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Sunday Morning News
Ecclesiastical Vestments are Belgian Families Big BusinessAired April 23, 2000 - 7:57 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The Easter Sunday mass in St. Peter's Square is renowned for its religious majesty. The feeling is enhanced by the vestments that are used.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Many of those ceremonial church garments come from Belgium.
CNN's Patricia Kelly is there.
PATRICIA KELLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This workshop is Dirk Slabbinck's kingdom, according to his family, and it's full of saints and angels, all designed by Dirk.
DIRK SLABBINCK, DESIGNER: For Easter itself, the resurrection. This is for a stole, so we have the two sides of the stole.
KELLY: Much of what the pope wears on his trips abroad originates from here. It's a family business which has been going for nearly a century. It supplies Christian churches of every denomination worldwide, as well as the Vatican, with lavishly embroidered clothing, tapestries and other ceremonial hangings.
D. SLABBINCK: Sometimes we have to make a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with a patron saint we never heard about. So now we have to look up, you know, what the patron saint was, find symbols and so forth. So it's very pleasant and very surprising sometimes.
KELLY: On display are antique embroideries, copies of religious paintings using a technique known as painting with a needle.
VIKTOR SLABBINCK, ADVERTISING MANAGER: Altogether, we've calculated that it cost about 4,800 man hours just to embroider this. Now technically nowadays it's still possible to do it. Only at today's labor's cost it will become very, very, very expensive. So this is really a unique piece.
KELLY: Founder Hendrick Slabbinck kept the company going during World war II, when many Belgian workers were used in German armament factories as forced labor.
V. SLABBINCK: My grandfather had a great idea. He ran to some bishops, and they placed some fake orders so that we could ask our workers to stay here. And that enabled us after the Second World War to continue doing what we were doing. Because elsewise, this company might have stopped.
KELLY: The company employs more than 60 people and is rapidly expanding.
MIRABEL SLABBINCK, PRODUCTION MANAGER: Most of the people who work here are working here for a long time, like 20 years, 25 years. So they know everything about the job. So when new people arrive, they train them themselves. So they don't go anywhere for special training. It happens here.
KELLY: Much of the work is done by hand. Real gold is used in restorations, some of them hundreds of years old and priceless.
M. SLABBINCK: We have to clean everything, and then we lay some paper on it.
KELLY: The unit is placed on to new fabric, although as much of the old embroidery as possible is preserved.
(on camera): And business is booming, especially in France and the United States, a sign, says the family, that religion is making a comeback.
(voice-over): Patricia Kelly, CNN, Bruge (ph), Belgium.
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