Monday, June 06, 2016

More Liturgical Treasures from Northern Italy

From the Diocesan Museum of the city of Vicenza come these photos of a magnificent cope and reliquary. The cope is traditionally said to have been a gift of St Louis IX, King of France (1214-70) to the Dominican Blessed Bartholomew of Breganza, who was bishop of Vicenza from 1256 until his death in 1271, and whom St Louis had met in the East during his ill-fated crusade. Our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi, who took the photos, informs me that the embroidered silk is actually Sicilian-Arabic, and the cope was more likely given by the Emperor Frederic II. It is nicknamed “The Parrot Cope” from the pattern in the embroidery, a motif associated with royalty because of (inter alia) a well-known medieval legend that Julius Caesar had owned a parrot that was been trained to greet him with the words “Ave, Caesar! - Hail, Caesar!”

The relic, however, certainly came from St Louis, one of the Thorns from the Lord’s Crown, which was brought to Paris from Constantinople in the 13th century, and housed in the famous Sainte Chapelle. The reliquary shown here was made in Vicenza in the 14th century, but in several different stages. (For those who read Italian, a detailed description of the relic and reliquary, along with a wealth of information about their history, is available here.)

The rhymed inscription around the Thorn reads “O quam felix punctio, quam beata spina, de qua fluit unctio, mundi medicina. - O how happy the wounding (lit. ‘puncturing’), how blessed the thorn, from which flowed forth anointing, the healing of the world.”
St Louis presents the Thorn to Bl. Bartholomew

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