Creating liturgical vestments


detail ornement  

The work on sacerdotal vestments covers at the same time the realms of sewing and art because during that time period all sacerdotal vestments were enriched with embroidery, lace and even gems in order to magnify the beauty of the liturgy. Embroidery made up part of the education of young ladies and many entrants to Carmel entered with a good base in this area.
Srs Vincent de Paul et Jean-Baptiste
Vincentdepaul jeanbaptiste

The best needle women from the time of Therese were Sister Saint-Vincent de Paul (see letter from Mother Agnes to Celine, September 1893), and Sister Saint-Jean-Baptiste, who knew how to embroider admirably (see her biography).  

Did they work with the robiere in charge of making other clothes ? It could be, perhaps the robiere gave the Sisters ahead of time the sections of the vestments that would be embroidered; for example those that comprise the orfroi, the central design seen on the facing and back of the liturgical vestment worn by the priest for the celebration of the Mass.


The making of the vestment began with the cutting of the cloth. It would be necessary to cut the fabric made of silk thread according to the pattern of a violin vestment (or box of violin) of the period. See the photos on the left and below of a very old vestment from the sacristy. The cut is made low below the arms at the level of the shoulders to permit a graceful elevation of the arms during the course of the celebration of the Mass.

It is also necessary to cut in the same manner the lining, this one sewn with long stitches to a very rigid canvas (the bougran). Around the collar one would find a colletin (a type of frill), often made of lace, to protect the neckline of the chasuble.

ornement-dosOn the front of the vestment, going from the neck to the knees, one finds an embellished parament, the ornamental part called the orfroi. It appears also on the back in the form of the cross, displaying then a motif in the center, such as here, a Virgin with Child. These orfrois were specifically the work of embroiders of the Community. When they were completed, the entire chasuble would be put together.

ornement kit

The complete vestment ensemble would include from the same fabric a stole around the neck and the maniple around the arm, (the maniple is an ornamental vestment over the left forearm. Originally this vestment was a handkerchief carried in the left hand or thrown over the left arm to signify the labor and hardship of the priestly vocation; it is a type of small stole – to the left on the photo). Similarly see the burse for the corporal (a square cloth used to carry the corporal in the Communion service) and a large veil for the chalice (to the right on the picture). This type of ensemble would all be created at the same time as the chasuble.

Below an enlarged detail of the embroidery.

ornement broderie detail

These vestments were sold and brought a return of around 450 francs per year during the last three years of the life of Therese. They would be made on commission.


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