Silk Fascia of Bl. Pius IX
Pius IX: Silk Fascia of Bl. Pius IX

The following commentary is from the EWTN series, The Papacy: A Living History, The Papal Artifacts Collection of Father Richard Kunst. This artifact was featured on the fourth episode of the series, Popes of the 19th & 18th Centuries. A DVD of the series is available from EWTN.

Here is Father’s commentary about this artifact:

One of my favorite lines is that clothing items of popes are hard to get because popes don’t have rummage sales!

This is a very significant item, a silk fascia worn by Pius IX–the Pope who defined Papal Infallibility, called the First Vatican Council, and defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It is a beautiful silk item with embroidered cross keys and tiara on each end and the initials, P. IX.

Pius IX was a very significant pope who was beatified by Pope John Paul II. This is the actual fascia that he wore on his cassock.

A fascia is an item of clothing worn around the waist like a belt, with part of the fabric tied at the side and hanging midway down the leg. Any priest wearing a cassock wears a fascia with it. For priests, the fascia is black, but for popes, it is white, while for cardinals and bishops, it is either red or purple, indicating rank.

What makes this so significant is that it is the only fascia of a Pope that Father knows of that is in private hands. So it is very significant and extremely rare because most items belonging to popes are cut into very small pieces to be used for relics.

This item came in a very large cabinet, with several items of clothing from Pius IX and Leo XIII. It came from France, and in order to preserve the contents more carefully, and because I knew this was bad for preservation purposed, I took the cabinet apart. Apparently, the cabinet did a good enough job to keep this fascia in such perfect condition.

Preserving artifacts entails proper conditions, like a climate-controlled facility. High levels of light, fluctuations in temperature and humidity increase the rate of decomposition. Because of this, they are stored in boxes containing non-acidic paper with all museum quality conditions.