Mitre and Chasuble of Pope Pius IX Used at the First Vatican Council in 1869

This particular mitre is one of those that is more frequently than others taken out of the papal sacristy and put into proper liturgical use. In modern times it was worn at least once by John Paul II and Benedict XVI has worn in on multiple occasions.  The mitre itself dates to 1869 and comes form the pontificate of Pope Pius IX. 

As many of our readers will know, it was under Pius IX's pontificate that the Immaculate Conception was declared a dogma in 1854, and so it should likely come as little surprise that this particular mitre contains an image of the same. 

Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, by Francesco Podest. Vatican Museums

Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, by Francesco Podest. Vatican Museums

Pius IX also wore this mitre for the opening of First Vatican Council, which was opened on the same Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 1869.  

Here is a closer look at the mitre. The front side contains, as mentioned, an image of the Immaculate Conception, rays of light emanating around her as she stands upon the crescent moon supported by two kneeling angels.  Above the Virgin is a crown and surrounding this orphrey design are stylized lilies -- a symbol of purity. 

The obverse side of the mitre contains an equally beautiful image of Christ the Good Shepherd with two adoring sheep to either side.  At the base of the lappets of the mitre can be seen the stemma of Pope Pius IX and going up the lappets are what appear to be stylized roses. 

A closer look at a detail of the mitre shows the delicacy with which the figures are carried out. 

This particular mitre is certainly indicative of the time in which it was produced, reflecting both the recently proclaimed dogma of the Immaculate Conception, as well as the rise of renewed interest in explicit figurative and symbolic imagery on vestments that arose at this time.  This same interest was also reflected in the chasuble that Pius IX wore at the opening of the First Vatican Council, a gift from the French city of Lyon to the pope. The chasuble contains and image of Christ the Teacher and the base of the orphrey includes the arms (stemma) of the city of Lyon -- reflecting, as stemma on vestments are frequently intended to do, the provenance of the vestment.  Surrounding the orphrey itself is an extremely delicate series of embroideries done in a style indicative of the seventeenth century. 

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