The Fifteenth Century Mitre made by Indigenous Mexicans and Gifted to the Pope and St. Charles Borromeo

We have a tendency to think about European art being brought in the direction of the New World -- and it certainly was -- but we don't a often consider that sometimes it also came back from the New World to the Old. That is certainly the case with the "Mitra di Colibri" also know as the "Mitra di San Carlo [Borromeo]."

This particular mitre was made in Mexico sometime between 1525-1565 and is found today in the treasury of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Milan. The mitre was crafted by Indigenous Mexicans and presented as a gift to Pope Pius IV (+1565) who in turn gifted it to his nephew, St. Charles Borromeo, then archbishop of Milan -- hence why it is also secondarily known as the "Mitra di San Carlo." 

The mitre is of unique construction and decoration, containing local tropical birds and it uses agave paper in its construction -- agave of course being the regional plant from which one of Mexico's most famous exports is made: tequila. 

The front and back of the mitre contain the IHS monogram (for Christ) and "MA" for the Virgin Mary and also includes images taken from the Passion, the betrayal by Judas and the Mass of St. Gregory the Great.  The symbols of the four evangelists are also found on this mitre. All of these works were created by "plumeria" (i,e. Mexican featherwork) which involves the use of colourful feathers from tropical birds, mounted on agave paper, to create the designs -- thereby adding to the unique, inculturated, Mexican character of this particular mitre.

This mitre is one of only seven extant examples of this type of work coming down to us from this period of time from the New World and thus is considered a treasure of inestimable value, not only liturgically, but culturally and artistically. 

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