ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  book reviews, articles

  "kunstreich und stylgerecht"
Die Paramentenstickereien der Schwestern vom neuen Kinde Jesus aus Aachen und Simpelveld 1848-1914
by Petra Hesse, München 2001, in german,
362 pages, 228 bw and 54 coloured photographs
ISBN - 3-925801-28-6

Editio Maris, wissenschaftlicher Verlag und Satz
Inhaberin: Margareta Restle, Auflegerstr. 4
D-81735 München
Telefon: +49 89 49000274
Telefax: +49 89 49000276

detail from dalmatic, Speyer, Hohe Domkirche, 1870, (
Part of the book's english summary:

The sisters of the Poor Infant Jesus were pioneers for embroidery of ecclesiastical ornaments and vestments inspired by the Middle Ages in Germany. Stimulated by Andreas Fey, the brother of the Order's foundress, they established the first German workshop for church embroideries according to medieval models in Aachen in 1848. This workshop soon developed into an institution at a high level of technical and artistic supraregional importance. Since there was an important demand for correctly-styled ecclesiastical ornaments and vestments during the mid-19th century in the numerous churches that had been newly built or restored in the style of the Middle Ages, the Congregation of the Sisters also established embroidery workshops in their branches of Cologne, Landstuhl, Doebling near Vienna and Echternach. During the Kulturkampf (the struggle from 1872 to 1887 between Church and State under Bismarck), when the workshops of Aachen and Cologne had to be given up, embroidery workshops were also founded in Brussels, Nancy, Southam in England as well as in the newly built Mother House in Simpelveld in the Netherlands.


Brüderich, St.Petrus, cross of chasuble, 1873 ( 26)


design of Andreas Kleinertz (?)
archives of convent at Simpelveld

  Each workshop was the responsibility of a directress who was responsible for the planning of operations and for the training of the embroideresses. Wheras the gifted embroideresses performed the demanding embroidery of figures, less talented sisters or orphans, who were in the care of the Congregation's charitable institutions, were responsible for the easy tasks. A few exceptional embroideresses have come down to us in written sources.

The practical training of the embroideresses was effected according to medieval standards. All works being hand-made, the time expended for the production of ecclesiastical ornaments and vestments was relatively significant, which inevitably had consequences for prices. The high prices were also due to the valuable material, which was obtained only from the most renowned firms.

The main customer was the Catholic Church, whose position had strengthened again in the second half of the 19th century, especially in the Rhinelands. Orders came from parishes, religious orders, congregations and seminaries from all over Germany and from abroad. Important customers were also the Rhenish and Westphalian aristocracy and the bourgeoisie that became wealthy in the 19th century, as well as Catholic societies and brotherhoods that were founded in great number at that time. Contact with clients was established by way of personal relations or by means of the many exhibitions at which the Sisters were represented with selected ecclesiastical ornaments and vestments.

The embroidery of the Sisters of the Poor Infant Jesus is characterised by a wealth of iconography with almost exclusively religious content, which deliberately continues traditional themes and motifs. In accordance with the educational mission that sacred art aimed to fulfil in historicism, the iconographic programmes are carefully considered in theological respects, and they are related thematically to both the liturgical function of the ecclesiastical ornaments and vestments as well as to Marian piety and the veneration of saints and the Eucharist , which were revivied at that time.

Apart from the figurative representations, on most of the ecclesiastical ornaments and vestments, there are inscriptions that imitate - almost without exception - Gothic minuscule and majuscule characters, and that underline and specify the theological intention of the iconographic programmes.


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