|Title||Mending a rupture: Vestment revival in the Episcopal Church, 1870-1930|
This thesis examines how and why the high church faction of the Episcopal Church revived the use of priestly vestments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although this practice met with much opposition from the Churchs more evangelical or low church sectors, garments like stoles, chasubles, copes and dalmatics, along with altar linens, gradually became more common in Episcopal parishes. Use of these vestments signified a more sacramental view of the Eucharist, drawing attention to the priest and showing reverence for the liturgical presentation of Christs sacrifice. The symbolic decorative motifs embroidered on vestments further emphasized this theology. Despite the seeming resemblance of Episcopal vestments to those of contemporary Roman Catholics, the high church party actually pursued a unique religious identity that looked to England for inspiration. The Oxford and Cambridge Movements, Anglican studies of vestment history, and museum collections of pre-Reformation English vestments all influenced high church Episcopalians. Anglo-Catholics were the most ardent restorers of ritualsï¼› they posited that the English Church had its own Eucharistic rites and clergy descended from the Apostles, and was thus on par with the Roman rite and the rest of the global catholic Church. Collective memory of the English Reformation changed as Anglo-Catholics bemoaned iconoclastic destruction of Gothic glory. Episcopalians further solidified their identity by relying on their own transatlantic network of vestment production, of which female labor was an integral part. Wealthy parishes ordered vestments from English designers, many of whom relied on embroidery workshops in convents. Orders of Episcopal nuns in the United States also imitated this model, filling vestment orders to fund their charitable work. Altar Guilds were another major source of Episcopal vestments. Parish women employed their needlework skills to clothe their priests and offered assistance to needier parishes that could not afford elaborate silk garments. Both convent and parish workshops learned about vestment symbolism and production from embroidery manuals. The English and American authors of these books offered Church history as well as practical instruction. Vestments were costly creations of skillfully crafted imported silk, gold thread, and even jewels. This gave the Episcopal Church an air of luxury. Wealthy Episcopalians donated expensive vestments to their parishes, often in memory of deceased loved ones. These gifts represented elite benevolence as well as piety. Parish patrons were trying to emulate the aristocratic splendor of Europe. This fascination with Gothic opulence also found expression in the curious phenomenon of antique vestment collecting. Antique dealers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries provided Italian and Spanish church garments to collectors who incorporated these seventeenth century garments into home decor. This domestic re-appropriation of ecclesiastical vestments shows the continuing American desire to imitate and own vestiges of European splendor.
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