The Impact of Silk in the Middle Ages

The Great Silk Road was a caravan road connecting East Asia to the Mediterranean from Ancient times into the Middle Ages. It was used for exporting silk from China, hence its’ name. The term was introduced by the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877. / Wikimedia Commons

Silk played a significant role in the politics of the Middle Ages, especially in the Byzantine Empire.

By Dr. Stephen M. Wagner
Professor of Art History
Savannah College of Art and Design


Silk played a significant role in the politics of the Middle Ages, especially in the Byzantine Empire. Everything and everyone it touched immediately became eminent. Draped over altars or fashioned into curtains, silk separated spaces within a church or a palace. Beginning in the sixth and seventh centuries in Western Europe, saints’ relics were wrapped in silk, stored and displayed in elaborate metalwork and jeweled reliquaries. A bountiful trove of silk wrappers survives in church treasuries and museums all over Europe because they were preserved for centuries in the dark receptacles. Silk was sometimes incorporated into the bindings of manuscripts and in rare instances, pieces were inserted by sewing into the codex to protect painted pages.[1]

The impact of silk goes further. My research focuses on a group of manuscripts produced at three different monasteries in the Ottonian and Salian periods (c. 950 – c. 1050) in which the painted ornament simulates or is inspired by silk. It begins with the Marriage Charter of Theophano and Otto II dated 14 April 972. (Fig. 1) In addition to this extraordinary document, nineteen liturgical codices produced between 950 and 1050 at the monasteries of Corvey, Hildesheim and Echternach, contain this type of decoration. In this essay, I will offer some information about the source material, silk and follow it with a discussion of the manuscripts.

Hildesheim: Cathedral Treasury Ms. 18, fol. 17r / Public Domain

For hundreds of years all across Asia, silk’s qualities of luxury, versatility and scarcity perpetuated its status as a prized material. The luminescence and softness of the fabric always impressed those who saw or felt it. By the tenth century, advances in weaving technology allowed artisans to introduce intricate patterns using both monochromatic and contrasting color schemes. Consequently, the softly textured surfaces became even more radiant. As a commodity, silk was considered at times to be more valuable than gold, and the western European elite always desired it strongly. It is not surprising, then, that this precious material played a key role in the diplomatic relationships between the producers and the consumers.

Skilled artisans of the Middle Ages used silk primarily to make vestments. Political and ecclesiastical leaders from the Byzantine, Ottonian and Salian realms cloaked themselves in silken garb for ceremonial occasions. Even though documentary sources concerning the use of vestments in the Early Middle Ages are limited, we know that they functioned as visual signifiers of authority.

Anna Muthesius, a leading scholar of Byzantine silk coined the expression, “silken diplomacy” when describing the way the Byzantines treated silk.[2] In short, every foreign ambassador that visited Constantinople was granted a gift of silk. From the Byzantine perspective, significance was two-fold. They considered the receivers worthy enough, and they assumed that the recipients would acknowledge Byzantine authority over them.

The Byzantine Empire reached its cultural height in the tenth century, and the many silks produced during this period were especially beautiful. Consequently, the Byzantines utilized silken diplomacy at home and abroad more than ever. Two documents written during this time clarified the imperial and ecclesiastical dress codes, affording us a clear picture of the strict hierarchy of court dress. The first, Kleterologion of Philotheos, was compiled in the reign of Leo VI at the end of the ninth century. This text lists eighteen orders of rank, indicated by insignia, with three of the highest including garb designated in specific colors.[3] The second source, the Book of Ceremonies, compiled by Leo’s son, Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos between 957 and 959, explains in great detail the protocol of behavior and dress for ceremonies, processions and feast days.[4]

“It should be known that in the aforementioned week of Easter, the sovereigns wear the white divitision; but if they want to make either a cortege to the church, or a procession, or a reception with the palace, they wear the tzitzakion. Sunday after Easter, that is to say statement that of the closed gates, the things happen in the same manner. Often, if the things please the sovereigns, this feast has, instead of the woven white gold scaramange, they wear a crimson scaramange of embroidered with gold.”[5]

