A priceless vestment believed to be from the royal wardrobe of King Richard III will be worn by Cardinal Vincent Nichols when he celebrates Requiem Mass for the soul of the 15th century monarch
The chasuble, known as the Westminster Vestment, is part of the heritage collection of Ushaw College, the former Catholic seminary at Ushaw Moor, near Durham. There is a tradition that it was worn by the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey during the reign of King Richard, who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. This tradition was conveyed through the Walton family, who gave the vestment to Ushaw in 1867.
Scholars have expressed the view that its embroidery is the same described by the inventories of the royal wardrobe of Richard III and that it dates from the third quarter of the 15th century.
The Westminster Vestment is an example of Opus Anglicanum (English work), the rich, complex and beautiful works of ecclesiastical embroidery for which England was famous during the Middle Ages. Works of Opus Anglicanum were important export articles.
The chasuble depicts the Crucified Christ with the Roman soldier Longinus expressing his belief that Jesus is the “Son of God”. It features depictions of St Nicholas, St Catherine and St Pancras, the teenage Roman martyr whose relics were brought to England by St Augustine of Canterbury.
The vestment, which may have been seen by King Richard himself, will be worn at at Mass by Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales celebrated in the Catholic Church in leicester on Monday 23 of March 2015.
At yesterday’s compline in the Cathedral in leicester Cardinal Nichols gave a short homily pointing out that Richard III was “a man of prayer, a man of an anxious devotion. In a surviving prayer, we hear him pleading with God for the protection of the Archangel Michael and for deliverance from his enemies.” To this he added that “we pray for him today just as those who prayed for him at the time of his death in 1485, those whose hearts were not filled with the vengeance of victory or the hatred of an enemy. Among those who prayed for him then was the community of Franciscan Friars, so nearby here, who surely buried him with formal prayer even if also in haste.”