Friday, June 24, 2016

Kloster Marienberg in Helmstedt

On Thursday, June 2, I went to Kloster Marienberg in a nearby town called Helmstedt.  I had already been to the monastery once back in April to meet the Domina Mechtild von Veltheim (similar to an abbess or prioress, she is the head of the monastery now) and Ursula Roeper, a curator planning an exhibition at the monastery.  So on this return visit, I was going to take photos in the textile treasury!

Kloster Marienberg
Kloster Marienberg in bloom
Kloster Marienberg is no longer a monastery, but houses a small textile treasury and the attached church is now Lutheran.  Marienberg was an Augustinian convent, founded in the 12th century.  Though I don’t know of any textiles actually made in Marienberg, they have acquired a super little collection since the creation of the Veltheim-Stiftung (a foundation set up by Domina Charlotte von Veltheim to collect and conserve medieval textiles) in the 19th century. 

I arrived around 10:00am, met Domina von Veltheim and a couple of the women from the restoration department for a quick coffee, and then spent the entire day in the treasury, photographing to my little heart’s content! 

They have a couple 13th-14th century embroideries showing scenes from the life of Saint Margaret. 

Life of St. Margaret, 13th Century 
Life of St. Margaret, 14th Century
Life of St. Margaret, 14th Century
I just LOVE these colorful patterns!  Life of St. Margaret, 13th Century
More super patterns!  Life of St. Margaret, 14th Century
The textile that depicts scenes from the Passion of Christ (ca. 1450) is especially cool because it sports two sets of initials, assumed to be from the embroiderers themselves.  Originally, the initials weren’t visible because they were sewn underneath the border, but later restorations revealed the hidden letters.

Passion of Christ, ca. 1450
Crucifixion, Passion of Christ, ca. 1450 
Little upside-down "GB" initials. Passion of Christ, ca. 1450
Sideways "MK" initials. Passion of Christ, ca. 1450
One of the nicest textiles they have is a Lenten cloth or antependium made in Kloster Heiningen around 1260.  Another fabulous example of white work embroidery, the quality of the silk, stitches, and its current state are all totally impressive!

Lenten cloth or antependium, ca. 1260, Kloster Heiningen
Christ in Majesty. Lenten cloth or antependium, ca. 1260, Kloster Heiningen
Virgin Mary. Lenten cloth or antependium, ca. 1260, Kloster Heiningen
Some super-detailed patterns!  Lenten cloth or antependium, ca. 1260, Kloster Heiningen
They also have a couple interesting examples of embroideries produced on black cloth, instead of the more common white/natural background.  

"Anna Selbdritt" (Saint Anne, with Mary and Christ child in her lap)
And last, but certainly not least, they are the proud owners of a couple large-scale klosterstich embroideries in wool.  These are very similar to the textiles made and kept in Kloster Wienhausen (here) and Kloster Luene (here and here).  Because these are not behind glass, I was able to use my microscope attachment to get a closer look at the fibers of one of these!!

Large klosterstich embroidery, Scenes from the Life of St. Elizabeth
These little yellow boxes indicate the location of the following micro details.
Microscope lens on bellows.  Detail of red and green wool stitching.
Microscope lens on bellows.  Detail of gray wool-- I love how you can see so many different colors up close!
Kloster Marienberg in Helmstedt is a really super institution.  It is small enough that you can speak to real people who are interested in helping you, while it also has the resources to undertake impressive restoration and conservation endeavors, while also maintaining, displaying, and even loaning out a nice collection of medieval textiles!


  1. Hi,
    I wanted to thank you for your beautiful pictures of the medieval textiles. I have spent the last 7 years charting these embroidered designs, generally working from images from the Bildindex and Renate Kroos, book "Niedersaechsischd Bildsrickerei". It is wonderful to see these pieces in color and in greater detail. Please let me know if you are interested in any of these charts. You can contact me at:
    Heike Kubasch

  2. A joy to see ! Thankyou for sharing :)