Monday, November 29, 2010

Question from a reader

Where could I find a resource to check out the color/type of a drape for behind a high altar....we have 2 now. One of a liturgical fabric in purple, and quite frankly-it makes the high altar stand out better. The walls are white in the church and so when we put the other one up (white) it pretty much blends into the walls. I was thinking perhaps a red velour?...I do want it to be liturgically correct if we are going to spend any amount of money on it.
My first thought is that you can't go wrong with gold. It's always appropriate in place of white and really goes with any season. Gianna is currently working on a photography project where this piece of fabric is the unifying backdrop for a number of pieces.

It's a piece of upholstery fabric she purchased recently from JoAnn Fabrics and is 54 inches wide (which is typical of decorator fabrics). It's dense enough that it hangs well and the woven design is really quite beautiful - ornate, but not busy.

You could use red - look here for a beautiful example, but as a liturgical color it's most appropriate in a rather limited way on martyr's feasts, Pentecost, and Palm Sunday. I'm not convinced there is a nice way to make a red background like this work with a green ordinary-time altar frontal, so if you tend to coordinate the altar front for the season, you may want to stick with more neutral background colors, or those you can keep up for an entire season, like your purple.

UPDATES: Therese emailed me later yesterday with this:
For something that goes behind the altar, I don't think there's a specific color. It's almost more of an architectural feature, so I would go with something that matches the church itself, and doesn't clash with the liturgically colored frontals, vestments, etc. I could see a deep red velvet working well in a variety of surroundings, but I think it's more of a matter of aesthetics than liturgical correctness.
And I found this photo of a nice use of fabric on a friend's facebook album:

On a related note, be careful about over-dramatic fabrics. One time (thankfully quite a while ago), our parish liturgist draped a purple/blue tie-dyed looking fabric behind the crucifix during Lent and then changed to a more colorful, rainbow tie-dye for the Easter season. Of course, it was legendarily bad! So very, very awful! Instead of enhancing the crucifix, it just sucked attention away from everything that was happening with the Mass and onto it's terrible self. We know of a couple who were married during that Easter season and chose to have their church photos printed in black and white to downplay this fabric.


Mary Liz said...

Could our reader email us a photo of her church and the high altar? It might help us offer some more suggestions.

Anonymous said... is where a quick picture is..This Christmas picture was 2 years ago, and he has changed MUCH (for the better) The colors are washed out, but I think you can see where the white tends to blend into the walls. I really liked the green drape you showed. I have found though that I can get liturgical fabric that is washable through a source fairly reasonable as far as liturgical fabric goes. I guess I was thinking velvet though.Stretchable though as it is washable and drapes beautifully...Thanks for your reply, it has been a joy to look through your blog.

Mary Liz said...

You could do velvet. Personally, velvet conjures images of protestant churches.

Somehow my mind assigns velvet to protestants and damask to Catholics. It probably has something to do with childhood memories of a Lutheran church I had seen several times.

Does anyone have any thoughts on that?