The Terno of Cardinal Cisneros

Dated to the 1500's, the so-called "Terno of Cardinal Cisneros" is considered an important period example of the embroidery and textiles of the period. First a bit about the name. In speaking of the "Terno" of Cardinal Cisneros, I include that term for the sake of those who might wish to look up these vestments for themselves, and while the phrasing might sound exotic, it really is just referring to what we might call the "set" of Cardinal Cisternos -- in other words, a matching set of vestments. 

Personally, I always find it of interest to know a bit out the prelate with whom a set of vestments is associated or by whom they were commissioned so let's explore a bit about Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, the namesake of the vestments.

Cardinal Cisneros was a Spanish cardinal and Franciscan who lived between the years 1438 and 1517.  He himself came from very humble beginnings, but ultimately his life would take him on a path that saw him taking high office in both the Church and within the Spanish kingdom. 

The cardinal was responsible for putting out two editions of the Mozarabic liturgical books and it was he who established a dedicated chapel in the cathedral of Toledo in order to ensure the continued preservation of the Mozarabic rite. 

As mentioned, the cardinal (prior to being a cardinal of course) had become a Franciscan friar, however the cardinal was extremely ascetic in his personal piety so he found that he desired even more ascetisim than the rule of St. Francis provided for him. He would choose to undertake extra fasts for himself, he would sleep on the cold, bare ground, and for a time, he led the life of an anchorite.  While many of these things would necessarily recede into the background as he took on the role of a prelate of the church and regent of the Kingdom of Spain, in his private life Cisneros maintained much of this personal asceticism.  The future cardinal would be appointed the confessor of Queen Isabella of Spain, and it was this relationship that would ultimately set him on the high path he would end up on. In 1495 he was appointed Archbishop of Toledo and in 1507 he was made a cardinal of the Roman church.

Turning back the vestments themselves then, these particular vestments date from this latter period when he functioned as the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo.  The set follows a fairly typical aesthetic from the Renaissance, utilizing the ever popular red and gold velvet textiles of the time (done in, I believe, what is called a "sagredo" pattern), accompanied by orphrey panels filled with exquisite embroideries containing images of the Virgin, the saints, the Four Evangelists and so on.  They also utilize vegetal motifs. Let's take a look at them, beginning with the chasuble, which, as you'll see, has already adopted the familiar Spanish shape by this period of time.

The panels on the two dalmatics, four panels in total, include images of each of the Four Evangelists.

The 'collarin' that would be worn by the deacon and subdeacon - these are embroidered collars worn around the neck. They are derived from the apparelled amice.

While these give one a good overall sense of the set, here are some details taken from the embroideries that will show you the quality of the work -- work which, even after all the wear and time that comes with the ravages of time, still manage to shine forth their exquisite beauty. 

Even in its damaged, unrestored state, one can see how beautiful these embroideries are. One can easily imagine how much more impressive they would have been when first produced.

St. John the Baptist

St. Peter

The Virgin and Child

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