Lucy writes: I paid a visit to Rome last week, to find fabric and passementerie suppliers for the Guild of St Clare. The highlight, of course, was my visit to Gammarelli.
I had the honour of speaking to Signor Gammarelli, who very kindly showed me a beautiful embroidery sample, made in the Gammarelli studio during the war.
He explained that rules in place at the time meant workers had to be paid by the hour, so his grandfather resorted to asking his embroiderers to create samplers like this in order to keep them occupied. This 1/4 scale chasuble is mounted in a double-sided frame: here is the back.
Naturally I did not leave empty handed! I have some beautiful samples of hand-woven lamé, as well as some Spanish style braid for use in our vestment repairs, and a long length of violet silk damask with cotton lining to go with it: this will be used for teaching vestment making skills, in our Travelling Stole kits.
My peregrinations round Rome in search of fabric suitable for liturgical use didn't end at Gammarelli's, of course. I also visited Lisio, a very well-known fabric supplier near the famous Spanish Steps.
The fabrics here are not made for liturgical use; they are mostly for soft furnishings and upholstery. However among them are damasks and silks with floral designs which are appropriate for vestment making.
I was served by a charming man who had almost no English, so we had to rely on my few words of Italian and very rusty Spanish. Despite these limitations we had a lovely chat. On learning of the work of the Guild of St Clare, he showed me his cuttings book, including this:
The fabric for Pope Benedict XVI’s mitre in this picture was supplied by Lisio, and the fabric is on display in the shop (in a different colourway):
They also provided the exquisite hand-woven silk, gold and silver jacquard seen in this report about Cardinal Sodano, and the sample is also still in the shop.
The welcome was as warm as that which I received at Gammarelli: nothing was too much trouble and the proprietors delight in showing off their treasures, whether or not a sale is likely.
With my eyes open for anything useful for the Guild of St Clare, I did pounce upon, and purchase, a silk remnant, going (relatively) cheap, as it has been discontinued.
Stitchers both secular and ecclesiastical will love a visit to this jewel box of a shop, as I did.
It would be strange to visit Rome and not make a pilgrimage to at least one of the great churches here. Although most of my time has been spent on fact-finding (or fabric-finding) for the Guild of St Clare, before I began I went to visit the Santo Bambino of Aracœli.
This is a replica of the original 15th century statue. Devotion to the Bambino is so great that letters arrive from all over the world, addressed to him. They are placed in his chapel in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli.
My main purpose in making this visit during Christmastide was to make my homage to the relic of the Manger, at St Mary Major, almost my last stop. It was the most moving experience, the magnificence of the reliquary strangely at variance with the wooden remains visible inside.
It was a rewarding trip in every way! Those joining me at a Guild of St Clare event soon will be able to enjoy the first fruits of it. It's essential that these resources should be widely known and supported so I am planning to put together a list of ecclesiastical textiles suppliers, which we will put on the website. Let us know if you can add to it!