The Book of Ceremonies is among the most complete documents revealing the structure and rituals of the Byzantine court. Many of the ceremonies described in the book originated in the ancient Roman Empire. As part of a tenth-century concern to revive tradition, the religious and secular elements of elite Byzantine society were combined into individual codes of behavior. The Book of Ceremonies lays out for us the Byzantine desire to order the corporeal world, explaining the ceremonies, which were symbolic enactments of the basis of Byzantine culture and the belief that the emperor was the earthly representative of God.[6]

Concerning silk, the Book of Ceremonies explicates four uses, three of which involve the application of ritual: imperial regalia, emblems of office, parade dress, and ornamental hangings for the palace. The protocol of dress spelled out the hierarchy of rank in the Byzantine imperial court, where rank could be determined through visual signs of luxury. The Byzantines established their courts as the archetype of luxury and prestige during the tenth century. Consequently Western visitors very likely absorbed the elaborate procedures and, undoubtedly, reported them back to their leaders, who appropriated the ceremonial and its trappings for their own courts.[7] Silk played an integral role in these exchanges.

Silk in Western Europe

Liber Pontificalis

Firm documentary evidence of silk in Western Europe begins in the eighth century. The German word for silk, Seide, entered the language as sida, derived from the Latin, serica, in the tenth century.[8] The development of a specific terminology for the fabric suggests that it began to occupy a prestigious place in society. In the eighth century, however, the Liber Pontificalis is our most complete early medieval source documenting art objects. The biographies of the popes listed their political, ecclesiastical and cultural accomplishments.[9] They also included accounts of Byzantine gifts of silk made to the popes.[10] In addition to gifts received, the Liber Pontificalis presents detailed descriptions of papal donations of art objects to churches all over Rome. The book’s most complete descriptions of silk used in the service of the church are from the lives of Hadrian I, who reigned from 772 until 795 and Leo III, who reigned from 795 until 816. The quantity of silk donations increased dramatically at this time, particularly those with figural representations, which could have been a result of the iconoclasm controversy raging in Constantinople. The anonymous authors of the Liber Pontificalis mention Hadrian’s hundreds of gifts of silk. Interestingly, the silks are mentioned before a new roof.

“In God’s holy mother’s church ad praesepe he provided two cloths over the high altar, one of fine gold and jewels representing the Assumption of God’s holy mother, the other of cross-adorned silk with a purple surround. Close to the great doors in the same church he also provided a great curtain, its material fourfold-woven silk, like the one he provided for St. Peter’s. For this basilica’s various arches he likewise provided 42 veils, their material fourfold-woven silk. Likewise in the Savior our Lord Jesus Christ’s basilica close to the Lateran he provided a cross-adorned silk cloth and a great curtain, its material fourfold-woven silk, and for the various arches 57 silk veils, their material all fourfold-woven and cross-adorned silk. In the church of St. Laurence outside the walls, the one in which his holy body is at rest, he provided a cross-adorned silk cloth, and he likewise provided another cloth in the great church. He rebuilt the roof of St. Laurence’s great basilica, as it was then roofless and its beams were broken.”[11]

Leo III followed Hadrian I as pope. He, too, was a great benefactor of churches. His compiler describes his silk donations more thoroughly than Hadrian’s.

“At the confessio in the basilica of the world’s teacher St. Paul the apostle he provided a grill of refined gold with precious jewels, as at St. Peter’s weighing 156 lb; and above that holy altar a gold image of the Savior and the twelve apostles, weighing 75 lb; and he rebuilt the apse-vault of this basilica like that of St. Peter’s; moreover, 3 silver crowns weighing in total 220 lb; 15 great all-silk veils with roundels and with a fringe and a cross both of purple and of interwoven gold; forty-three precious great veils coated with fourfold-woven silk, which hang in the arches; twenty small veils with roundels, adorned with fourfold-woven silk which hang in the smaller arches; ten small veils of cross-adorned silk which hang in the arches, and ten more, three of them with a gold studded fringe; four matching Alexandrian veils; a crimson veil with wheels on it, with a fringe of wheels and fledglings on it, and in the middle a cross with chevrons and four matching wheels of tyrian. In St. Andrew’s basilica at St. Peter’s, silver railings weighing 80 lb. In the Savior’s basilica called Constantinian (the Lateran), an apse-vault of wondrous size.”[12]

