Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Historical Ecclesiastical Embroidery & a Happy Easter!


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Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and definitely a day off for me! I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Easter, though, and, in celebration, to share a special piece of ecclesiastical embroidery. This is a motif on a set of gold vestments. The motif is worked in some recognizable metal threads – and, given the age of the vestments (from the late 1700’s – early 1800’s) it is in good shape.

The vestment here belonged to St. John Marie Vianney and is on display in the museum dedicated to his honor in Ars, France. St. John Marie Vianney (the Curé of Ars) lived from 1786 – 1859, so the vestments belong to sometime during this period.

Vestments of St. John Marie Vianney, Agnus Dei motif in goldwork

The central motif on the back of the chasuble is of the Agnus Dei, symbol of Christ risen from the dead. I love the way the Lamb was worked, in what looks like silver bright check purl (which is the same as the check purl used on my current goldwork project, only in silver). I like the way the motif fits perfectly within the quatrefoil, and I like the treatment of the quatrefoil, with the double outline and the silver spots within.

Vestments of St. John Marie Vianney, Agnus Dei motif in goldwork

The whole vestment, made in the French ‘baroque’ style, is further embellished with elaborate goldwork made from fine gold threads satin stitched over thick card or carpet felt of some sort. (Well, today, we could use a very heavy felt – 2-3 mm – but back then, they likely used a card or lightweight wood block of some sort, cut in the shape of the design.)

Vestments of St. John Marie Vianney, Agnus Dei motif in goldwork

The design that forms the cross on the back of the vestment is worked in a repeated motif like the one above. A gem that looks like a garnet is set at the base of each flower section.

The vestments are kept behind glass now, in the museum in Ars. They look relatively good for their age and former use, as I am sure they were used often, for solemn feastdays. Having been worn by St. John Marie Vianney, in the Catholic Church they would be considered a relic of the second class.

The goldwork is beautiful, and seen in a new state, it would have been stunning. The vestments, no doubt, must be rather heavy! Imagine the skill that went into making them!

I wish you and yours a very happy Easter! I’ll take the day off tomorrow from blogging to spend time with family and friends, enjoying the (finally) glorious spring weather here in Kansas!


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(15) Comments

  1. Oh just beautiful – perfect work. Thank you for sharing.
    Have a lovely Easter and you so deserve a day off.
    Kind regards
    Jane from Bristol

  2. This is stunning, Mary. A whole new level of inspiration brought to us all. Thank you and happy season.


  3. Ohhhh! Beautiful! The lamb is wonderful. Did I understand you correctly that some of the embroidery on the robe has a small layer of wood underneath it? Do you know what parts? The flowers, the lamb? The robe must be incredibly heavy! Did they pad the wood with cloth to keep it from rubbing and fraying the thread? It's a very elegant design.

    I hope you are enjoying your Kansas springtime. Thank you always for your great pictures and informative posts!

  4. Beautiful piece of art!Thanks
    Happy Easter Sunday to you and your family as well, Mary!
    Glad you're having good Spring weather I wish we'll have to…
    xx meri

  5. What a glorious piece! I love the depth created by the padding. It has an architectural feel and even resembles plasterwork to me.

    Happy Easter to you, Mary, and to your readers (as appropriate! 🙂

    Happy Spring to those of us in the northern hemisphere!

  6. Hey Mary – have a Happy Easter! It's a great day to relax and enjoy. BTW, don't let anyone give you a hard time about what you choose to spend money on, such as the expensive (and high quality) stitching supplies. I raised 3 kids and after many years realized that now and then you have to do what you like, even if others think it's frivolous! (and many people look at my stitching stash and think I am not only frivolous but kinda nuts!)

    You do beautiful work and provide enjoyment to many, many others along the way!

    Kathy in Kenai

  7. What a fabulous piece! I do wonder about the lack of tarnish on it though – if it's silver, you would expect it to have tarnished quite badly, so I wonder if it's been quite heavily restored. If that's the case, then the restorers have done every bit as good as job as the original embroiderers, as it's just stunning.

  8. Amazing this very great design I ever seen.It's inspired me to make something like this. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi Mary,

    What a treasure you’ve shown us ! I love this humble Saint. What patience has gone into embroidering this regal vestment.

    Mary, I emailed you 3 months ago pictures of the machine embroidered purple vestment set (done by the nuns) using your designs. Also a hand embroidered rose design from your site that I did on a chest of drawer cover. However I did not receive your valuable comments. Did you receive the pictures ?


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