Visiting a Grand Cathedral the Proper Way

Traveling. It is fun, exciting, interesting, and filled with unknown Ecclesiastical Sewing Treasures (Pleasures) if one takes the time to look. One never knows what liturgical wonders might be the next site reveled as a corner is rounded, or a glance is drawn up.  Cathedrals are filled with nooks and crannies, soaring columns, stained glass, stone carvings and so much more. One could look at a Cathedral daily, and still see something new.

Yesterday was a few shorts days after the Celebration of Pentecost. We were scheduled to visit the Cathedral of All Saints in Albany, New York. Although we had been there only one short week before, there were still many features of Church architecture and Church Vestments awaiting our viewing pleasure.

On my first visit to the Cathedral, we walked in a side door that led through the basement, up stairs, around back areas, into side chapels and sacristies, and finally into the main part of the nave. But that is never the proper way to view a cathedral.

One must to enter through the front door, walk down the main aisle, and see the high altar from the entire length of  a Cathedral to get a real sense and appreciation of the space.  Thankfully, that is the way we entered the Cathedral on this second visit.  It was so very different! The length of the main aisle, the vast space, the soaring height to the ceiling, the rose window! Finally, the high altar. And yes, there was a different frontal on the high altar today! It is stunning, even from the very back of the Cathedral.

Red and gold stand out from a distance, even in the dimly lit space.  There was no doubt that the frontal currently in place was intended for the Celebration of Pentecost. In the middle of the large Pentecost Altar Frontal there is a large descending dove. The execution was superb, even when viewed from a distance.

 We had to get a closer look. As we approached, the dove shimmered in the dim light coming from above the altar. Metallic gold was the basis for the dove and orphrey bands. It was difficult to tell what material had been used. Could it be cloth of gold, gold kid, or something else?

A few more steps, and cloth of gold was instantly ruled out. The shimmer of the material in the light was not quite right for cloth of gold. It lacked that warm shimmer that is cloth of gold.

Gold kid or something similar was the main material used for the dove. A quick glance at the lower hem edge near an orphrey reveled the cut edge of a piece of metallic vinyl. That was somewhat disappointing…..for an instant. It never pays to be disappointed for long when viewing Altar Frontals. There is always something new to see, something to look at and wonder about. A glance back at the dove confirmed it required a closer look.  How did they do that? How were the details of the dove executed?

The answer is as simple as the materials used. A heavy gold twist, outlined with a small cord help create the outline details of the Pentecost Dove. The gold twist was used to outline all of the edges of the dove. To create the illusion of shadow, and to add definition to aid visibility from a distance, a darker cord was couched around the outside edge of the gold twist. The lighting was too dim to clearly determine the type of thread being couched around the edge. Several possibilities came to mind, the most obvious possibility being something along the line of silk gimp. The size was a little larger than silk gimp, so it could have simply been a small cord of some type.

Simple curved lines were used to create the illusion of feathers in the wings, again outlined with the darker cord. The simplicity of the design and details were perfect. The same  heavy gold twist creates the rays of glory extending from the nimbus, which in turn is worked in couched silver imitation Japanese threads. This is a design that would be grist for the mill in planning a future project. The shimmer of the gold material, combined with the bold outlines of the twist is worth adding to the file for future consideration.

Solo Dei Gloria

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