Additionally, marriage negotiations were a vital forum for silken diplomacy. Between 764 and 972 the Byzantines discussed marriage arrangements seven times with Frankish, Bulgar and Kievan Rus leaders.[13] The first successful Byzantine marriage alliance in Western Europe took place between Otto II and Theophano, with others following into the twelfth century. According to Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, the Franks were the only group worthy of marriage to a Byzantine aristocrat, yet members of his court did not deem Franks worthy to possess silk.[14]

Textile-Inspired Decoration I: The Marriage Charter of Theophano and Otto II.

Figure 1. Wolfenbüttel, Staatsarchiv, 6 Urk 11, Marriage Charter of Otto II and Theophano, tempera and gold leaf on three leaves of vellum, 14 April, 972, 35.5 cm wide x 144.5 cm long. / Wikimedia Commons

The Marriage Charter of Otto II and Theophano was made around the time that the first textile-inspired manuscripts appeared at Corvey.[15] Measuring 114.5 cm long x 39.5 cm wide (45” x 15-1/2”), this document was presented to the twelve or thirteen year-old Theophano, niece of the Byzantine emperor John Tzimiskes, and was read aloud to the assembled audience. It consists of three sheets of crimson-dyed parchment with seven and one-half precisely drawn medallions depicting alternately, a griffin attacking a lamb and a lion attacking a cow. The medallions are framed with richly-painted indigo foliate forms. Of all the textile-inspired works, this piece most closely imitates an actual textile.

The animal figures in the roundels are mirror images of each other with the pairs on the left facing left, and those on the right facing right. They reveal a battle between a dominant male force and a submissive female creature. The motif is very old and originated in Mesopotamia centuries before the Common Era. At first glance, the contents of the roundels signify power, which is what the ancient representations certainly conveyed. In this case, however, they probably relates more to Theophano’s role to bear children.[16]

The edges evoke a few precious objects. The decoration of the sides of the charter resemble embroidered silk and the band at the top evokes ivory plaques and cloisonné enamel. Anna Muthesius has suggested that silk clothing was often edged with gold-embroidered borders that contained small pictures, and the small medallions at the document’s upper edge may reflect this practice.[17] The medallions contain busts of Christ, Mary, and John the Evangelist who are all flanked by four additional medallions of prophets or apostles and images of peacocks drinking from amphorae, all of which recalls Byzantine cloisonné enamel.

A scribe covered with the pictorial decoration with sixty-two lines of Caroline minuscule text in gold. The text was read aloud and the scribe included dots to indicate pauses which would have enhanced the ritualistic nature of the ceremony. The text was similar to other Ottonian marriage charters. Three sections, the Arenga, the Promulgatio and Narratio, and the Dispositio make up the majority of text. The Arenga addresses the purpose of marriage, “mutual and indissoluble love for the procreation of children.”[18] The second section, written in Otto II’s voice reveals his intention to take Theophano in marriage and share imperial rule with her. She was crowned co-empress at this ceremony. The Dispositio guarantees Theophano territories as part of her marriage gifts. She was given vast tracts of lands throughout the Ottonian territory. Other sections, such as the SubscriptioSanctio and Corroboratio, explain the penalties for violating the agreement as well as reaffirming the validity of the text.[19] No other marriage charter survives as a luxuriously painted object, and scholars have argued that this one is likely a ceremonial copy of a now lost official document.

