Friday, 7 January 2011

The lace cotta...

The lace cotta annoys me almost as much as Harry Potter. Not only are they ugly, offend against liturgical propriety and look ridiculous, but they're also very modern and reflect the degrading liturgical decadance and generally poor taste of the 17th century. I mean, why not just celebrate Mass facing the people and walk out in procession shaking a tambourine whilst singing Colours of Day? What would be the difference?

Now which looks better? Luverly Low Low Mass (with God's Grace dispensed at low low price and low low effort), and all this awful lace, or this painting of St Bede's deathbed, where the clergy are wearing the full length traditional Surplice over their cowls? Methinks that lace ornamentation has little to do with the noble simplicity of the Roman Rite as desired by the Second Vatican Council...


  1. I've really enjoyed the postings here over the last few weeks, and some of the comment threads. It's good to see another intense young man putting his passion for the liturgy out into the public domain.

    If memory serves, Percy Dearmer indulged in a similar rant about lace. I think he was right to object to the indiscriminate application of lace to the edges of altar cloths, albs, cottas -- anything that required some sort of covering, really. But like all of Dearmer's strongly held opinions, I've often wondered if it had the effect of relegating a laudable desire to the sin bin. Given his connections to the arts and crafts aesthetic, it would be interesting to conjure Dearmer's ghost to discuss the merits of handmade vs machine-produced lace.

    A question for you, Patricius. Do you know why lace was introduced to vestments?

    Was not lace introduced to vestments such as the alb and [Roman] surplice because of its high value? As an expression of devotion, what could be more fitting than offering something to the vesture of the priest which is time-consuming and difficult to make, not to mention costly to acquire?

    If lace is an expression of piety, devotion and sacrificial love, what's really wrong with it? Enriching the liturgy by elaborating the vesture through applied elements has good medieval precedents -- think of apparels and such like.

    OK, the lace cult continues to go a little crazy, as you've demonstrated in recent days. Surely that's because it's no longer difficult to make, nor expensive?

    There's nothing especially sacrificial or lovely about nylon lace.

  2. I personally am not fond of an excessive use of lace, however I am more annoyed by the t-shirt length surplices that dot the occasional TLM parish (not all of them mind you). A reserved use of lace can be both dignified and masculine.

    "Methinks that lace ornamentation has little to do with the noble simplicity of the Roman Rite as desired by the Second Vatican Council ..."

    ... and exactly why should we care?

    This obsession with lace cottas is a little unsettling. Your fixation on these lesser issues reminds me of Don Quixote and his crusades against windmills, quite frankly. Address them, sure ... but every article, every comment? A bit much.

  3. No argument here, a picture is worth a thousand words!

  4. The saddest thing about the top picture is the chasuble looks to be of a not unreasonable cut. It would look so much better with a good decent full alb and apparels.

    I understand lace burns very well.

  5. Thank you all for your comments.

    Ludovico, in answer to your question as to why lace ornamentation was introduced, the answer is I honestly don't know. My supposition would be that the taste of the time (late 16th into the 17th and 18th centuries) dictated that it looked good, and as you say, lace was more expensive in those days. Surplices hardly ever had lace, and rarely (even in the Middle Ages) had apparels. In fact St Charles Borromeo wrote that the surplice should be full length, not ''too elegant,'' and should furthermore have a round rather than square neck.

    The history of the cotta is obscure. It appears that the word ''cotta'' (of Italian derivation, not Latin) was first used in the 12th century, and for long it was interchangeable with that of the Surplice. If in the Middle Ages there was a difference it is that the cotta was ever so slightly shorter than the surplice.

    I agree with your sentiments that Liturgy is about offering as much as we are able within our means for a decorous and beautiful sacrifice of praise in the Sacred Liturgy. However I would hasten to add that in the Roman Rite, where reticence and sobriety is the tradition, less is better than too much. Lace ornamentation is excessive, to me, and alien to the tradition of the Roman Rite, and it looks bad. I would prefer a beautiful church with murals, icons and statuary and a large Rood Loft, with tasteful Gothic vestments, apparelled albs and amices, the surplice and High Mass and Sung Office as the norm. Not 1950s revival Catholicism with lace and Rosary-a-plenty...

    The Texan Traditionalist, my point about the Second Vatican Council was that it was correct to highlight the noble simplicity (an apt term) of the Roman Rite. It is just a shame that the liturgical renewal was so ham-fisted.

    Matthew the Curmudgeon, well quite!