The 1574 Pentecost Vestments of the Franciscan Shrine of La Verna

With the subject of the Franciscan shrine at La Verna fresh in mind with our recent considerations of the "tonacella" worn by its novices (seen on the left), I am put to mind of an impressive set of solemn vestments also found at the shrine: The "parato di Pentecoste" donated by Florentine benefactors around the year 1574. 

As the name makes manifestly clear, the set is a Pentecost themed set intended for use on that great feast. Evidently as well, the symbolism shown on the set is also heavily influenced by Pentecost themes. Set on red velvet, we find images of the tongues of fire set into a pattern all over each of the vestment pieces. Within the orphrey of the chasuble we see the symbol of the dove and within a cartouche on the base of the chasuble can be seen the dedication to the donors of the set, "Benefactors of Florence" (also found on the dalmatic and tunicle).  Some of our readers who are particularly interested in the development of chasuble shapes may wish to also take note of the shape of this chasuble. 

The dalmatic and tunicle from the set continue on with the theme. One will note that each of the pieces also includes an embroidered scene of various saints. Regrettably the quality of the images does not permit us to dig into this aspect. 

Image credit: A. Ferrini (Source)

Chalice veils are frequently one of the more neglected pieces of vestment sets, but you certainly won't want to skip by that piece in this instance -- the tongues of fire taking on a kind of pine cone like arrangement. 

The chalice veil. Visible also is the stole and maniple. 

Found on the hood or shield of the cope is a depiction of St. Francis, his vision of the crucified and his reception of the stigmata. 

Detail of the shield/hood of the cope. Image: A. Ferrini (Source)

We conclude with this final view of the set which shows us its humeral veil, once again laden with the tongues of fire and including a central image of the dove. 

One can well imagine how impressive this set must be when set within the context of the feast of Pentecost with its great liturgical solemnity, the wafting clouds of incense, the chanting of the Pentecost sequence and so on. It puts to mind the fact that liturgical art is, first and foremost, at the service of divine worship and secondarily it is an aid to lead the worshipper into contact with the divine through an epiphany of beauty -- a liturgical lesson the Franciscans, for all their love of personal poverty, did not fail to take to heart. 

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