Textile-Inspired Decoration II: Manuscripts


Gospel Book, Germany, mid-10th century / Public Domain

The manuscripts produced at Corvey and Hildesheim were primarily Gospel books and lectionaries and performed liturgical functions.[20] The inspiration for the decoration came from a variety of sources, but most notably, textiles. In most cases, the ornament appears behind text, and they appear on Incipit pages and, in a few examples, they make specific passages stand out for emphasis. An essential defining feature of rulership and ecclesiastical activity in early medieval Europe was the use of ritual. The powerful elite of the three dominant forces from the eighth to the eleventh century, the Carolingians, Ottonians and Salians relied on rituals to articulate their authority in ecclesiastical and secular contexts. At their most basic, rituals are actions or series of actions repeated by actors in specific situations in the same or similar ways so as to appear familiar to all who encounter them.

Rituals of the tenth and eleventh centuries significantly impacted the production of textile-inspired manuscripts. Patronage and gift-exchange especially involved splendid displays of ritual. The Ottonian rulers used the language of ritual to influence the nobles in spite of their limited powers. They forged personal alliances with selected members of the aristocracy and held their loyalty with the promise of gifts and opportunities for enriching their coffers through war. Instead of establishing a centralized bureaucracy, their clergy and magnates were the ministers, and the rulers relied on religious communities to administer their property. They held the realm together by constantly traveling through it.[21] The Ottonian rulers intervened in matters of ecclesiastical discipline and promotion to high office. They often favored blood relatives for ranks involving power. If a problem arose within the ecclesiastical hierarchy, rulers could depose or exile offending parties.[22]

While the manuscripts of Corvey conveyed the splendor of court life and pageantry associated with rituals, one particular manuscript from Hildesheim reflected the interests of its illustrious leader, Bishop Bernward. In the history of art, Bernward is most notable for his production of a set of bronze doors that decorated his monastery church of St. Michael. The opening of folios 16v and 17r contains the dedication image in which Bernward presents the manuscript to the Virgin Mary and Christ child flanked by the archangels Gabriel and Michael. The manuscript was presented to Hildesheim Cathedral in honor of the dedication of an altar to Mary in the crypt of St. Michael’s.[23]

This opening is germane to the concept of liturgical pageantry and the use of textiles to augment the ceremony. Bernward is vested in his finest and most opulent garb, and costly textiles cover every surface of the church, representing a symbolic climactic moment in Bernward’s life. Five inscriptions occupy the frames of the composition and arches representing the architectural space. The inscription occupying the entire frame of 16v discloses Bernward’s awareness of the importance of liturgical vestments as symbols of his office, “This gospel book, the love of virginity is offered to you, holy Maria, with a devout mind; Bernward who is unworthy of the name bishop and its episcopal vestments.”[24]

The tituli in the arches refer to Mary metaphorically as the star of the sea (Hail Star of the Sea, shining through the grace of Son), the Temple (Hail Temple unlocked by the Holy Spirit) and a door (Hail Door of God closed after the birth through the ages).[25] The other tituli are devoted to praises to the Virgin Mary, and to establishing a typological connection between Eve, who closed the gates of paradise, and Mary, who re-opened them, “The door of Paradise closed through the first Eve, now is through Holy Mary thrown open to all.”[26]

Stylistically, this opening is replete with the richness of textiles. On the right, the crowned Virgin, child and angels, Gabriel and Michael are placed in a golden architectural setting in front of purple curtains, the pattern of which matches that of the roof on the preceding verso. Purple, a color long associated with royalty, casts Mary as queen of heaven, an image familiar in early medieval Rome.[27] Mary and the Christ child are resplendent in golden mantles draped over silver tunics. The angels who crown her stand out equally in their gold drapery over white tunics. In addition to the brilliant colors, the curtains themselves act as a mediating element to the divine. Theologians viewed curtains as objects that could be opened or closed as well as reveal or conceal something significant. For example, in the letter to the Hebrews Paul says, “Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh.[28]

Bernward, on the other hand, is a little subtler. He is also standing in a golden architectural setting, but the background is not painted with curtains. It is a flat, green-and-black ornamented surface that resembles the design on his chasuble. Through this patterning, Bernward positions himself in the presence of the Virgin Mary, the Christ child and the angels. Furthermore, the altar in front of him is bedecked with textiles. A purple patterned cloth surrounds the entire platform, and the green striped cloth that lies across the top of the altar resembles Bernward’s vestments, thus symbolically elevating him into the realm of the holy, just like the figures for whom he presents his book. Another visual parallel can be made that the liturgical implements on the altar serve as an analogy for Christ sitting on the Virgin’s lap.

