The Ornate & The Beautiful, 16th April – 2nd Sep, 10am-6pm, The Bishop’s Palace, Wells

Celebrating the extraordinary craftsmanship of the textile industry from 14th century to present day, this stunning new exhibition for 2016 is a collation of some of the most beautiful and rare vestments and ecclesiastical textiles from around the country.

Telling the story from Medieval times up until today, the exhibition will include items not seen on public display since 1930 and ancient pieces such as the 1350 embroidered cope panel.

The Bishop’s Palace

In association with Downside Abbey and Wells Cathedral.

Open seven days per week from 10am – 6.00pm (last admission 5.30pm) and the standard admission to The Palace applies (Gift Aid donation tickets: Adults £7.99, Concessions £6.90, Children 5-18 £3.35, Children Under 5, Essential Carers and Bishop’s Palace Members FREE and families £19.25. Pre-booked group rates are also available for 10 or more people at £5.95 for adults and £2.75 for children).
There may be days when The Palace is closed for private functions. These dates will be advertised in advance on The Palace website and circulated to partner venues.

The exhibition will be laid out as follows:

Conference Room:
The conference room will be the welcome space to the exhibition and will introduce the main exhibition theme – the ornate & the beautiful and have a sub theme of Aesthetics and attire. The first item visible when entering the room will be the Berkley Chasuble, a highly ornate, finely embroidered piece. This will be supplemented by 3 copes and a full vestment set from Downside and Wells Cathedrals Christmas set including one of the two Christmas Altar frontals.

The interpretation will be around the individual items and also the broader sense of aesthetic from the perspective of church fashions, styles of vestment, when different vestments are worn, why they are worn and a glossary of terms to cover the whole exhibition. The main message to take away will be the beauty and intricacy of the work and why and how the items are worn.

Panelled Room
‘chasuble surmounts and safeguards all other vestments; hence the chasuble signifies love, which surmounts all other virtues, and safeguards, and illumines their beauty with perfection.’

Cloth of Gold Gothic Style Chasuble – Collection of Downside Abbey
The second room will focus on the development of one particular type of vestment that has undergone the most drastic change in design over the years, the Chasuble. The room will feature 4/5 chasubles that begin with the original Roman influence penula style, through to the fiddle back design. The Chasubles are all from Downside Abbey and include the Glover Chasuble, Bordersley Chasuable, Haselmere Rose Chasuble, a cloth of gold chasuble and a red, square chasuble.

East Gallery
The final room will showcase the oldest piece of embroidered vestment from 1350, an article of opus anglicanum panelling from a cope. It will also contain the most modern with an article of choice of the Bishop of Bath & Wells / Bishop of Taunton. The room will focus more on the real life stories behind the items in the exhibition, who made them, where were they made, how were they made, how much did / do they cost and what is it like to wear them. There will be some smaller articles, croziers, mitres and additional adornment such as jewellery, alongside archival material relating to construction, commission and use.