Spanish Splendour: Vestments from the Treasury Museum of the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe

Spain is known for the particular beauty of its sacred art and its tradition of sacred vestments is certainly not an outlier in this regard. If you were to describe the Spanish style, it would be characterized by ample cuts (especially where dalmatics and tunicles are concerned) and ample ornamentation. In this regard, its vestment tradition very much aligns to its architectural tradition which is characterized by large, highly ornamental reredoses/retablos.  

Today I wanted to give our readers a little 'teaser' of some of the vestments that are located in the treasury museum of the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe, located in Guadalupe, Spain.  First a bit about the monastery itself.

The monastery was founded in the fourteenth century, originally as a Marian shrine, and has passed into different ecclesiastical hands through its long history. The original monastic inhabitants were the Order of St. Jerome, but since the early twentieth century, by royal order of King Alfonso XIII it has been inhabited by Franciscans. At other times in its history, it has functioned merely as a diocesan parish of the Archdiocese of Toledo.  As a point of interest for our American readers, it was actually in this monastery that the Catholic Kings of Spain met with explorer Christopher Columbus, and it was to here that he returned after his travels to America. 

Of interest to us today however are the museums attached to this monastery basilica. These include an impressive museum of illuminated books (which we will hopefully address in another article), another for paintings and sculpture, and finally a textile museum which contains an extremely impressive collection of sacred vestments and other liturgical textiles ranging from the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. 

Many of these works came from the monastery's own embroidery workshop; a workshop which 'employed' both monks of the monastery as well as laymen.  

The first set is a beautiful red solemn Mass set. One will note the characteristic Spanish shape of the dalmatic and tunicles, with their length in both body and arms, as well as the inclusion of the collarin -- a remnant of the apparelled amice.  The body of the vestments contain intricate floral embroideries while the panels and orphreys contained extremely refined depictions of saints and floral work.  

A black set on display in the museum is also surely going to turn heads as it includes in its design many examples of memento mori, from the skulls and skeletons on the cope's shield and orphrey, to those found on the other pieces as well.  When it came to memento mori on vestments, the Spanish tradition certainly excelled in both quality and imagination. 

There is also an impressive selection of festal ornaments, especially in the tradition of floriated vestments that utilize a soft palette of colours to depicts beautiful floral imagery that would be especially suited to the Easter season and Marian feasts. 

Finally, just a few other odds and ends, including this green dalmatic which shows rather well the particularly elongated forms of the Spanish dalmatic of this period. 

Finally, I'd share this chasuble which utilizes a classic, a griccia Renaissance velvet.

Some of these vestments we hope to look at more closely in future articles. For now, we hope you've enjoyed this virtual stroll through an extremely impressive, 'must see' museum of ecclesiastical textiles. 

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