Saturday, August 19, 2023

Honoring the Blessed Sacrament with the Best Blue Jeans

The English word “jeans” derives from “Gênes”, the French name for the Italian city of Genoa. Back when the Republic of Genoa was a major mercantile power, (and long before blue jeans were popularized in America by Mr Strauss), cloth dyed with indigo was one of the city’s major products. Since it was both difficult and expensive to make, it was considered a luxury material. Led by the Catholic instinct that rightly seeks to give the best of everything to God, in 1538, a Genovese abbey commissioned a set of 14 pieces of cloth dyed blue with indigo, and then decorated with images of the Passion painted in white lead. The cloths were designed to be set up over a frame which made a temporary chapel for the repose of the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday; the image are copied from a series of engravings of the Passion made by Albrecht Dürer in 1508-12. These pieces are now on display in the diocesan museum of Genoa, from which we published some other pictures on Wednesday, and according to the museum’s website, are the only known examples of their kind.

Beneath the pictures of the blue jeans chapel are some pictures of some rooms within the museum which were formerly part of the residence of the cathedral canons.

The front of the chapel shows the Crucifixion at top; at the lower left, the Virgin Mother with Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Cleophas, St John, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus; at the lower right, the Christ with the cross amid the soldiers.
One of the two sides, with the Agony in the Garden, Judas’ suicide at the left, and the rest of the Apostles at the right.
On the other side, clockwise from the lower left, Christ before Caiaphas, the mocking of the soldiers, and the Ecce Homo.
Judas’ kiss, St Peter attacking one of the soldiers, and the young man fleeing from the scene (traditionally believed to be St Mark, who alone narrates this fact (14, 51-52.)
The Deposition from the Cross
Details of the sections show above.
Fragments of a different series of images, made with the same material, but a slightly later period; Christ is given gall to drink. 
His body is carried to the tomb.
Similar works from the later 17th or early 18th century, showing monks in prayer...
and the Veil of Veronica.
The diocesan museum is housed in rooms which were formerly the residence of the cathedral canons. Here we see to the left of the doors the stem of Pope Innocent VIII (1484-92), and below it, the stem of the cathedral, with the grill of St Lawrence, to whom it is dedicated. Innocent VIII was born with the name Giovanni Battisti Cybo in 1432 to a noble Genovese noble family, and became a member of the chapter; as Pope, he granted it the privilege of wearing the same canonical habit as the chapter of St Peter’s basilica.
A representation of the whole chapter gathered together in the cathedral choir. The figure of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child on the altar seems to have been added later, after the Republic formally declared Her to be the Queen of the city in 1637.  
The stem of Pope Innocent IV (1243-54), also a Genovese nobleman and former member of the cathedral chapter.
The walls of one of the private rooms of the canons, decorated in the first quarter of the 13th century, while the cathedral was in the phase of the major rebuilding which gave it its current form. Above the blue and red lozenges that dominate the wall runs a band decorated with representations of labors of the months from January to June.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: