The Jubilee Cope by Beryl Dean with the Stanhope Educational Institute Embroiderers

Beryl Dean with the Stanhope Educational Institute Embroiderers

The Jubilee Cope, 1976–77, White flannel with gold, silver, copper, and silk, St Paul's Cathedral, London, © Beryl Dean Education Trust; Photo: © St. Pauls Cathedral

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A Whole Structure Joined Together

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For Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, the British textile artist Beryl Dean designed a cope, mitre, and stole for St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Her choice of imagery was inspired by the Diocese of London’s parish churches. Thirty-six people in the Ecclesiastical Embroidery class at the Stanhope Adult Education Institute worked on sections of the embroidery simultaneously. Dean devised the design with this simultaneity in mind. Her aim was that it would be both efficient and collaborative.

Medieval and modern, neoclassical and Gothic, every tower and spire was stitched and labelled with its dedication and location onto the body of the cope, interweaving text and image in a cluster of portraits of these diverse yet unified places of worship. Its aesthetic not only reflected the features of each building, but made material reference to the Jubilee itself, as (along with fawn) its dominant colours were white and silver, with details embroidered in gold.

When complete, the cope transformed the body of the wearer, the Bishop of London, into a microcosmic representation of the Body of Christ in the city—and, by extension, across the nation, and throughout the Anglican Communion. Flesh, through grace, was clothed with the Body of Christ.

The cope, mitre, and stole together ‘house’ and enfold the bishop, connecting her anew to the people and places in which she serves and leads, as a symbol and source of unity. It is a unity both physical and temporal. Though created to mark a particular event of historic significance, these vestments make connections through time as they continue to be used. Every time the cope is worn for a key festival in the Church’s life, it evokes the Body of Christ which is yesterday, today, and forever. It forms a historical layer around the wearer and throughout the congregation, connecting past, present, and eschatological future.

In geographical terms, too, it is a focal point. Churches that, scattered throughout the city, ‘were far off’, have in this one garment been ‘brought near’ (Ephesians 2:13) in this image of a city in which all spaces are consecrated to God. It celebrates the reach and the coverage of a parish system which binds city and nation into ‘one body’. As each strand of the cope is woven together physically, so each location is shown to be bound together spiritually as ‘a dwelling place of God’ (v.22).

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