Like the artists from Corvey, the person who painted the pages of this codex must be credited with creativity and ingenuity for the great variety of designs behind the iconographic elements of each miniature. The artist painted with a wide variety of colors, most of which provide bold contrasts between the backgrounds and the figures. Vertical and horizontal stripes, grids, floral patterns, chevrons, geometric shapes, lozenges and vine scroll adorn the backgrounds of the miniatures with figural representations as well as those with decorated text. The artist created visually complex images by juxtaposing different patterns throughout the manuscript. Some of these designs appear to be inspired by textiles, especially the depictions of curtains, altar cloths and table cloths.

The facade of the Abbey of Echternach / Photo by Raimond Spekking, Wikimedia Commons

The third and last place where textile-inspired manuscripts were produced was the monastery of Echternach. It made great contributions to the art of luxury manuscript production at two distinct points in its long history. The first works appeared shortly after St. Willibrord established the foundation at the end of the seventh century while the second wave of illustrated books, some of which were written in gold, occurred in the eleventh century.[29] Because of the two distinctive periods of production and the political context under which they were made discussion of manuscripts deserves a separate place. Books from both eras contain painted pages without figural representations or decorated text, a rare occurrence in the history of European manuscript production. For these books, especially those dating to the eleventh century, the fully ornamented pages communicated important ideas concerning the past and present in an age of monastic and ecclesiastical reform in which monasteries witnessed increased imperial involvement.

The motivation behind these extraordinary works is a combination of four factors. Because Echternach had an extensive library, artists of the eleventh century were able to examine codices made during the eighth century, at least one of which included an ornament page analogous to the great insular manuscripts such as the Book of DurrowLindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells. Furthermore, the monasteries of Trier and Echternach produced important manuscripts as a result of imperially supported reforms that originated at the monastery of Gorze and later at St. Maximin in Trier. In addition, imperial and episcopal support of the reforms required changes in liturgical practices that increased the demand for luxury books as the pageantry of the rituals in churches became more elaborate. In the reformers’ efforts to return to the asceticism practiced in the past, and to align the monastery with imperial ideology, an argument can be made that artists considered the ornament pages of the venerable eighth-century manuscripts to be signifiers of reform that they would incorporate into their eleventh-century works. The fourth factor involved the spectacle of liturgy. In the Ottonian and Salian periods, priests and bishops employed silken vestments, altar cloths and other luxurious trappings at unprecedented levels. Furthermore, all of the manuscripts from Echternach under consideration in this article were produced during the reign of Henry III, a zealous reformer and avid patron of art.

The best-known of all of the Salian works is the Codex Aureus of Echternach. A lavish facsimile edition was published in 1982 with an accompanying commentary.[30] In terms of careful layout, completeness and lavishness, this codex is the best of the Echternach manuscripts. Eight textile-inspired ornament pages in four groups of two serve as dividers between Gospels. Each of the four openings is unique in style, suggesting a range of inspiration. The remarkable feature of these four openings is that they also divide gatherings within the codex. For example, one side of the opening is the last verso of a gathering, and the other is the first recto of the next. Combined with twenty-three full-page miniatures, the canon tables, twelve pages of decorated text and four elaborately painted incipit pages, and text written in gold, it is no wonder that historians point to this manuscript as the archetype of Salian art.

