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Advertiser Spotlight: The Vintage Catholic

Editor’s note: We are selective about who we work with to advertise on 1P5. We sell our ads directly, vetting each potential partner and business owner to make sure that they fit with our values and are offering quality products and services to our audience. As a thank you to these Catholic business owners and service providers, we have given our paid advertisers an opportunity to answer some questions about the work that they do and better acquaint themselves with our audience. Today, we talk to Lillian Nobles of Vintage Catholic. 

Are you a brick and mortar store, or online only? Where can people go to see what you offer?

We are an online store. People can find us at Ruby Lane Art & Antiques, or they can simply go to our store page.

Where do you get the various pieces that you sell?

We began by purchasing items locally and regionally, but over the past few years, we have developed sources all over the world. The majority of our pieces come from Europe and America, but we are increasingly finding pieces in India, Asia, and South America, as well.

Do you have a particular aesthetic that you look for when selecting pieces for your shop?

Naturally, there are some pieces that appeal to us more than others simply because of our own personal tastes. When we first began collecting, this is largely what guided us. We would discover an item that we found to be particularly beautiful, and we would add it to our collection. It was really that simple. The wide array of pieces that we’ve accumulated over the past couple of years is more eclectic now, but the basic aesthetic is still the same: Beauty in service to God and the Holy Catholic Church. Some of our pieces are quite simple; others are very ornate. But what they all have in common is a sense of the sacred, and a visible desire on the part of the artist to create something beautiful as an act of devotion.

Do you solicit items? If people are aware of, say, a parish basement filled with antique holy water fonts or crucifixes or statues not in use, can they contact you?

Absolutely. Any time we can return these items to the light of day, we are eager to do so.

How often do you find yourself rescuing pieces from churches being renovated or modernized? Or is most of that kind of thing already done and these items are in private hands?

We’ve never procured anything directly from a church that was being closed or remodeled. However, we have acquired pieces secondhand from churches and monasteries that have been shuttered. I suspect that some of the larger, more valuable items are quietly auctioned off or given to private parties. And on occasion, we even hear about altars, baptismal fonts, statues, and other architectural items that have simply been destroyed or abandoned to the elements. So whenever we’re presented with an opportunity to save any such items, we really consider it a duty as much as anything else. Fortunately, there are organizations whose sole purpose is to ensure that church furnishings never leave the Church, even if they must be relocated to new homes.

Do the artworks and items you obtain ever come with a history? Where they came from, how they were rescued, how old they are, etc.?

Occasionally. And when we have verifiable provenance, we always mention that in an item’s description. Unfortunately, though, this is usually a luxury. As with so many artworks, only the most famous pieces are likely to have a known history. Of course, a great deal can be determined about any item through research and consultation, and this is our normal process.

What is the most interesting item you’ve ever sold?
One of the most interesting and unique items we ever sold was a French first communion holy card from the 1800s. It consisted of an external set of doors that opened to reveal a variety of prayers. An internal set of doors could then be opened to reveal a chalice and an image of the Eucharist. When held up to a light, the Host vanished and an image of Our Lord’s head crowned with thorns appeared in its place.  I’ve never seen anything like it. The card was not just designed to convey an image or a message. It was designed to be beautiful. And the impact was memorable.

Obviously, selling these vintage Catholic pieces is a business, but is it also a sort of apostolate, something that allows you to save holy items and keep them in the hands of those who would appreciate them?

To be honest, calling this an apostolate was something that sounded a little arrogant at first, a little too grand. It’s something we’ve had to grow into. The idea of starting a business selling Catholic antiques was not something we’d ever imagined doing. It developed out of a desire to save beautiful art that once inspired Catholic culture everywhere. The pieces in our shop were once owned and used by faithful Catholics during a time when the Faith was enculturated in such a way that this kind of artistry was a part of the fabric of life. It’s difficult for us to imagine now. Today, when modernism has laid waste to so much of the Church’s artistic patrimony, protecting Catholic heritage even in this small way is worthwhile. On our website, I describe it like this:

“Part of the beauty of Catholic art is that it has always been utilitarian—in the best sense of that word. Catholic art is meant to be used. Whether to foster devotion, raise the heart and mind to God, or function liturgically in an act of worship, Catholic art is always imbued with purpose. We offer you these objects now in the hope that they will not gather dust in some forgotten corner, neglected; but rather that they will continue to find beauty in purpose and be used as they were intended to be…by Catholics.”

How does your faith inform the work that you do?

It was the beauty of the Faith expressed artistically that drew us to this business. And as our faith deepens, it continues to inform not only our appreciation of the art that we collect, but what we see in that art. From the humblest of items to the most grand, Catholic art has always been imbued with symbolism to encourage devotion and to recall the truths of Christ and His church. And now, without having planned it, we find ourselves daily surrounded by art that is beautifully Catholic. It is a subtle but constant inspiration to practice the Faith. To put it simply: We save the art, and the art speaks to our faith.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know?

If you are searching for something in particular, and you cannot find it on our website, please contact us. We have new pieces arriving all the time, and at any given moment, there are dozens of items that we have yet to post online. Also, if there is something you would like us to keep an eye out for, feel free to send us a note through our store website:  The Vintage Catholic

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