The Glory of the Liturgy

Sacred Vestments and Silverware

The celebration of the Eucharist is «the source and culmination of Christian life» (Lumen gentium, 11) with which the religious comunity, guided by the Bishop and his presbyteries (‘priests’ from the Greek word πρέσβυς, meaning ‘elder’), commemorate and relive the sacrifice made by Christ for all mankind. Those who, following the indications given by Christ during the Last Supper («Take, eat, this is my body […] Drink this because it is my blood», Mt 26, 26-28), partake of the broken bread will enter into a single body with Christ, hence the use of the word ‘comunion’.

The Church, since its creation, in order to confer solemnity to the Eucharist, has ordained that its priests should wear special clothing during the mass (sacred vestments) to set them apart from the congregation in terms of the quality and decoration of the cloth. The fact that they are not dressed in everyday wear and that the vestments are rather loose-fitting, was intended to give the impression that it was Christ himself giving the mass rather than a mortal priest; that he acted as «in persona Christi». In the Carolingian age, between 750 and 987 the vestments took on the aspect that they maintain today. The different colours used represent different periods of the religious calendar and the specific celebrations.

In the same way the sacred vases and caskets used to contain the blood and body of Christ during the High Mass (chalice, paten and pyx) and during the Eucharistic Adoration (ostensory), had to be made using precious and artistically superior materials so «that their use paid reverence to Christ in the Eucharistic Species» (Redemptionis sacramentum, 117)

These expressions of liturgical splendor, vestments and silverware form a priceless historical and artistic patrimony which unfortunately is often underestimated and relegated to a second-class art form. This room has been deliberately placed at the beginning of the museum itinery in order to reverse this misplaced concept.