"Bigger is better" has been the maxim of life for any number of Texan truck drivers, Nazi battleship engineers, bridal dress designers, and cardinals' clothiers. A recent feature by Dr. Kwasniewski on the cappa magna swiftly devolved into a debate as to whether or not a cardinal's cappa should be more magna than Diana Spencer's wedding dress (in case any of you are too young, a rather pleasant song about Marilyn Monroe was destroyed in her memory).
The modern cappa is a baroque elaboration of the cloak cardinals wore in public processions during the high and late middle ages. Similarly, the galero was once a broad brimmed hat for outdoor use. Cardinals wore the vesture of their office (cope for bishops, chasuble for priests, dalmatic for deacons) with the mitre as choir dress in the presence of the Pope. The cassock may have had a bit of train for dramatic effect, but it paled in comparison with what succeeded it centuries later.
|No train, no lace. Meets all your processional needs!|
Invested with positions of authority, cardinals fused their often dynastic trappings with ecclesiastical vesture. The long trains worn by kings were imitated both by brides and bishops alike, as was the penchant for silk and lace. The pope himself wore an enormous train called the falda at Papal Mass. Pius XII shortened the permitted train only to have John XXIII re-lengthen it. Paul VI's prohibition of the cappa in the city of Rome, possibly concerned that the newly impoverished Vatican liturgy might be overshadowed by one of the titular churches, meant fewer owners of this garish garment.
|True origin of the cappa: statecraft, as practiced by|
Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal de Richelieu.
Athwart my instinct to favor historicity in vestments, I am quite happy this particular piece of frippery has declined from general wear. Revivals of its use in solemn ceremonies are remarkably anachronistic. Some older images of the ICRSS employing Cardinals Medina and Stickler show men accustomed to the vestment, since they remembered when it was normal. More modern wearers are less successful. Cardinal Burke is a short, stout man with a stiff gait; trailed by 20 feet of silk he appears in need of liberation from his Tuscan jailers. Shred the lace and cut the capes.
As an aside, this blog's tendency to highlight lingering medieval and pre-medieval liturgical practices is not purely for aesthetic value, although well executed gothic and Roman quash baroque vainglory as Joshua did the Canaanites. The liturgy until the Counter-Reformation era was more organic, more engaging, more instinctive, and more indicative of the religious instinct of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. We can learn much from those periods. That said, I appreciate something unique when it comes my way. Take, for instance, this distinct wedding and nuptial Mass celebrated by the FSSP at the Ordinariate parish, Our Lady of Atonement, in San Antonio, TX. A colorful neo-gothic sanctuary housed under a rood screen, a conical chasuble, Josquin des Prez's Missa Pange lingua, and no pixelation makes for a very photogenic wedding. I am not sure what the bride and groom are wearing, ethnic clothes or something germane to the author's self-professed medievalism. It is worth a peak if you have a "boutique liturgical fetish." The bride does have something of a train. She is fortunate that a cardinal did not attend, his would have been bigger.