A variety of beautifully detailed and decades-old copes are the focus of this year’s special exhibit at Fort Wayne’s Cathedral Museum. A cope is a long liturgical vestment worn during certain occasions, such as eucharistic processions.
Like all vestments, copes come in colors that correspond to a liturgical season, event or mystery of the faith. The copes on display were used by priests or bishops in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and some have not been seen in about 70 years. Museum director Father Phillip Widmann selected 13 for the exhibit called “A Festival of Copes” that will run through June 2019.
While each cope is elegantly designed and carefully made, a highlight of the exhibit is a gold cope that won the grand prize at the Paris Exposition of 1900. It is said to depict all the Church’s canonized saints up to that point. It came as part of an entire set of vestments that was gifted to Archbishop John Francis Noll when he was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in 1925. Longtime museum volunteer Tom Devine said this cope is one of his favorites, and he appreciates all the hard work that went into making it.
In addition, a black cope made in Germany around 1930 is part of a vignette that includes Gothic candlesticks and a black funeral pall. While black copes have not been used much in the United States since the Second Vatican Council, they may be used during funeral Masses.
There is also a white silk cope with a Celtic design, a red crushed velvet cope made in Belgium, and much more. Most of the copes on display came from Europe, with just one having been made in Fort Wayne.
All are welcome to view this special exhibit as well as the other historical treasures on display. There are placards next to each item that explain its history, use and significance in the Church making the Museum a suitable stop for both Catholics and non-Catholics.
The museum is located on the Garden Level of the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center, 915 S. Clinton St. Parking and admission are free. It is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment. For more information call 260-422-4611.
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