Having finished my previous post, and, I suspect, with my recent piece Lace in a Penitential Season still partly fresh in my mind I recalled a draft I had from last year which I began to prepare but never published before I resumed blogging this year. It follows on quite suitably from the last one as it concerns two historic albs, traditionally assigned to famous men.
The post came to mind when in advance of moving just over a year ago I found myself washing my lace-trimmed cotta - a suitably splendid piece I might add - and the liturgical use of lace as decoration worked its ways through the recesses of my memory.
Now I have met people of a very Traditionalist cast of mind who look somewhat ascance at lace albs and decry them as Baroque extravagances, and even as effeminate. However one can point out - and I did - that lace albs were known in the thirteenth century. What are claimed or believed to be those of St Francis of Assisi (d.1226) and Pope Boniface VIII (d.1303) survive. Such ownership may be impossible to establish with absolute certainty but their preservation and traditional attribution carry considerable weight as evidence.
Pope Boniface VIII in a lace alb does not surprise one. St Francis does if you follow too much the popular presentation of “Il poverello”. What it does indicate I suggest is that St Francis was so much more than the cement figure holding up a bird bath in a modern garden - a point once made by Franciscan in a lecture here in Oxford. Such was the intensity of his love for the Divine that I can imagine St Francis, presented with such a garment, would wear it as a Deacon to the honour and glory of God. Personal austerity does not conflict with offering the very best in worship and its accessories. People used to know that, but after a period when it was forgotten it is taking time as a concept to be recovered, but happily it is.
Both of these albs are discussed, with photographs of them both in another of Shawn Tribe’s articles on the Liturgical Arts Journal which can be viewed at Medieval Lace Albs of St. Francis and Pope Boniface VIII