Throughout history, precious works of art have been used in worship. Radiant textiles, cherished symbols of the majesty of God as well as the wealth and power of the Catholic Church, embellished the high altar and clothed the clergy. Quality was expensive. Lustrous silk thread dyed vibrant colors was transformed into luxury textiles by skilled designers, weavers, and embroiderers.

One of the most beautiful and important vestments is the chasuble, the outer garment worn for the Catholic Mass. By the 1700s, its original full shape, influenced by fashion, acquired a fiddle-shaped front to facilitate arm movement and a straight-sided back. They were worn over a long white garment called an alb, enriched with the most costly material: lace.

As part of the museum’s centennial celebration, this exhibition honors Mr. and Mrs. Jeptha H. Wade II, the museum’s visionary co-founder and president, who in 1916 donated most of these European vestments of the 1600s and 1700s with regalia from a matching set.