Abstract: Dressing for God, Dressing for Men: Liturgical Vestments in the Christian Church as a Sign of Spiritual Richness and Political Strength

Sara Piccolo Paci


Since its very beginnings the Christian world adopted and re-elaborated some of the earlier systems of representation and communication, mostly those dealing with the signs of authority and power. These signs could be expressed with the aid of sophisticated mechanisms of interaction between shape, image, and function, in which clothing plays a key role. In fact, we need to become more aware of the incredible importance that clothing and appearance had even in the past, not only in the secular world but also in that of the Church. This paper will explore how and in which ways, right from its beginnings and up to the present day, the Church took full advantage of the myriad possibilities that liturgical dresses and everything connected with them offered, considering it as important a tool of visual communication as any other. The creation of some liturgical garments came about as expressions of their spiritual meaning, but they could also have very practical links with solid business matters. In actual fact, the Church had been dealing since medieval times with the contradiction between the need to show its powers, both spiritual and political, and the need to state its moral, ethical, and spiritual concerns.