Towneley Hall-Part 9-The Whalley Abbey Vestments

The Whalley Abbey Vestments on display outside the chapel are traditionally said to have been brought to Towneley Hall for safe keeping by Sir John Towneley at the dissolution of Whalley Abbey in 1536. They were removed in 1902 but returned in 1922 after being bought at auction by Burnley Corporation. There is a chasuble and maniple and one dalmatic. A second matching dalmatic from the same source is in the Burrell Collection, Glasgow and together they form the only surviving complete set of medieval English High Mass vestments. The Whalley Abbey Vestments date from 1390-1420. They are of Italian cloth-of gold with a pattern of strawberries. The broad bands, known as orphreys, contain the finest English embroidery and display the Life of the Virgin. Look closely and you will see different techniques: couch stitch, knots to represent beards and raised fluffy areas for fur. The dalmatics, worn by the deacons, display the early part of the story whilst the scenes of Christ’s infancy are reserved for the priest’s chasuble. The climax of this sequence, the scene of the Virgin and Child enthroned flanked by the Shepherds and the Three Wise Men, occupies the most prominent position on the arms of the orphrey cross on the rear of the chasuble. They would form a focus during the high point of the Mass when the priest stood at the altar with his back to the congregation. Next stop..The Chapel..