The Liturgy Series: Manifatture Bianchetti Roman Style Alb

The Liturgy Series is well loved by many readers of our blog as we continue to strive to feature examples of beautiful objects and materials to be used at the service of the altar because liturgical beauty is not for aesthetic reasons, but rather, liturgical beauty emphasizes the importance of what is about to take place – that is, in the liturgy, we encounter Jesus Christ, God with us, in the Eucharist. Therefore, such gravity of importance is depicted on only interiorly but also exteriorly through our gestures, “full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14) and in a special way through the articles used at Mass, such as vestments. In this instalment of The Liturgy Series we will be taking a look at an alb that comes us from Italy, from a company I think is less well known here in North America (particularly Canada, where I live): Manifatture Bianchetti.

Manifatture Bianchetti is a company which specializes in the design and manufacturing of Sacred Vestments based in Milan, Italy. The company was founded in 1916 and interestingly enough, used to specializing in the manufacturing the materials used in military uniforms and supplies. It was not until the 1950s that the company shifted its focus on designing and creating ecclesiastical clothing. Manifatture Bianchetti is now headed by Elisabetta Bianchetti who serves as both designer and administrator.

The company today has a very wide range of products ranging from chasubles, mitres, albs, cassocks, clerics, and even clothing for religious sisters too. Liturgically speaking, their design range from very traditional, to modern. In other words, with Manifatture Bianchetti has a vestment that would suit one of practically any liturgical taste. A number of their vestments have also been used by Popes, namely Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Pope Francis using a chasuble designed and manufactured by Manifatture Bianchetti at the World Retreat of Priests (2015)
(Photo courtesy of: Manifatture Bianchetti)

The alb featured here today is a faux gigliuccio hemstitched, square-neck alb. As mentioned before in this Series, I much prefer the Roman square-neck albs (that must be used with an amice) because they are easier to clean, and in my opinion, require less cleaning. I have found that the albs that have a built-in standup collar require more cleaning as the neck portion becomes stained from sweat. Square-neck albs require an amice and in turn, the piece that needs frequent cleaning is the amice. Therefore, if you have a square-neck alb, I recommend having on hand a good supply of amices.

‘Unboxing’ of the alb after its trip from Milan to Toronto (Click images to enlarge)

This specific alb from Manifatture Bianchetti is handsome work of art. Notably, since it is a square neck alb, there are nice simple pleats that go from the collar down. Modern wrap-around albs are unable to achieve such beautiful pleats. Gathered-pleats are unfavourable for me, but may be preferable to some. However, these gathered-pleats are less of a hassle to iron. The biggest concern in this specific alb is that pleating as “clean” as that of Manifatture Bianchetti requires more time and patience when cleaning and ironing. However, the good thing is that the fabric does not easily wrinkle as it is a poly-cotton blend. The alb from Polish Vestment we reviewed last year is made of 100% cotton, while more breathable than a poly-cotton blend fabric, it wrinkles more easily. Thankfully, none of the albs mentioned are made of 100% linen. Though linen is more of a classic choice of gabrics for alb, there are several down sides to it. First, 100% linen fabric tends to get wrinkled very easily, more than 100% cotton fabrics. Second, the lifespan of these albs are not as long as poly-cotton blends. Having worked as part-time sacristan at the Cathedral in my diocese, I have found 100% linen amices being worn down a lot quicker than those of other fabrics.

Some views of the alb with a cincture on. First three images are front views; latter two images are back views
(Click images to enlarge)

One of the more notable features of this Manifatture Bianchetti alb is how much it resembles a Vaticano Style alb with its hemstiching and cross on the lower front and back for only about half the cost. As I mentioned, the gigliuccio hemstitching on this specific alb is a faux machine-gigliuccio. Gigliuccio is a unique Italian hemstitching done by drawing out threads and gathering them to create intricate designs. Gigliuccio in my opinion has a more masculine feel than most types of lace, though that is subjective. The downside with handmade gigliuccio is that it is very time consuming to manufacture. You would find hand-done gigliuccio albs in around the $500 – $700 USD price range… maybe even more if there are more “lines” of gigliuccio on the garment. However, that cost factor is eliminated here with the machine-gigliuccio. Though economical, I think the sense of beauty is not compromised. Manifatture Bianchetti has produced here a desirable machine-gigliuccio than a lot of its competitors.

Some views of the alb without use of a cincture. First four images are front views; fifth image shows arm length; latter three images are back views (Click images to enlarge)

The alb is very comfortable to wear. I like how with the poly-cotton blend fabric, I do not need to mind much about wrinkling, as opposed to pure linen square-neck albs which are a hassle at times if you want to avoid wrinkles. With the poly-cotton fabric, the albs drops very nicely. It keeps its shapes very well, especially when you put the cincture on. There are the pocket slits on the two sides which makes accessing items in your pant-pockets all the more easier.

More detail of the alb (Click images to enlarge)

With years of experience, Manifatture Bianchetti has produced a very commendable alb, worthy for use by clergy and lay ministers in the liturgy. Its simple but elegant gigliuccio design is better suited if used on Sundays and Solemnities. A plain alb of this square-neck design, which is also available at Manifatture Bianchetti is better suited for weekday Masses. It is also a very affordable alb with a price tag of 170,00 € (as of November 10, 2021 is ~$195.00 USD or ~$240.00 CAD).

You can check out this gigliuccio alb at the Manifatture Bianchetti online shop here.

Manifatture Bianchetti also has physical shops in Milan, Rome and Turin.

To know more about Manifatture Bianchetti, click here.

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a sample of alb for an honest review of it on The Liturgy Series of this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Manifatture Bianchetti for the opportunity for us to review this alb on our blog and look forward to future collaborations. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the product.


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