Antependium/Altar Frontal

The antependium/altar frontal is a decorative textile that covers the front of the altar during Catholic Mass.

The example in the featured photo (above) is embroidered with gold, silver, silver-gilt and silk threads on applied pieces of silk. Scenes of the Baptism of Christ by St John and the Virgin and Child with the infant St John are depicted (Victoria and Albert Museum).

The altar represents Christ and the antependium is His clothing, so the materials used to create them are usually chosen by color according to the liturgical calendar and make the altar central to celebrations of Mass. The green antependium and chasuble in the photo below reflects ordinary time in the liturgical calendar; this is when there is regular Mass, but it is not a High Holy Day.

Priest celebrating Mass wearing chasuble coordinated to the antependium.

Antependium are often coordinated with the chasuble of the Mass celebrant, as above, so there could be many different patterns, colors and designs that would coordinate with the specific celebration.

Vestments, including antependium and chasuble, would be carried by the clergy traveling with Coronado’s Expedition.  The antependium would allow them to turn a makeshift surface, such that they could find while traveling, into a proper altar representative of Christ as the center of the celebration of Mass.

Sources:

Altar Frontal (Spain), 16th century; silk, metallic thread, garnets; H x W x D: 97.8 x 265.7 cm (38 1/2 in. x 8 ft. 8 5/8 in.); 1937-31-1.  Retrieved March 20, 2019 from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Textiles Department,  http://cprhw.tt/o/2C29D/.

Altar Frontal (Spain), 1530; Embroidered silk velvet with gold, silver, silver-gilt and silk threads; T.141-1969.  Retrieved April 23, 2019 from Victoria and Albert Museum, Textiles and Fashion Collection,  https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O93215/altar-frontal-unknown/.

Catholic calendar 1550. (nd). Universalis Publishing. Retrieved March 28, 2019 from  http://universalis.com/calendar.htm.

Dipippo, Gregory. (4 August 2016), The History, Development and Symbolism of the Antependium, Altar Frontal or “Pallium Altaris”. New Liturgical Movement. Retrieved April 29, 2019 from http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2016/08/the-history-development-and-symbolism.html#.XNrUrI5KjIU

Schulte, A.J. (1907). Altar Frontal. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 28, 2019 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01353b.htm.

Chasuble/Outer Vestment of Clergy

The chasuble is part of the vestments worn by clergy during Mass.

The chasuble is a square or circular piece of cloth with a hole in the center where one slips the garment over one’s head to wear it. The garment requires a blessing by a priest before serving as an outer vestment worn to cover one from shoulders to knees while celebrating Catholic Mass.

Spanish 16th-17th Century chasuble with silk and metal thread on silk.

The style of chasuble worn by the Spanish clergy in the 16th Century is referred to as the French type and was characterized by fabric made stiff with lining and heavy embroidery, often with gold thread, sometimes adorned with precious gems. There was usually a cross on the back and a pillar in front and was representative of charity by symbolizing the yoke of Christ.

The chasuble is the final piece of the priest’s vestments.

The chasuble is the final element of the celebrant’s clothing that vests him as the representation of Christ during Mass. The different elements of the vestments are: amice, a white linen cloth covering the neck and shoulders; alb, a white linen robe; girdle or cincture, white cord at the waist; maniple, cloth hung over the left arm; stole, cloth hanging around the neck, crossing over the chest; and the chasuble, outer robe.

There are different colors of chasubles worn for different Catholic celebrations such as Easter, Christmas and various events on the liturgical calendar.

Black chasuble worn during Mass on Good Friday, reflecting the somberness of the occasion.

A chasuble would have been among the belongings of the members of the clergy who traveled with Coronado’s Expedition so that they could celebrate Mass along the journey.

Sources:

Catholic News Herald. (2 June 2016). What are the traditional Latin Mass vestments? Retrieved April 23, 2019 from https://catholicnewsherald.com/faith/111-news/vesting/92-what-are-the-traditional-latin-mass-vestments

Chasuble (Spain), 16th–17th century; linen, wool; H x W: 214.4 x 67.9 cm (7 ft. 7/16 in. x 26 3/4 in.); 1947-46-2. Retrieved March 20, 2019 from Cooper Hewitt, Textiles Department, http://cprhw.tt/o/2Dn5c/.

Chasuble (Spain), 16th–17th century; silk and metal thread on silk; Accession Number 48.187.691; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York. Retrieved April 23, 2019 from The Met, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/227385?&searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&where=Spain&what=Chasubles&ft=*&offset=0&rpp=80&pos=9.

Chasuble (Spain), 16th–17th century; stamped wool velvet; Accession Number 14.134.6a; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York. Retrieved April 23, 2019 from The Met,  https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/219724?&searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&what=Chasubles&ft=*&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=7.

Thurston, H. (1908). Chasuble.  The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 28, 2019 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03639a.htm