Saturday, June 14, 2008

Traditions: Red wall hangings for Solemn Liturgical occasions

When the subject of liturgical wall-hangings arises today, one will no doubt immediately be put to mind of the felt or burlap banners that were so popular in the 1970's and which unfortunately still find a place on so many parishes walls today -- parish priests: please remove these if you can.

Of course, things were not always so. There was a time -- a time not actually past, but not so much seen -- when there were other kinds of church wall hangings which were used to great effect in highlighting particularly solemn liturgical occasions. This was often expressed by decorating portions of the church structure with red hangings, highlighted with gold.

How widespread this tradition was I do not know for certain, nor do I know its origins and history, but it was a beautiful tradition. St. Peter's Basilica has seen such decoration for the days when canonizations were done indoors at the Basilica:

We have also seen this tradition kept alive today at San Simeon Piccolo in Venice:

I was therefore very pleased to be recently sent the following pictures from Malta which show the altar and church as it was recently adorned for this year's Feast of the Sacred Heart:

Truly stunning. It is worth noting that this not only sets off the festal nature of the liturgical occasion, one can well imagine the effect of this upon children -- let alone adults.

If any reader can give us more historical information on this tradition, I am certain we would all be indebted, or if you have more photos that you think are worth sharing of this tradition, do send them in.

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