The Chapter has commissioned three new sets of vestments to be used at the Sung Eucharist on certain feast days and festivals in the Church’s year, and these will be a significant adornment of the Cathedral’s worship.

 
Vestments are the liturgical clothing worn by the three members of clergy who lead the celebration of the Eucharist; the President, assisted by the Deacon and Sub-Deacon.  The President wears the chasuble (from the Latin, meaning ‘little house’) which is a large garment that, in ancient times, protected travellers from inclement weather.  Its use in the liturgy is rich in symbolism, reminding us of the protective love of God; and the quality of the design, materials and craftsmanship reflects the glory of Jesus Christ, whose own words and actions are recounted by the President at the Eucharist.  The Deacon and Sub-Deacon wear the dalmatic and the tunicle, respectively, which are less substantial and less ornate garments.
 
Vestments are made in certain specific colours that reflect the nature of the particular seasons of the Church’s year.  The Chapter has commissioned sets of gold, white and red vestments:

Gold is the richest colour, the colour of kingship, and is reserved for the greatest festivals, such as Easter and Christmas, and in Durham, the Feast of St Cuthbert, our patron saint.  The gold set includes fine embroideries of the St Cuthbert Cross on the chasuble, front and back.

White is the colour of purity, and is used for feasts of most saints, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It will also be used in the Cathedral for certain feasts such as Candlemas, and for celebrations of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday.  The white set features a white rose surrounded by a crown of thorns, representing the purity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, along with the prophecy of Simeon in Luke 2. 35, that ‘a sword will pierce Mary’s soul’ in the death of her Son.

Red is the colour of the Holy Spirit, and is used for feasts that focus on the gift of the Spirit, such as the Day of Pentecost.  It is also the colour of blood, and is therefore used for saints who were martyred.  The new red set centres on a white dove (a symbol of the Holy Spirit, as in John 1. 32), surrounded by a wreath of flames (another symbol of the Spirit, as in Acts 2. 3). 

The vestments have been commissioned from Robes of Distinction, run by The Revd Kenneth Crawford, a priest in Darlington, with over 40 years’ experience in bespoke liturgical and academic tailoring.  The designs are unique to Durham Cathedral.  They have been paid for by a special vestment fund.
 
The new vestments will be presented and blessed during the Sung Eucharist on Ascension Day, Thursday 5 May, at 7.30pm.