The textile-inspired pages serve two symbolic purposes. They protect word of God, just as silk protected relics, and they boldly signal the beginning of each Gospel. The ornamented text pages augment the importance by providing continuity of the lavishness. The textile-inspired pages combine several motifs commonly seen in woven silk, and the variety reveals the artists’ creativity. The first set of pages, which separates the prefatory text from the Gospel of Matthew and divides the third and fourth quires, captures the medallion style in a bold shade of orange against an off-white ground. The second set between the Gospels of Matthew and Mark includes bands of small motifs such as birds, plants and vessels in a pastiche of textile weaving. The artist painted the third set of pages between the Gospels of Mark and Luke a deep crimson color in the form of a grid. He filled the squares with golden lions, a heraldic motif popular in woven silk.

Even though silk was not produced in Western Europe until the late eleventh century, by the middle of the tenth century a sufficient quantity of the costly fabrics had made it to the West from Byzantium and the Islamic world. Rulers and ecclesiastics alike valued its beauty and its luminescence, making it a highly desired commodity. In both the ecclesiastical and secular sectors, the trend in the tenth century to augment ceremonial with processions of luxury objects and silk vestment greatly enhanced visual splendor.

The westwork of Corvey Abbey / Photo by Aeggy, Wikimedia Commons

From the middle of the tenth century, most of the manuscripts decorated with textile-inspired ornament produced at Corvey were either commissioned by an emperor or made for a member of the imperial family. In some cases they were made as gifts to royal convents at Gandersheim and Quedlinburg. Artists from the monastery of Corvey were the first producers and may have had a tentative start by including patterned background in relatively few manuscripts. With the marriage of Otto II to Theophano in 972, textile-inspired ornament in manuscripts became associated with the imperial realm. Manuscripts made at Corvey incorporated patterned backgrounds in which textiles provided the inspiration for the design behind figures such as Evangelist portraits and introductory text pages. Taken as a group, the ornamented pages marked different sections of the manuscript. Taken individually, they evoked splendor associated with the sacred texts.

The decorative format of manuscripts made at Hildesheim was analogous to the codices made at Corvey, though the patronage and function of these works was different. Bishop Bernward had the majority of his luxury manuscripts made for himself and he did not present them as gifts to emperors or other religious foundations. Bernward’s choice to include textile-inspired ornament in his manuscripts likely reflected his own interest in lavishness and may have alluded to his aspirations to be involved in the imperial realm in some way. In the political realm, Bernward knew all of the Ottonian emperors and played a special role during Theophano’s regency over Otto III. He remained bishop of Hildesheim until his death in 1022, The artistic productions he commissioned during his long episcopate reflected the innovative trends in manuscript painting of the late tenth and early eleventh centuries.

The eleventh-century group of works from Echternach symbolized Henry III’s wealth and power as well as his interest in liturgy and monastic reforms. The textile-inspired pages derived from the eighth-century painted pages attests to the abbot’s, the bishop’s, and ultimately the emperor’s desire retain long-standing traditions of monasticism and enhance the spectacle of liturgy. By including these uniquely crafted pages, eleventh-century users of these books looked back with respect to the past, yet remained fully entrenched in the eleventh-century political and ecclesiastical context.

The production of the textile-inspired manuscripts ended abruptly with the death of Henry III in 1056. The reign of Henry III was the last time that a German emperor had almost complete control of the papacy in Rome. The production of these lavish works stopped in the years leading up to the Gregorian Reform and the Investiture Controversy, the power struggles between German rulers and the papacy that ultimately led to papal independence and increased power in the eleventh century. Manuscript production took new directions leaving the textile-inspired works to history.


