The ecclesiastical ranks in worship
Seven male characters are grouped in a praying position, with their gaze lifted towards two angels located in the upper part of the tapestry. They represent the different ranks within the Church. In the foreground, with his arms crossed over his chest, is the figure of the Pope wearing a purple cassock, above which there is the rochet and cape. His vestments are completed by the camauro, a hat used by popes during the winter. Beside him, sitting on a hassock, is the papal tiara. As for the identity of the pope depicted, it could be Urban VIII, who held the papacy when the tapestries were commissioned, but a more likely hypothesis put forward by some scholars is that it is not a portrait of a concrete pope, given the lack of similarity between the tapestry and the real pope, but a depiction of the ecclesiastical rank. Alternatively, it could be Pope Gregory I, who was depicted earlier in the series, in the panel on the Defenders of the Eucharist.
The Cardinal and the Bishop
Next to the Pope, we see a cardinal, who may be Saint Jerome, with garments befitting his rank: a cloak and cardinal’s hat in the traditional purple colour of cardinals. In this same line, partially hidden by the left-hand column, we see the figure of a bishop with a rich cope and crosier, identified by some as Saint Ambrose, who was also depicted in the previous tapestry about the Defenders of the Eucharist.
The other four characters who appear in the scene have been identified as clerics from the principal religious orders at the time. We can pick out a Dominican and a Franciscan, carrying the papal cross with three horizontal bars. They have at times been considered portraits of Saint Dominic and Saint Francis of Assisi, and another of the characters – the one wearing a dark habit – could be Saint Augustine. We do not know who the fourth cleric is, and barely even see his head.
The creative process
Only the model of this tapestry is conserved from the creative process, in the J. B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky. This panel was conceived to form a pair with “The civil ranks in worship”; along with three further tapestries, they would have formed a single composition in the form of a retable.
The marks of the weaver and place of manufacture can be seen in the lower selvage: IAQ GEUBELS BdB. The monograms of Jacques Geubels can be seen in the right-hand selvage.
Series The Triumph of the Eucharist
Fifteenth tapestry in the series
Model Peter Paul Rubens, 1626-1628
Manufacture Jacob II Geubels, Brussels, 1627-1632
Fabric Silk and wool
Size 495 x 330 cm
Location Monastery of the Descalzas Reales
Origin Collection of the Monastery of the Descalzas Reales
On display Hall of Tapestries
National Heritage Inv. 00614216