The Fifteenth Century Cope of San Ponziano

The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is an early fifteenth century basilica located within Gandino in the north of Italy. Within its treasury is an impressive cope  -- called the Cope of San Ponziano --  which dates to the second half of the fifteenth century, thereby making it effectively contemporaneous with the construction of the basilica itself. 

This particular cope is part of a vestment set that is traditionally used on August 13th for the feast of S. Ponziano, a second century pope and martyr that was exited to the mines of Sardinia by the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. S. Ponziano also happens to be the patron saint of Gandino, thereby explaining the particular importance they relished upon the feast day by this set of vestments. 

The cope in question is certainly indicative of its time, being made of a crimson red and gold "a griccia" velvet. (See: The Iconic 'A Griccia' Motif in Renaissance Vestments for more information).  The design includes thistle and pomegranate motifs.  Materials such as these were frequently produced in locations such as Venice, Florence and Lucca, though the design itself originally hails from the Ottoman Empire. In the case of this particular cope, it is thought to be of Venetian manufacture

The cope features a shield, ornamented by a monumental tassel, depicting a scene of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is executed in polychrome silk with gold and silver embroideries.  The front of the cope additionally includes images of the Four Evangelists and the Doctors of the Church set into architectural frames within the orphrey.  

The remainder of the set, which regrettably we are not able to show in any significant way, includes not only a chasuble, dalmatic and tunicle as one would expect, but also a matching antependium.

This particular cope and its other corresponding parts and pieces represent the use of one of the most precious textiles from the period of the Renaissance. 

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