of delicate artworks and artifacts).  

The white Roman style chasuble seen above is an example from the collection.  It will soon be put on display in the museum for visitors to behold in person.  The chasuble is thought to date from mid-17th century Spain.  It is a rare gem that excites European embroidery enthusiasts and specialists who appreciate its rarity and high quality of tool-work.  According to the museum officials, it displays a technique of embroidery imported from Italy which in its day rapidly surpassed all others in Europe.  This technique involves two gold threads that have been laid next to one another on a fabric, while fixed with colored silk threads, creating a complex design of great artistic import.  This style is known as, "or noué."  Below are two examples of four such images from the chasuble, in very good condition considering its age.

Readers will be interested to know the museum has published its first catalogue book known as Paramenti Sacri dall'Europa alla Terra Santa by Maria Pia Pettinua Vescina (Sacred Vestments from Europe to the Holy Land), available here.  This coffee table book is a publication that includes a great many items like this chasuble and more.  Unveiled in 2019, the book is the first projected volume in a series that will deal with some of the finest vestments in the custody of the Holy Land Franciscans.  The collection encapsulates centuries of art while illustrating a history of good taste in the liturgy and its external artistic manifestations.  The historic vestments and other prominent liturgical items were donated by devout Catholics from European families, many who had visited the Holy Land as pilgrims.  The book brings all of this together, showing a truly symbolic link between Europe, its faithful and the ancient Christian communities in the Holy Land, never to be forgotten.  While Europe has been the place of the greatest flowering of Christian art, the Holy Land on the other hand, has been the cradle of Christianity where it all began.  This uninterrupted connection remains to this day a witness of the external manifestations of faith and the largesse of those who donated these many items, given generously by the ruling families, monarchies, royal dynasties and nation states.  Below is a cover image of the book, which I highly recommend and have thoroughly enjoyed.  I look forward to the future editions.    

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