  1. This essay comes from my dissertation, completed at the University of Delaware in 2004 entitled, “Silken Parchments: Design, Context, Patronage and Function of Textile-inspired Pages in Ottonian and Salian Manuscripts.” I presented a paper before its completion at the TSA’s 2002 Biennial Symposium, Silk Roads, Other Roads at Smith College, Northampton, MA. I am currently revising it for a book to be entitled, Ideology in Splendor: Textile-inspired Manuscript Painting in Ottonian and Salian Germany. Regrettably, I have been unable to obtain permission to reproduce images of the manuscript pages discussed in this article. Consequently, I am forced to refer the reader to websites where they can be viewed. The quality of the online images is very good.
  2. Anna Muthesius, “Silken Diplomacy,” in Byzantine Diplomacy: Papers from the Twenty-fourth Spring Symposium of Byzantines Studies, Cambridge, March 1990, eds. Jonathan Shepard and Simon Franklin (Aldershot: Variorum Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 1992), 237-248.
  3. The Greek text and English translation is published in J.B. Bury, The Imperial Administrative System in the 9th Century with a Revised Text of the Kletorologion of Philotheos, The British Academy Supplemental Papers I (London, 1911; repr. New York: Burt Franklin, 1972), 22.
  4. I.I. Reiske, Corpus Scriptorum Historicorum Byzantinorum, 2 vols. (Bonn, 1829-30) ; see also the incomplete translation by A. Vogt, Le Livre des Cérémonies, 4 vols. (Paris: Société d’Édition Les Belles Lettres 1935-1940).
  5. Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos. The Book of Ceremonies, translated by Ann Moffatt and Maxeme Tall (Canberra: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 2012); Book 1 Chapter 37, p. 187. Χρὴ εὶδέναι, πῶς ἀλλὰσσουσιν oἱ δεσπόται ἐν ταῖς ἑοταῖς χαὶ προελεύσεοι. Tᾓ ὑγίᾳ χαὶ μεγύλῂ χυρχῇ τοῦ πύογμ εζέργνται οί δεσπόται ἀπὸ τοῦ παλατίον μετὰ ὀξέων σχαραμγγίων χαί γρνσοπεοιχλείστων σμγίων, χαὶ ἐν τῶ χοιτῶν ιῆζ δύφνηξ άλλύσσονσι τὰ ϑωούχια, πεοιβάλλοται δὲ χαὶ τὰ τζιτζάχια, χαὶ γίυεται ὁ ὺσπαομὸξ ἑυ τῶ μεγάλω τριχλίω τῶν ιϑ ἀχχονυβίων, χαι μετὰ τὸν ἀσπυσμὸν ἐχβάλλουσι tὰ τζιτζάχια χαὶ περιβάλλονται τoὺς λώρους χαὶ στέμματα, εὶ χελεεύουσι, λευχὰ εἴτε ρούσια, χαὶ εὺ μὲν τῇ εὺωνύμῳ γειρὶ χρατοῦσι σχηπίονας γρυσοῦς ἑχ λίϑὼν χαὶ μαργάρων ἠμφιεσμένους, εὺ δὲ τῇ δεξιᾷ γειρὶ ρὴν ἀνεξιχαχίαν. τὰ δὲ τῆς προελύσεως ὲπιτελεῖται, χαϑὼς εὶρήχαμεν.
  6. Averil Cameron, “The Construction of Court Ritual: the Byzantine Book of Ceremonies,” in Rituals of Royalty: Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies, eds. David Cannadine and Simon Price (Cambridge, England: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987), 118-120.
  7. C.R. Dodwell, Pictorial Arts of the West: 800-1200 (New Haven, CT Yale Univ. Press, 1993), 3.
  8. Old High German Dictionary Online, s.v. “Sida,” (accessed July 25, 2012).
  9. The Lives of the Eighth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis), trans. Raymond Davis, Translated texts for Historians, vol. 13 (Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press, 1992); Davis, x.
  10. The Lives of the Ninth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis), trans. Raymond Davis, Translated texts for Historians, vol. 20 (Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press, 1995). See also Liber Pontificalis, Texte, introduction et commentaire, ed. L. Duchesne, 2 vols. 1886-1892, reissued by Cyrille Vogel, 1955-1957.
  11. Lives of the Eighth Century Popes, 144; this passage covers the years 772-774.
  12. Ibid., 181. This passage covers the years 794-795.
  13. Ruth Macrides, “Dynastic Marriages and Political Kinship” in Byzantine Diplomacy: Papers of the Twenty-fourth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, March 1990, (Aldershot, England and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate), 263-280. See also Adelbert Davids, “Marriage Negotiations between Byzantium and the Name of Theophano in Byzantium (eighth to eleventh centuries),” in The Empress Theophano: Byzantium and the West at the Turn of the First Millennium, ed. Adalbert Davids (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), 99-100.
  14. Constantine Porphyrogennetos, De Administrando Imperio, trans. Romily Jenkins, Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1967), 109-112.
  15. For a good quality image, see Click on the picture to enlarge it.
  16. Anthony Cutler and William North, “Word over Image: On the Making, Uses, and Destiny of the Marriage Charter of Otto II and Theophano,” in Interactions: Artistic Interchange between the Eastern and Western Worlds in the Medieval Period, ed. Colum Hourihane (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 167-187, especially 176-179.
  17. Anna Muthesius, Studies in Byzantine, Islamic, and Near Eastern Silk Weaving, (London: Pindar Press, 2008), 17-21.
  18. Cutler and North, 186.
  19. Eliza Garrison, “Silken Diplomacy? Copying, Creation, and Control in the Marriage Charter of Empress Theophanu” (lecture, University of Bristol, UK, April 12, 2016).
  20. The following manuscripts contain textile-inspired decoration: The Quedlinburg Gospels (NY: Pierpont Morgan Library, Ms. M 755), see, especially folios 65r and 100r; The The Helmstedt Gospels (Wolfenbüttel: Herzog August Bibliothek, Ms. 426 Helmst.), see
  21. John Bernhardt, Itinerant Kingship and Royal Monasteries in Early Medieval Germany c 936-1075 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993), 45-53.
  22. David Warner, “Thietmar of Merseburg on Rituals of Kingship,” Viator, vol. 26, no. 1 (1995), 55.
  23. Jennifer Kingsley’s recent monograph, The Bernward Gospels: Art, Memory, and the Episcopate in Medieval Germany (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 2014) is the most comprehensive and eloquent treatment of this manuscript. For a good quality reproduction of the dedication pages, see
  24. Hoc Evangelicv(m) devota m(en)te Libellvm virginitatis amor P(rae)stat Tibi s(an)c(t)a Maria praesvl Bernward(us) vix solo nomine dignvs ornatvs tanti vestitv pontificali. See Rainer Kahsnitz, “Inhalt und Aufbau der Handschrift,” in Das Kostbare Evangeliar des Heiligen Bernward, ed. Michael Brandt (Munich, Prestel Verlag, 1993), 27.
  25. Ave stella maris karismate lucida p(ro)lis ; Ave spiritui s(an)ct(o) templu(m) reseratu(m) ; Ave porta d(e)i post partu(m) clausa (per) aevam.
  26. Porta paradisi primeval(m) clavsa per aevam nvnc est per s(an)c(t)am cvnctis patefacta Maria(m). According to Cohen as in note 40 the juxtaposition of text (tituli) and image in this manuscript likely provided a model for the Uta Codex(Munich: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm.13601) , p. 156.
  27. Ursula Nilgen, “Maria Regina: Ein politischer Kultbildtypus?” Römisches Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte, 19 (1981), 1-33.
  28. Hebrews 10:19-20 New Revised Standard Version.
  29. Information on the early manuscripts can be found in Jonathan J.G. Alexander, Insular Manuscripts 6th to the 9th Century: A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles, v. 1 (London: H. Miller, 1978). Nuremberg: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, HS 15146.
  30. Rainer Kahsnitz and Elisabeth Rücker, Das goldene Evangelienbuch von Echternach: Codex Aureus Epternacensis, Hs 156142 aus dem germanischen Nationalmuseum Nürnberg (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 1982). A high-quality facsimile edition is now online. See The textile inspired pages are folios 17v-18r, 51v-52r and 75v-76r.

Originally published by Textile Society of America, republished for educational, non-commercial purposes.



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