The Maaseik Embroideries

 

Image: All pieces of the Maaseik Embroideries

All pieces of the Maaseik Embroideries

Background

The vestments of Sts. Harlindis and Relindis, which now reside in Maaseik, in Belgium are the earliest surviving examples of Anglo-Saxon embroidery that we have today. Although traditonally attributed as the work of Sts. Harlindis and Relindis themselves, the works are not that old and are of Anglo Saxon English origin, dated to the second half of the ninth century.

Materials Used

  • gold wrapped thread
  • coloured silk thread (red, beige, green, yellow, light and dark blue) - The red and green silk are Z-twisted, and sometimes also S-ply. The other silk threads are untwisted.
  • pearls and other beads
  • linen ground (arcade strips 24x16 /cm, roundals 26x20 /cm, monograms 24x20 /cm)

Stitches and Techniques

The linen ground is completely filled with silk thread, using either split or stem stitch. Roundals were outlined in pearls and beads.

Design

As with other later pieces, these embroideries have close stylistic ties with other decorative arts of the period, including carving in stone, bone and ivory, metalwork and most strongly with illuminated manuscripts.

Stylistic elements include:

  • interlace
  • geometric patterns
  • foliate designs
  • stylised animals

Extant Pieces

The surviving embroideries are made up of a number of distinct pieces that form a patchwork garment known as the casula of Sts Harlindis and Relindis. As it is now configured, it is approx. 87cm long x 57cm wide, it is composed of several early medieval textiles, a late medieval half silk fabric and some modern fabrics acting as a base.

The embroideries comprise two long rectangular pieces, decorated with arcades, two shorter strips decorated with roundals and four monograms in each corner.

On the two longer strips, there is a dense fill of embroidered patterns - interlace, geometric, foliate and animal ornamentation.

The two shorter strips contain the roundal decoration. Each roundal strip contains ten roundals, in two horizontal rows of five, with the roundals set a short distance from each other. Each roundal contains a bird or animal seen in profile, with many of the figures connected to the framing interlace pattern.

Links

Sources for Further Information

  • Budny, Mildred and Dominic Tweddle. "The Maaseik Embroideries," in Anglo-Saxon England vol. 13, edited by Peter Clemoes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984) pp. 65-97.
Image: Roundals from the Maaseik Embroideries

Roundals from the Maaseik Embroideries