A Brief Consideration On the Diverse Shapes of Chasubles

By way of quick reflection, anyone who has followed liturgical art particularly since the advent of the twentieth century Liturgical Movement will know that one of the fixations that tends to plague some within the English speaking world is the matter of chasuble shapes. The way such thought goes is that "gothic" chasubles are seen as "authentic" while other more truncated shapes, such as the so-called "Neri", "Roman" and so on, are seen as deficient -- an idea that is archeologism to be certain.  This fixation no doubt plagues the English speaking world in part because these ideas were popularized by the likes of Fr. Adrian Fortescue and Dom Augustine Roulin in the realm of vestments. More generally gothic triumphalism was trumpeted by the likes of Augustine Welby Northmore Pugin who viewed it as the only "true" Christian architecture. 

Now to be clear, I have absolutely no issue with the gothic revival. Indeed, the gothic revival -- particularly the likes of Pugin, Sir Ninian Comper and G.F. Bodley, have given us some of the very finest in contemporary ecclesiastical architecture as well as some very stunning vestments. The issue, of course, is that there really is no place for stylistic absolutism in the Church for just as the Church adopts no particular philosophical school, neither does it admit to any one particular style as the only proper style.  

Each and everyone is allowed their own particular stylistic preferences of course; this is perfectly natural; the key is to avoid making one's personal preferences into dogmatic absolutes. At the end of the day, all that matters is that vestments, like any other liturgical art, be characterized by noble beauty. 

While we are on this subject, I would take this opportunity to introduce a diagram to our readers which frequently surprises many. Many are accustomed to thinking of chasubles in two, three or four basic shapes. In point of fact, history has admitted various shapes of chasuble (and here we are entirely limiting our considerations solely to the Latin rite no less):

The proportions here are not exactly to scale as the right hand column has been shrunk in scale in order to fit them onto the page. However, what the diagram -- which includes the location and century from which each of these particular examples hail -- shows is precisely the wide divergence of chasuble shapes that has graced our altars over the course of the centuries. The bottom line is that there is no "correct" shape of chasuble (anymore than we should consider the vestments of the Latin rite as somehow correct and those of various Eastern rites are somehow not).There is a legitimate liturgical diversity of shapes for Eucharistic vestments. Enjoy them. 

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