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ragione, la belta e varieta di tante drapperie dei nostri tempi, abbiam nondimeno da confessare un obbligo non lieve a gli antichi, che ci hanno prima spianata la via, e senza i lumi loro non potremmo oggidi vantare un si gran progresso nell' Arti."
And that this was the case a few instances may suffice to show; and it may not be quite out of place here to refer to one out of a thousand articles of value and beauty which were lost in the great conflagration (" which so cruelly laid waste the habitations of the servants of God") of the doomed and often suffering, but always magnificent, Croyland Abbey. It was "that beautiful and costly sphere, most curiously constructed of different metals, according to the different planets. Saturn was of copper, Jupiter of gold, Mars of iron, the Sun of brass, Mercury of amber, Venus of tin, and the Moon of silver: the colours of all the signs of the Zodiac had their several figures and colours variously finished, and adorned with such a mixture of precious stones and metals as amused the eye, while it informed the mind of every beholder. Such another sphere was not known or heard of in England; and it was a present from the King of France."
No insignificant proof this of the mechanical skill of the eleventh century.
We are told that Pope Eutychianus, who lived in the reign of the Emperor Aurelian, buried in different places 342 martyrs with his own hands; and he ordained that a faithful martyr should on no account be interred without a dalmatic robe or a purple colobio. This is perhaps one of the earliest notices of ecclesiastical pomp or pride in vestments. But some forty years afterwards Pope Silvester was invested by the hands of his attendants with a Phrygian robe of snowy white, on which was traced in sparkling threads by busy female hands the resurrection of our Lord; and so magnificent was this garment considered that it was ordained to be worn by his successors on state occasions: and to pass at once to the seventh century, there are records of various church hangings which had become injured by old age being carefully repaired at considerable expense; which expense and trouble would not, we may fairly infer, have been incurred if the articles in question, even at this more advanced period, had not been considered of value and of beauty.
Leo the Third, in the eighth century, was a magnificent benefactor to the church. With the vessels of rich plate and jewels of various descriptions which were in all ages offering to the church we have nothing to do: amongst various other vestments, Leo gave to the high altar of the blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, a covering spangled with gold (chnjsodabam) and adorned with precious stones; having the histories both of our Saviour giving to the blessed Apostle Peter the power of binding and loosing, and also representing the suffering of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and Paul. It was of great size, and exhibited on St. Peter and St. Paul's days.*
* Anastasius Bibliothecarius. De Vitis Romanorum Pontificum.
As this work is the fountain whence subsequent writers have chiefly obtained their information with regard to church vestments, that is to say, decorative ones, it may not be amiss to transcribe a passage, taken literally at random from scores of similar ones. It will give the reader some idea of the profusion with which the expensive garnitures were supplied:—
Pope Paschal, early in the ninth century, had some magnificent garments wrought, which he presented to different churches. One of these was an altar-cloth of Tyrian purple, having in the middle a picture of golden emblems, with the countenance of our Lord, and of the blessed martyrs Cosman and Damian, with three other brothers. The cross was wrought in gold, and had round it a border of olive-leaves most beautifully worked. Another had golden emblems, with our Saviour, surrounded with archangels and apostles, of wonderful beauty and richness, being ornamented with pearls.
In these ages robes and hangings with crimson
"Sed et super altare majus fecit tetra vela holoserica alithina quatuor, cum astillis, et rosis chrysoclabis. Et in eodem altare fecit cum historiis crucifixi Domini vestem tyriam. Et in Ecclesia Doctoris Mundi beati Pauli Apostoli tetra vela holoserica alithyna quatuor, et vestem super altare albam chrysociabam, habentem historiam Sanctse Resurrectionis, et aliam vestem chrysociabam, habentem historiam nativitatis Domini, et Sanctorum Innocentium. Immo et aliam vestem tyriam, habentem historiam caeci illuminati, et Resurrectionem. Idem autem sanctissimus Prassul fecit in basilica beatse Mariae ad Praesepe vestem albam chrysoclabam, habentem historiam sanctas Resurrectionis. Sed et aliam vestem in orbiculis chrysoclabis, habentem historias Annunciationis, et sanctorum Joachim, et Annas. Fecit in Ecclesia beati Laurentii foris muros eidem Prsesul vestem albam rosatam cum chrysoclabo. Sed et aliam vestem super sanctum corpus ejus albam destauraci chrysociabam, cum margaritis. Et in titulo Calixti vestem chrysoclabam ex blattin Byzanteo, habentem historiam nativitatis Domini, et sancti Simeonis. Item in Kcclesia sancti Pancratii vestem tyriam, habentem historiam Ascencionis Domini, seu et in sancta Maria ad Martyres fecit vestem tyriam ut supra. Et in basilica sanctorum Cosmas et Damiani fecit vestem de blatti Byzanteo, cum periclysin de chrysoclabo, et margaritis."—i. 285,
or purple borders, called blatta, from the name of the insect from which the dye was obtained, were much in use. An insect, supposed to be the one so often referred to by this name in the writings of the ancients, is found now on the coasts of Guayaquil and Guatima. The dye is very beautiful, and is easily transferred. The royal purple so much esteemed of old was of very different shades, for the terms purple, red, crimson, scarlet, are often used indiscriminately; and a pretty correct conception may be acquired of the value of this imperial tint formerly from the circumstance that, when Alexander took possession of the city of Susa and of its enormous treasures, among other things there were found five thousand quintals of Hermione purple, the finest in the world, which had been treasured up there during the space of 190 years; notwithstanding which, its beauty and lustre were no way diminished. Some idea may be formed of the prodigious value of this store from the fact that this purple was sold at the rate of 100 crowns a pound, and the quintal is a hundredweight of Paris.
Pope Paschal had a robe worked with gold and gems, having the history of the Virgins with lighted torches beautifully related: he had another of Byzantine scarlet with a worked border of oliveleaves. This was a very usual decoration of ecclesiastical robes, and a very suitable one; for, from the time when in the beak of Noah's dove it was first an emblem of comfort, it has ever, in all ages, in all nations, at all times, been symbolical of plenty and peace. This pope had also a robe of woven gold, worn over a cassock of scarlet silk; a dress certainly worth the naming, though not so much as others indebted to our useful little implement which Cowper calls the "threaded steel." But he had another rich and peculiar garment, which was entirely indebted to the needle-woman for its varied and radiant hues. This was a robe of an amber colour,* having peacocks.
Pope Leo the Fourth had a hanging worked with the needle, having the portrait of a man seated upon a peacock. Pope Stefano the Fifth had four magnificent hangings for the great altar, one of which was wrought in peacocks. We find in romance that there was a high emblematical value attached to peacocks; not so high, however, as to prevent our ancestors from eating them; but it is difficult to account for their being so frequently introduced in designs professedly religious. In romance and chivalry they were supereminent. "To mention the peacock (says M. Le Grand) is to write its panegyrick." Many noble families bore the peacock as their crest; and in the Provencal Courts of Love the successful poet was crowned with a wreath formed of them. The coronation present given to the Queen of our Henry the Third, by her sister, the Queen of France, was a large silver peacock, whose train was set with sapphires and pearls, and other precious jewels, wrought with silver. This elegant piece of jewellery was used as a reservoir for sweet waters, which were forced out of its beak into a basin of white silver chased.
As the knights associated these birds with all their ideas of fame, and made their most solemn
* " De staurace."