There’s been a bit of a radio silence as I’ve been on holiday followed by a week or so catching up with website work. And all of a sudden it feels like the run-up to the Christmas sales season, starting with Lambeth Open on 3-4 October, of which more later.
But first I want to tell you about a couple of amazing textile pieces I saw while on holiday. Bamberg, in Bavaria, southern Germany, is a beautiful medieval town that is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The cathedral has some splendid sculptures, including the tomb of its founder, Emperor Henry II, and his wife Empress Cunigunde, both saints. Among the scenes from their lives carved by Tilman Riemenschneider on the tomb, there is one of Cunigunde walking on red-hot ploughshares to prove her innocence.
But it was in the adjoining Cathedral Museum that I made this wonderful discovery. The star exhibit here is Henry II’s Star Mantle, which was given to him by Duke Ismahel of Bari and dates from 973-1024.
According to the Worshipful Company of Broiderers, “The original 11th century mantle was made of silk twill with medallions of the life of Christ and celestial bodies worked in couched gold thread, with some details in coloured silk in stem stitch. In the 15th century the embroidered elements were cut away and remounted on the current Italian silk damask, so the original placement of the motifs is not known.”
The condition and detail are superb – you can clearly make out signs of the zodiac and other constellations among the medallions.
In the adjoining room was another equally compelling piece of silk, known as Gunther’s shroud. This was given to or bought by Gunther von Bamberg, Bishop of Bamberg, during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1064-65, and was buried with him when he died. It was rediscovered in 1830.
Although there is some damage to the piece, the colours are exquisitely preserved, and the figures are in classic Byzantine style, reminiscent of the famous mosaics in Ravenna.
Clearly the best way to preserve textiles is to bury them in a cathedral for 1,000 years!
On a lighter note, here’s a photo of some lace Lederhosen I spied in a shop window – rather more delicate than the real thing. 🙂