The Loreto Embroideries Inspire With Their Beauty and Their Message

An exhibit of twelve rare Marian embroideries is currently on display at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace in southwest London.  Called the “Loreto Embroideries”, the delicately crafted pictures came from a convent in Surrey and date from the early 20th century.  They are part of a larger exhibit titled “For Worship and Glory” and will be available for public viewing until November 2013.  In addition to the Loreto Embroideries, the exhibit features ecclesiastical embroidery including depictions of saints, angels and Christ using just a needle and thread in a wide range of techniques, but especially metal thread and silk shading.

The Loreto Embroideries are based on the medieval Litany of Loreto, and depict Mary, the Mother of God, under her various titles. According to a long tradition, in Loreto stands the Holy House, which is the actual house in which Mary was born, and where the Annunciation occurred.  According to the tradition, a band of angels scooped up the little house from the Holy Land and transported it, first to Tersato, Dalmatia in 1291; then to Recanati, Italy in 1294; and finally to Loreto, Italy, where it has been for centuries.  Since that time, pilgrims have visited a shrine to Mary at that spot.  In 1587, Pope Sixtus V officially recognized the Litany of Loreto, which contains 48 titles for the Virgin Mary.

Monica Wright, spokeswoman for the RSN, explained the embroideries’ origin to the Catholic Herald:

“The Litany of Loreto embroideries were given to the Royal School of Needlework in the early 1990s and are purported to have been donated by the Convent of the Holy Child in Maybury, East Sussex.”

They were then conserved, remounted and framed. The RSN says that there is “a strong sense of design to the pieces and they are worked to a very high standard” and that “they show what can be achieved with stylised design and a limited colour palette”.

To learn more about the Loreto Embroideries, or to plan a visit to the Worship and Glory exhibition, visit the Royal Needlework Society’s website.

I’m sharing a few of the photos here, for my friends who love needlework and crafts, for my friends who love Mary, and for my friends who love art.

For my friends who love to pray, the complete Litany of Loreto is below.


Litany of Loreto

V. Lord, have mercy.
R. Christ have mercy.
V. Lord have mercy. Christ hear us.
R. Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us. 
Holy Mother of God, pray for us. 
Holy Virgin of Virgins, [etc.]
Mother of Christ, 
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother most admirable,
Mother of good Counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Savior,

Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honor,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower of ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of families,
Queen of peace,

V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Spare us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Graciously hear us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of blessed Mary, ever Virgin, may we be freed from present sorrow, and rejoice in eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

The versicle and prayer after the litany may be varied by season. Thus, during Advent (from the fourth Sunday before Christmas to Christmas Eve):

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. O God, who hast willed that by the message of an Angel, thy Word should receive flesh from the womb of the Virgin Mary: grant unto thy suppliants, that we who believe that she is truly the Mother of God, may be assisted by her intercession before Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

From Christmas to Candlemass (the Feast of the Presentation), that is through February 1:

V. Thou gavest birth without loss of thy virginity.
R. Intercede for us, O holy Mother of God.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast offered unto the human race the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the effects of her intercession, through whom we have deserved to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. R. Amen.

From Candlemass to Easter (through Holy Week), AND from the day after Pentecost (or from Trinity Sunday, if Pentecost is celebrated with octave) to the beginning of Advent:

V. “Pray for us” and prayer “Grant unto thy servants,” as above:

During Eastertide (from Easter day through Pentecost, and throughout the octave of Pentecost if it is celebrated):

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. 
R. For the Lord is truely risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast vouchsafed to make glad the whole world, grant, we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His mother, we may attain the joys of eternal life, through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • They are beautiful. I would love to have that first one.

  • Holly in Nebraska

    Thank you for the article and heads-up on the exhibit. They are beautiful.