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Fermo chasuble

Cover of The Chasuble of Thomas Becket. A biography. Cover of The Chasuble of Thomas Becket. A biography. Chicago University Press 2017.

Fermo Cathedral in east central Italy houses a chasuble that reputedly belonged to St Thomas Becket, the English Bishop of Canterbury, who was murdered on 29 December 1170 and was canonised two years later, on 25 February 1173, by Pope Alexander III. The semicircular chasuble is 1.6 m high and has a circumference of 5.4 m. Its description as a chasuble is somewhat surprising, since its appearance is that of a cope.

The vestment is made of light-blue silk and decorated with gold thread embroidery. The embroidery includes 34 large roundels show representations of various animals (including elephants with howdahs), birds, and turbaned hunters. The roundels are interlinked with smaller roundels and eight-pointed stars. On top is an oblong panel with an Arabic text that tells the cloth was made in the year 510 in Mariyya (AD 1116 in Almeria, southern Spain).

The garment is made up of various pieces, some of which clearly sewn together after the embroidery was completed. It is evident that the cloth was prepared for another purpose than the present. This is emphasised by some of the roundels that are incomplete, and the absence of the original border.


  • SHALEM, Avinoam (2017). The Chasuble of Thomas Becket. A Biography. UCP (see book announcement).
  • SIMON-CAHN, Annabelle (1993). 'The Fermo Chasuble of St. Thomas Becket and Hispano-Mauresque cosmological silks: some speculations on the adaptive reuse of textiles', Muqarnas X, pp. 1-5 (download here).



Last modified on Thursday, 13 May 2021 19:31