New symbols arrive at the Basilica of St. Mary

First slide

A tiny, red and gold umbrella with delicate, stitched crests on its scalloped-shaped flaps. Blue and white enameled images encircling a small bell. That’s how one might describe an ombrellino and a tintinnabulum — two symbols present in every basilica around the world. The Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria will welcome its own custom-made items at a Mass with Bishop Michael F. Burbidge Sept. 8.

St. Mary was named a basilica by the Congregation for Divine Worship for its historical significance and beauty Dec. 6, 2017. The announcement was made to the diocese during a Mass celebrated at St. Mary Jan. 14, 2018. Since then, craftsmen have been working diligently to create the unique symbols.

“It’s a sign of honor not only for the many generations of parishioners here, but it’s also a great honor for the Diocese of Arlington. It is a recognition from the Holy Father that we are one of the principal places of worship in the nation and the world. For that, I am very grateful and happy.” Fr. Edward Hathaway

Father Edward C. Hathaway, rector, began the process by envisioning which crests should grace the eight sections of the ombrellino. He decided on the crests of the basilica, the Diocese of Arlington, Bishop Burbidge and Pope Francis. He also chose the crests of the pope who led the church when St. Mary was established — Pope Pius VI — and the corresponding crest of the archdiocese at the time — Baltimore. The last two sections have a dogwood — the state flower of Virginia — and the year the church was founded and the year it became a basilica.

The ombrellino took five months to make, according to Louis DiCocco of St. Jude Liturgical Arts Studio, whose company also created the ombrellino at the Basilica of National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Though based near Philadelphia, they use seamstresses from Belgium to hand-embroider the crests, said DiCocco.

The liturgical firm made the tintinnabulum using an ancient enameling process called cloisonné, said DiCocco. The four images on the tintinnabulum are from the basilica’s seal. The ornate M is for Mary and the IHS refers to the emblem of the Jesuits who founded the parish. The stars are from the diocese’s seal and the boat represents the port town of Alexandria.

The ombrellino and tintinnabulum both represent the basilica’s connection to the Holy See, said Father Hathaway. The red and gold of the ombrellino are Vatican colors. The tintinnabulum is representative of the bells that would alert people when the pope was arriving. After the Mass, the symbols will be mounted permanently on the wall behind the altar. 

Father Hathaway invites everyone to attend the special Mass Sept. 8. “It’s a great joy for me to be the rector of the Basilica of St. Mary and to host the Bishop for this celebration,” he said. “It’s a sign of honor not only for the many generations of parishioners here, but it’s also a great honor for the Diocese of Arlington. It is a recognition from the Holy Father that we are one of the principal places of worship in the nation and the world. For that, I am very grateful and happy.”

tin tinn

Find out more

The Mass for the reception of the basilica symbols will be celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge Sept. 8 at 10 a.m. at the Basilica of St. Mary, 310 South Royal St., Alexandria. A reception will follow in the Lyceum, 313 Duke St., Alexandria. All are welcome. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018

@ZoeyMaraistACH