Coming from a Methodist background, I must confess to being very intrigued with the textiles and metalware of the Church. Spending my high school years in a Roman Catholic convent school probably had something to do with fostering an interest in All Things Liturgical. I came right in on the heels of Vatican II, but our nuns were a little slow getting around to the little changes, so I still vividly recall having to wear a little lace veil to Mass (which was in Latin), and seeing all of the textiles from maniples to ciborium veils which were used prior to 1969. In some Episcopal churches, even today, many of these veils, and other textiles may still be seen. The most familiar, of course, is the frontal which covers the altar. Frontals or frontlets are usually in the color of the feast of the day, or liturgical season. They are, in a sense, a veil for the altar. Many churches in our diocese still use the vested chalice which employs a silk chalice veil, usually matching the vestments of the day.
At one time, the patronesses of the parish, who traveled extensively, collected fine linen and lace, often in the form of handkerchiefs, from Italy or Belgium- and donated these items to the sacristy to be used as ciborium veils. Whenever the Blessed Sacrament was transported from the high altar to a chapel altar or elsewhere, a beautiful white linen and lace veil was draped over the ciborium, the sanctus bells were rung, and everyone in the church stopped their work and genuflected when the ciborium passed by. Machine lace was NEVER allowed-only handmade. I have seen several of these ciborium veils with a buttonhole in the center to fit over the ciborium lid cross in Episcopal churches in the diocese when I visit sacristies. Altars which still use a tabernacle situated in the center of an altar retable or gradine will use a pair of tabernacle veils (or curtains) -often in silk the color of the paraments for the day. These are usually fringed, handsomely embroidered, and suspended on a brass rod. Many from the 1800-1900’s have small ivory rings at the top which thread over the rod. Cylindrical tabernacles have a sort of canopy arrangement. Inside the tabernacle (or aumbry) there is often a pair of fine linen veils or curtains. These are sometimes trimmed with fine handmade lace. At St. John’s church we always launder these on Good Friday when the tabernacle is empty and open. I recall the nuns (training we young sacristans) emphatically scolding us that only the priest or deacon should be opening the tabernacle and handling consecrated elements.
Tomorrow- humeral veils, gremial veils- and baldicchinos! I guarantee a bishop will be most impressed if you happen to have a gremial veil in your sacristy! 🙂