Cardinal Vincent Nichols will wear an ancient vestment believed to be from the royal wardrobe of King Richard III when he celebrates Mass for the repose of the soul of the monarch’s soul in Leicester on Monday.
Known as the Westminster Vestment, the chasuble is part of the heritage collection of Ushaw College, the former Catholic seminary at Ushaw Moor, 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.
Scholars have expressed the view that 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.
The king, whose remains were found underneath a car park in 2012, will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral on Thursday. Three days earlier Cardinal Nichols will celebrate a Mass for the repose of his soul at Leicester’s Holy Cross church. He will also preach at a service of compline in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral on Sunday, the day the king’s remains are received there.
Mgr John Marsland, president of Ushaw College, said: “The trustees of Ushaw are delighted that the Westminster Chasuble will be worn by Cardinal Nichols at the Requiem Mass on Monday March 23.
“We are very pleased to contribute to the celebrations surrounding the reburial of Richard III culminating in the service on Thursday March 26 in Leicester Cathedral.
“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.