Beautiful Spanish Mantillas

THE LIGHTWEIGHT MANTILLA CAME INTO USE IN THE WARMER REGIONS OF SPAIN in the 16th century; lace mantillas became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, as depicted in portraits by Spanish artists Diego Velázquez and Goya. In the 19th century, Queen Isabella II actively encouraged its use.

SOME SAY THAT THE SPANISH CUSTOM DATES BACK TO THE RECONQUISTA, when Christian women were once again free to wear the veil openly in Church as a sign of their acknowledgement of the Real Presence in the Tabernacle.

ORIGINALLY WORN BY WOMEN OF THE ANDALUSIA REGION OF SPAIN, as Spaniards settled in Mexico and South and Central America, they brought their traditional cultural custom of wearing the lace mantilla to Latin America.

HOLY WEEK IN SEVILLE: Today, Spanish women wear mantillas during Santa Semana (the week before Easter), at bullfights and to weddings.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM HAS IT that the Spanish tradition is based on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Though for nineteen centuries this passage from St. Paul was uncontroversial, in the late 20th century it became a feminist complaint in both Catholic and Protestant circles. Today, many young women have once again taken to wearing the veil in church.


PAPAL PROTOCOL CALLS FOR MANTILLAS TO BE WORN BY WOMEN, especially Catholics, when received in formal audience by the Pope. In accordance with what is known as the privilège du blanc, Catholic female monarchs and the consorts of Catholic monarchs wear white when formally meeting the Pope. Queen Sofia of Spain wore a white mantilla at the requiem Mass for John Paul II and at the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

THE WHITE MANTILLA AS A SIGN OF CATHOLIC ROYALTY: Elena of Montenegro and Marie José of Belgium, queen and crown princess of Italy respectively, wearing white in the presence of Pope Pius XII at the Quirinale Palace on 28 December 1939.

BLACK MANTILLAS HAVE BEEN WORN by the Grand Duchesses of Luxembourg at the papal inauguration of 2005, Laura Bush in 2006, Michelle Obama in 2009, the Ukrainian Yulia Tymoshenko, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, as well as first ladies from Malaysia, Jordan, Iran, and Lebanon and ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.

IT’S OF SOME INTEREST TO NOTE WHO HAS NOT WORN A VEIL at a formal papal reception: former Irish President Mary Robinson, former Soviet Union First Lady Raisa Gorbachev, former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and current German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

THERE IS A SPANISH SAYING, “BUENO…ESO ES ENCAJE DE BOLILLOS” (‘THIS IS LIKE LACE MAKING’) – a metaphor for attempting something that is really complex.

STYLIST:  Sequoia Sierra

PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Meister

VEILS: Veils by Lily


LOCATION: Sts. Peter & Paul, Wilmington, CA


[1] “Semana Santa Sevilla Mantilla”. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –

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