A missionary’s legacy

When Jesuit Priest Jacob Paul Camboue was sent to Madagascar on missionary work, he cannot possibly have realised that his legacy would be on display years later  in the Victoria & Albert museum.  Camboue’s passing interest in zoology led him to design a machine for ‘milking’ golden orb spiders of their silk. He believed that this could these tiny threads could one day be spun into threads, and that maybe those threads could be spun into cloth.

Over a century later textile designer Simon Peers and entrepreneur Nicholas Godley took up the challenge. Over a period of four years 70 volunteers collected 1 million spiders, whose silk went into weaving the spectacular garment which you see below.

Image: newscientist.com

Stunningly beautiful though it is, you have to ask yourself whether all the man hours and effort was worth it? Or do you? Does beauty need an ‘excuse’, or does it provide its own justification? Given the incredible strength of spider’s silk, scientists are hoping that the lessons learnt by Godley and Peers will find their way off the catwalk and into medicine, engineering and other branches of research. An austere wartime poster may have harrumphed ‘is your journey really necessary’, but I’m not sure you can ask the same question about beauty.

Even if they don’t though – won’t it have been worth it? Sometimes an act of extravagant beauty is a celebration of our best humanity. When Mary ‘wasted’ a priceless jar of perfume on Jesus, he not only commended her act of love, but insisted that it would always be told as part of the Gospel – as indeed it has been.

What do you think..and would you wear it?

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