Chasuble of Saint Stephen
Production centre: Unknown (Italy? England? Southern Netherlands?)
Date: 15th – 16th centuries
Material: Velvet | Fabric – carmine and yellow silk thread, gold metallic thread, polychromed silk thread, gold and silver metallic thread | Embroidery – polychromed silk thread; gold and silver metallic thread | Filling – Textile bast fibre (?), filling cord, stitches worked with dark silk (?) to highlight patterns
Dimensions (cm): H back 118, front 101 x W back 70, front 70
Provenance: Guimarães, Colegiada de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, Capela de Santo Estevão (?)
Inventory No.: Chasuble – MAS T 19 | Dalmatic – MAS T 20 | Dalmatic – MAS T 21
Of the remarkable set, usually designated as the Vestments of Saint Stephen, one must highlight the chasuble (at the centre in the image), not only for its symbolic value but also for its great formal and technical quality. This piece was used by the main celebrant of the Mass and the power of the images was concentrated in it, in this case, with the representation of the Crucifixion of Christ and the evocation of the saints Stephen and Paul. The repeated presence of the protomartyr indicates the presence of a place dedicated to the worship of this saint, most probably the Capela de Santo Estevão, founded at the end of the 14th century and belonging to the Colegiada de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira. The dotation of churches and monasteries included not only pieces of high value, frequently acquired or commissioned from the best European production centres, but also liturgical vestments, of which this chasuble and the set it is part of are an excellent example. The great mastery used in the execution of the embroidery, where several types of metallic thread and polychromed silks are used, originated almost sculptural and simultaneously variegated effects, defining the images of the orphreys.
The fabric of the body of the piece, a carmine velvet, embroidered with gold metallic thread, is included in the typology of the Italian velvets, Florentine and Venetian, from the end of the 15th century. As for the embroidery, coming, most certainly, from a great official centre, it displays characteristics that are common to the one that is performed in England (scene of the Crucifixion) and in the Southern Netherlands (architectonic structures and perfect mastery of the technique of the variegated gold). It is datable to the beginning of the 16th century.