Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Chinese Chasuble of Dom Pierre-Célestin Lou Tseng-Tsiang, OSB

Almost seven years ago, on April 21, 2010, I published an article here, Liturgical Arts Quarterly 1935: “Christian Art in the Far East.” This article presented some fine examples of liturgical inculturation -- something that I often explored here on NLM, particularly as so many things manifest in the name of “inculturation” in our time seem so often misguided and misplaced; it is worthwhile remembering, however, that it hasn’t always been this way, nor must it be.
One of the pieces that was shown in this article was a Gothic Revival chasuble that employed Chinese themed motifs:

This particular chasuble belonged to Dom Pierre-Célestin Lou Tseng-Tsiang, OSB (1871-1949) and is now in the possession of St Andrew’s Abbey in Bruges, Belgium. Dom Lou is shown here wearing it:

Now black and white photos of vestments, in my experience, can do one of two things: they can either make the vestments look better than they really appear in person, or they can do the exact opposite and not show forth just how spectacular they are. (The reason for this is the same in both instances: the lack of colour doesn’t adequately provide a view into all the textures, textile qualities and colour harmonies or disharmonies).

The case of Dom Lou’s chasuble is clearly an instance of the latter, for the modern colour image shows forth the full exquisiteness of this chasuble in its every detail, from the beauty of its colours and materials to the richness of its embroideries and their corresponding textures. Take a look:

As you can see, this is an absolutely exquisite piece of craftsmanship. Putting aside the themes for a moment, the silks, the bead work, the embroideries, the colours, they all combine into a splendid harmony. Added to that are the splendid Chinese motifs that make this a truly stunning and unique piece of liturgical art and, in my estimation at least, an example of one of the very best manifestations of liturgical inculturation.

Photo Credit: Photos of the chasuble by Cyril J. Law with kind permission of the Abbot of St. Andrew's Abbey, Bruges. Cyril also provided us with historical photos of Dom Lou. Thanks to him.

Follow Shawn Tribe on Facebook and Twitter.
Send in your news, photos or other feedback to him at

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: