By Way of Preface: Somewhat amusingly -- not to mention entirely incorrectly -- I have on a couple of occasions been accused of being "focused on lace." I personally found these accusations quite amusing given that I have never actually written a post about lace, nor have I ever broached the subject of my own accord -- and where I have ever spoken on it, it has always been reactive to some combox controversy wherein I try to interject a bit of the Aristotelian "middle way" to the matter.
At any rate, I mention this because, now, after nearly seven years of this blog's existence, here we finally do have a post which has something to do with lace, but within a context that is a little bit different from what we are usually accustomed to.
The use of lace in items like albs, surplices and the like is certainly well enough known, if not also the object of some disagreement between certain liturgical parties, but here is an interesting twist on this matter; lace paraments:
These photos come from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Lace was among the most highly prized and expensive of all textiles in the 17th century. From the main centres of production in Italy and Flanders it was traded widely across Europe, and the industry responded quickly to changes in fashionable dress, as different styles came in and out of favour. In the 1660s, Venetian needle lace became the most fashionable lace, dominating the upper end of the market for both men’s and women’s dress. The industry also expanded rapidly through the patronage of the Catholic Church. Italian lace-makers exaggerated the three-dimensional qualities of needle lace, and developed the technique of dividing up large patterns into manageable sections, enabling the production of large-scale ecclesiastical items like vestments and church furnishings that were conspicuously extravagant.
Regardless of one's personal preferences in this regard, the value which was historically attributed to lace can hopefully shed greater historical light on why it was used within the sacred liturgy.