A Closer Look at the Vestments of a Papal Canonization Mass in 1964

Photographs of the papal liturgies of yesteryear, especially solemn papal Masses, frequently excite a great deal of interest for reason of their splendour and beauty. Frankly, it can be overwhelming (in the very good sense). For many there is also an element of mystery to be found in such images as well because so much of what one sees within them simply hasn't been in much liturgical evidence since the 1970's (with the exception  of the pontificate of Benedict XVI). 

One of the items that gets a lot of interest is the matter of the sacred vestments used and so today we're going to unpack some of the vestments that were used for the canonization Mass of the Ugandan Martyrs in October 1964.  This was the last time a solemn papal Mass was celebrated according to the ancient Roman rite (i.e. usus antiquior). Given the timing of this occasion and the broader public interest in it at that time, we are fortunate to have inherited some better quality colour photographs of a solemn papal liturgy than we otherwise would have.

We shall begin with the papal mantum (a longer trained cope) that was used by Paul VI. It can be seen here (along with a beautiful red silk lamé cope being worn by one of the attendants):

So far as I can tell, the mantum worn by Paul VI is from the time of Pope Gregory XVI, made in the late 1830's or early 1840's. It was embroidered by the embroiderer Angelo Tanfani and it employs the style of naturalistic decoration that was particularly popular in the nineteenth century.  Here is a better look at it:

Next we move on to consider the chasuble worn by the pontiff  -- and one will see what appears to be the matching cope that is also worn by Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, seen here in this photo showing Paul VI performing the ablutions:

While this also requires a bit of educated guesswork, it appears to be a cope and chasuble from the time of the eighteenth century pope, Pius VI, having been created sometime between 1775 and 1799. It was embroidered by Filippo Garbani and Camilla Dormi -- who, it is thought, might have been a husband and wife team --  and it utilizes the French influenced neo-classical designs that were fashionable at the time of its creation:

Continuing on, the next photo shows us one of the symbolic offerings that were made as part of the papal Mass of canonization (which we discussed here in our article, Symbolic Offerings of the Solemn Papal Mass) of Canonization if you're interested in learning more about this.)  In the photo, one will note the brighter red dalmatics being worn by the cardinals' presenting the birds that were part of this ceremony:

These come from the time of the pontificate of Pope John XXIII. They were made by the Sisters of San Giuseppe al Lungotevere Farnesina between 1958-1963. While I do not have an image of the dalmatics proper, here is the matching chasuble from the set which will give you a better sense of their design:

Finally, we shall conclude our considerations by turning our attention to the dalmatics worn by the deacon and subdeacon proper of the Mass. The attentive eye will note that their embroidered designs are stylistically rather different from the vestments worn by Paul VI and Cardinal Tisserant. They can best be seen here in this photo showing the pope either taking of handing back the "fistula" (the object through which the pope would consume the Precious Blood):

These dalmatics come from the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII, thus being made sometime in the latter part of the nineteenth century. They form a part of a larger set which includes a chasuble and cope (seen below).  Here is a better look at the dalmatic itself which includes Eucharistic motifs of grape clusters and shafts of wheat:

While they do not form a part of the vestments used in this particular papal Mass (so far as I can see at any rate), here is the rest of that particular set for those of you who wish to see it:

A point that stands out here, at least to me, is that there was no overarching concern with mixing and matching vestments from different sets. The beauty, quality and harmony of the particular vestments was seemingly (and I would say rightly) the more important consideration than was achieving strict uniformity of design. In that regard there is perhaps a lesson to be learned here in our own time where our concern for such uniformity (witness the many lacklustre concelebration sets) often comes at the expense of those important qualities and thus at the expense of the liturgy itself.

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