Book Provides the First Study of Colonial Textile Arts in the Spanish American Church

Author: Kathryn Pitts

Clothing the New World ChurchClothing the New World Church

When Catholic churches were built in the New World in the sixteenth century, they were furnished with rich textiles known in Spanish as “church clothing.” These textile ornaments covered churches’ altars, stairs, floors, and walls. Vestments clothed priests and church attendants, and garments clothed statues of saints. The value attached to these textiles, their constant use, and their stunning visual qualities suggest that they played a much greater role in the creation of the Latin American Church than has been previously recognized. This month, the University of Notre Dame Press is publishing Clothing the New World Church: Liturgical Textiles of Spanish America, 1520–1820 by Maya Stanfield-Mazzi, associate professor of art history at the University of Florida. In this important study, Stanfield-Mazzi provides the first comprehensive survey of church adornment with textiles, addressing how these works helped establish Christianity in Spanish America and expand it over four centuries.

With over 180 stunning illustrations, this book examines both imported and indigenous textiles used in the church, compiling works that are now scattered around the world and reconstructing their original contexts. Stanfield-Mazzi delves into the hybrid or mestizo qualities of these cloths and argues that when local weavers or embroiderers in the Americas created church textiles they did so consciously, with the understanding that they were creating a new church through their work.

Jeanette F. Peterson, author of The Paradise Garden Murals of Malinalco, says, "Stanfield-Mazzi celebrates the vibrant transformation of Amerindian and European textile traditions crafted for a Spanish American Church that was 'shrouded in cloth.' Her insightful, fully documented Clothing the New World Church analyzes the fabrics’ materiality and techne, their warp and weft serving as an appropriate metaphor for a remarkable transatlantic synthesis."

Clothing the New World Church was reviewed in Trebuchet. You can learn more about the book here in an interview with the author.

Clothing the New World Church is available in hardback and digital editions from the University of Notre Dame Press. For more information, or a review copy, contact: Kathryn Pitts,, 574.631.3267.