Liturgical Vestments

The collection of church textiles numbers some three hundred items – chasubles, dalmatics, cowls, chalice veils and small appertaining items that in the very best way illustrate the stylistic development of textile motifs from the 15th century, to which the earliest chasuble fabric is dated, all the way to the 19th century.

In the Baroque there was no difference between ecclesiastical and profane fabric. Robes were made almost exclusively of secular fabrics, on the whole votive donations of the nobility and richer burghers in the form of clothing or silk from bales. Since silk fabrics in woven patterns were extremely expensive, particularly those decorated with gold or silver threads, in the poorer churches and orders, donations were the only source of cloth for liturgical garments. Up to the end of the 17th century, fabrics were mainly acquired from Italy that was then, along with Spain, the biggest producer of silk. At the beginning of the 18th century, French weaving shops took the lead and developed their production to perfection in the making of the cloth and in the design of decorative motifs and colour harmony. Countries that had silk weaving shops did their best to imitate French products as accurately as they could, so that for this period it is quite hard to define the precise origin of a given piece of silk cloth.

Church vestments, apart from being woven, were also decorated with embroidered motifs. The earliest objects in the collection are embroideries from the 14th century, once on chasubles (from the church in Grobnik above Rijeka) and one chasuble with embroidered parts from the 15th century. Most of the collection consists of items from the Baroque, Rococo and the whole of the 19th century, when costly brocades woven only for the church were in use. Church textiles are mentioned even in the oldest inventories of the Museum, when the first donations were recorded. In 1904 the first large set of liturgical vestments was bought from the Zagreb wholesaler and collector Salomon Berger. Subsequently church textiles were to arrive from the Berger collection on several occasions; they had been acquired from churches and chapels all over the area of inland Croatia.

The most valuable items of vestments in the display are chasubles from the Renaissance, decorated with embroidery in silk and gold, made in Italy, probably in Venice. As a rule they have an opulently embroidered cross on the back and in the middle of the front depictions of Mary, Jesus and saints, and were used for celebrations of the mass.