Tela Aurea: A Cloth of Gold Set from the First Half of the Eighteenth Century

Many of our readers will have heard tell of "cloth of gold" (tela aurea) vestments but may not have ever had the opportunity to see them. Cloth of gold is essentially a fabric made of spun gold that has been wrapped around another textile at its core. Its main use has been ecclesiastical, coming within the context of sacred vestments, and outside of that in some places, such as Tudor England, its secular use was sometimes reserved to royalty and the nobility -- much in the same way that Tyrian purple was restricted the emperor and senators in imperial Rome.  While silk lamé is not uncommon to run into of course (which involves gold or silver metallic fibres interwoven with another), cloth of gold is much more rare. 

The following set presents a good example of it, coming within the context of a Solemn Mass set and accompanying antependium (which contains as its central figure an image of St. Peter), all further embellished with the arms/stemma of Pope Benedict XIV (d. 1758) -- a scholarly pope of the eighteenth century who promoted the sacred arts, the sciences, liturgical and ceremonial life  The fourth Earl of Oxford, Horace Walpole, had this to say of the pontiff: "loved by the papists, esteemed by the protestants, a priest without insolence or interest, a prince without favourites, a pope without nepotism, an author without vanity, a man whom neither intellect nor power could corrupt."

The set itself comes from the time of Benedict XIV of course, though whether it was worn by him or simply commissioned and gifted by him is uncertain.  The pieces themselves are fairly self-explantory so we will offer them without further comment. 

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