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


Museum Schnütgen, Die liturgischen Gewänder, 11. bis 19. Jahrhundert, Bestandskatalog von Gudrun Sporbeck, with patterns for vestments by Dorit Köhler, with a contribution by Annemarie Stauffer (chasuble of St. Anno), Cologne, 2001, text in German, 488 pages. Lavishly illustrated with more than 150 illustrations in colour, 147 designs of patterns for vestments
ISBN 3-932800-05-02 , Euro 50.-, SFr. 86.-

Many thanks for kindly correcting
the English of this review go to
Mrs. Frankie Kann
e-mail: fskann at

  The Schnütgen Museum in Cologne preserves one of the most important collections of ecclesiastical art. Among other items it comprises 3500 fabrics, embroideries, tapestry weaves and more than 300 liturgical textiles, among them 147 vestments. The basis was laid by the collection of Alexander Schnütgen (1843-1918). For the first time the author studies these 145 vestments in a scholarly way and her inventory becomes a most important handbook to experts all over the world.

Bedroom of Alexander Schnütgen,
Photo by E. Hermann, Köln 1910

In the introductory chapters, the author names some general problems in researching vestments:
Up to the present day art history only very rarely related art and literature. This kind of research is at its very beginning.

Another problem lies in the fact that, in private collections which later became museum collections, important basis material is mostly completely absent. Only very few of Schnütgen's letters give information about his purchases or about how he acquired the vestments. There are no handwritten notes about the origin of the collection or about its formation or losses.

The author has studied all the old museum catalogues. She devotes attention to the systems of compiling the inventory, evident from different handwritings.

  There is also an early photo documentation. In the years 1883-84, Schnütgen commissioned the photographer Anselm Schmitz to work on his collection. In April 1910, his pupil and successor Emil Herman received another commission.

detail of amict (humeral veil), beginning 14th c.,
Engelberg, Switzerland, Inv.Nr. P5

No further sources exist, so that the basis for information lies in the vestments themselves. All the vestments are presented individually. For the first time, the fronts of the vestments are also photographed.
The author precisely analyses the materials.


In an additional article, A. Stauffer analyses the fabric and the original pattern of the chasuble of St. Anno (1056-1075). Today the vestment shows a Gothic shape, but, as the fabric must have been woven in Byzantium around 1000 it was obviously altered in the Gothic period (second half of 15th century.)

An additional article by Dorith Köhler dealing with the alterations of vestments appears in the appendix to the publication. Obviousely most of the vestments Schnütgen collected are from the Middle Ages and have been altered, so that today they are not preserved in their original form.

The development of these patterns has been investigated here for the first time. Up to now, research has not examined the aspect of alteration of vestments. The research in this field demonstrates the reception of medieval art in the 19th century and how problems were viewed more than 100 years ago. Methods of conservation changed greatly especially during this period.

  The catalogue
Forming the main part of the publication (pp. 53 - 415) the catalogue section very precisely analyses 147 vestments. The vestments are described in chronological order, the fabrics being more important than the embroideries. Sometimes regional groups can be found.
For the first time, stole, maniple, chalice veils which belong to chasuables, copes, dalmatics have also been treated. In this way all the parts of vestments are now grouped together..

Printed white chasuble,
2nd half 15th entury., Inv.Nr. P2

Red velvet chasuble with
"Kölner Borten" around 1450, Inv.Nr. P181

  In additional chapters, Gudrun Sporbeck researches the embroideries on the Cologne vestments.
This study is devided into two periods: early development and later Renaissance embroideries, a study that can be found in the chapter on Cologne embroideries in the 17th century:

Red silk chasuble, fabric around 1600,
Gold and silver embroidery and applications on linen
Cologne, end 15th entury., Inv.Nr. P418

Some questions arose concerning the research work on the inventory. But it was possible to name some of them only briefly in the publication. More attention is given to the development of embroidery in the Rhineland:
Gudrun Sporbeck gives a survey of all the studies done on Cologne embroidery . Franz Bock was the first author to publish on the topic "Kölner Borte".
In her further study, G. Sporbeck deals with the development of tapestry weaves and embroideries in and around Cologne. In her own research, she concentrates on an important chasuble in the Schnütgen collection with applications from the late 15th century. This vestment very probably holds a key position in the development in the 17th century. The author analyses a group of quite similar chasubles in different collections and churches. This study gives a first idea of Renaissance embroidery in this region, the examples in question also showing the survival of embroidery in 17th century.

Chasuble, Ratingen, Sts Peter and Paul, 1621
Applications and
or nué (shaded gold) embroidery, Cologne

Chasuble, Rheinkassel St. Amandus,
Applications, Cologne, 1st quarter 17th century

  Other examples of vestments in the chronological order of the catalogue:  

Cope from "Grande Chartreuse",
England, beginning 16th and 18th century, Inv.Nr. P164

Purple velvet cope,
Italy, 16th century, Inv.Nr. P202


Cross from chasuble with women saints,
Germany, end 15th century, Inv.Nr. P871

Cope in white and red silk, chenille embroidery,
Southern Germany ?, end 17th century, Inv.Nr. P364


Blue silk chasuble with lace pattern,
France around 1720, Inv.Nr. P409

Chasuble from vestment donated by Empress Maria Theresia of Austria, with appliqué embroideries, Vienna 1773, Inv.Nr. P866a-


Yellow silk chasuble with gold embroideries,
France, 19th century, Inv.Nr. P869

Red silkchasuble with embroidery
Rhineland 1890-1900, Inv.Nr. P 874


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Last revised January 10, 2004
some corrections June 12, 2004

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