Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre
ushaw vestment

The current research project in being run in partnership with Durham University, particularly the Centre for Catholic Studies, in the Department of Theology and Religion, which has played a key role in the current celebrations and reburial of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral this week. 

A fifteenth-century vestment, now at Ushaw College, Durham, was worn by Cardinal Nichol,  Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. 

The vestment, which may have been seen by King Richard himself,  was originally worn by the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey during the reign of King Richard, who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and whose remains were discovered beneath a Leicester car park in 2012.

Scholars say its embroidery is the same described by the inventories of his royal wardrobe and that it dates from the third quarter of the 15th century. Ushaw College president Monsignor John Marsland: "The trustees of Ushaw are delighted that the Westminster Chasuble will be worn by Cardinal Nichols at the requiem mass. It's a wonderful occasion to show it off.  "We are very pleased to contribute to the celebrations surrounding the reburial of Richard III.  "The Westminster chasuble is one of the oldest vestments at Ushaw.  "We respect the tradition conveyed to us through the Walton family - who gave the vestment to Ushaw in 1867 - that it had been in use at Westminster Abbey prior to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. This links us to our Catholic past before the opening of Ushaw in 1808, and before the foundation of Douai in 1568."

He added: "The Westminster vestment together with many other artefacts we hold contributes to the richness of our heritage at Ushaw. "At present, we are opening our doors to events and visits at Ushaw so that our rich heritage can be made available to the broader community."

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. It has been made from velvet cloths of tissue linked together with silver-gilt brocading thread, with the figures cut from coloured silks and attached to a golden background.  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 also features in a new publication, edited by Dr James Kelly of Durham University, highlighting the little-known vast range of treasures, artefacts, books and other precious object that survive at Ushaw College. 'Treasures of Ushaw College' is available here

Parts of this article appeared in  The Northern Echo on Friday 20 March.
The image of the vestment is courtesy of the  Catholic Herald, Friday 20 March