Remember when little girls all wore simple cheesecloth veils for first communion? I found a large box of these in a sacristy closet in Newport a few years ago. Now the little girls are dressed like miniature brides and dripping rhinestone tiaras, full length white formal gowns and stockings. I must be getting old, for I long for those simpler days when the focus was on making the First Communion and not so much on fashions. Everyone looked the same and there was always a family “time” back at the home for the first-time communicant with cake and punch. Up until very recently, altar guild members wore small lace “poufs” on combs in the hair and smocks while working in the sacristy and church. I tried introducing these to my last altar guild- without success! Personally, I like the idea. But then again, I am a hatwearer and hopelessly traditional.
One of my first jobs as a new altar guild directress was to restore an old baldicchino which I found ripped and musty in a box in the choir room. Pronounce the double “ccs” like a “k”. I had seen many Corpus Christi processions in my day, but did not know the term for the canopy-like affair which was carried above the sacrament. Usually four tall men each take one of the corner poles. It is quite a trick for all four to stay in step, spaced properly to keep the baldicchino taunt. It was also quite a trick to re-line that canopy- it all had to be done by hand with numerous yards of white silk. The baldicchino had been given to St. John’s many years before from St. Stephen’s in Providence. If your parish has one-I’d love to have a photo of it. St. John’s also makes use of it on Maundy Thursday when the sacrament makes the journey to the Chapel of Repose-very beautiful to observe. Baldicchino is also an architectural term most are familiar with in connection with the twisted pillar baldicchino by Bernini at St. Peter’s in Rome. Europe is full of altars covered by this type of structure. At one point altars need to be protected from stone dust and debris falling from ceilings. Sometimes a miniature baldicchino of fabric or wood or metal may be observed over wall shrines, statues or wall aumbrys. A hanging pyx may have a metal canopy -somewhere I have a photograph of the hanging pyx with canopy in St. Columba’s Chapel in Middletown. RI which is magnificent.
St. Columba’s must surely be one of the loveliest chapels in the state- and well worth a visit to admire the pyx, the stained glass, the cenotaph to Edwin Booth (actor brother of John Wilkes Booth) -and the lychgate.
No room for humerals and gremials today! Stay tuned.