Tuesday 30 April 2024

Visit to Luigi Bevilacqua, Venice

Following the advice of several friends intimate with the small world of vestment making, I paid a visit to the workshop of celebrated textile manufacturers, Luigi Bevilacqua. It is one of the most ancient working weaving mills in Europe, and is still run by the Bevilacqua family.

I was very grateful for the kindness of the staff there in giving me a brief personal tour of their magnificent looms, on which they hand weave their extraordinary fabrics.

This velvet, known as "soprarizzo", featuring the heraldic Bevilacqua lion, is woven by hand. It takes a whole day to make just 30cm. The width from selvedge to selvedge is only 60cm, because it's impractical to hand weave fabrics any wider.

Bevilacqu also produce machine woven fabrics, and these are much wider, and also less expensive.

The fabrics aren't designed specifically for ecclesiastical use, but a number of them are silk brocades, very suitable for church furnishings and vestments.

I particularly loved these leopards, depicted guarding the tree of life.

The small shop attached to the mill has a number of exclusive products made out of these unique fabrics, uncluding bags and notebooks. I satisfied myself with a book of the history of the Bevilacqua company.

I was excited to discover, during my perambulations round Venice, a remarkable shop: Banco Lotto no 10. This outlet sells clothing made to the highest standards by women prisoners on the Giudecca island. Bevilacqua are collaborators with this charitable work. As a a result some of the exquisitely made clothes inside are made from the distinctive Bevilacqua fabrics, such as this patchwork jacket.

In this brief YouTube video, Alberto Bevilacqua movingly describes himself and his colleagues as "the last guardians of an ancient Venetian textile art", a melancholy phrase that will strike a chord with lovers of the Traditional Mass.

Luigi Bevilacqua offer regular tours of their mill; you can email them for details. Their fabrics are also available to order through their British agent Alton-Brooke at Chelsea Harbour.

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