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

  Die Paramentikwerkstatt Glattburg, by: Anne Wanner, in: Benediktinerinnen-Abtei St. Gallenberg in Glattburg bei Oberbueren, St. Gallen 2004, p. 254-285, colour photos, in German, ISBN 3-906616-67-3

  Workshop on vestments at Glattburg, in the eastern part of Switzerland:
The convent of the Benedictine sisters was founded in 1754 in a small place in Switzerland called Libingen. In 1781 the sisters moved to the former castle Glattburg, also in the eastern part of Switzerland. From the beginning the nuns embroidered vestments. Some precious chasubles from the 18th c. are still preserved. As the abbey was celebrating its 250th anniversary in the summer of 2004 a  history of the convent was published on the occasion.

The documents preserved at Glattburg and also in archives in St. Gallen clearly show, that the sisters already embroidered in an early time of development for many smaller and bigger churches in the surroundings. This became very important in Napoleonic times when the nuns had to prove that they were able to live by the work of their own hands. In this way the convent was able to continue to exist until the present day, whereas the Abbey of St.Gallen, which had close relations with the convent of the sisters, was sacked in the beginning of the 19th c.


Chalice veil, belonging to the vestment of Libingen,
around 1700, Abbey of Glattburg

Detail of Chasuble of Libingen,
around 1700, Abbey of Glattburg


Chasuble, 2nd half of 18th c.,
Abbey of Glattburg

Detail of Chasuble, 2nd half of 18th c.,
Abbey of Glattburg


Chasuble, mid 19th c., Abbey of Glattburg

Detail of Chasuble, mid 19th c.,
Abbey of Glattburg


Black Calice Veil, around 1846,
Abbey of Glattburg

Black Chasuble, around 1846,
Abbey of Glattburg

An almost identical Chauble is preserved at Bischofszell, Switzerland

  A second important period can be found at the time of World War I, which was also the time of machine embroidery. In St.Gallen the firm of Arnold Fraefel was producing and selling goods according to church requirements. This manufacture, founded in 1883, specialised in church vestments, which were hand embroidered and machine embroidered. Around 1915 it became impossible to commission embroideresses in Belgium and other European countries. Fraefel therefore started his teamwork with the sisters at Glattburg.
In the convent many documents of the past are still preserved. One can find quite a great number of designs for vestments, one of them with a clear copyright for Fraefel & Co., others with inscriptions of the church which ordered the vestment. During these years until about 1940, the sisters were delivering their work to Fraefel and he was selling the produced vestments all over the world.
The commissions for the embroideresses from the surrounding neighbourhood were diminishing in this second period, but in several churches of eastern Switzerland  vestments made at Glattburg can still be found.

Marie Thoma (Sr. Benedicta) as young textile designer before she entered the convent, 1902


It is also known that sister Benedicta Thoma (1880-1946), the most important embroideress at Glattburg, learned to embroider in the Fraefel Manufactury in St. Gallen before she entered the convent. A chasuble, a cope, and veils are preserved together with the designs at Glattburg.

Around 1940 the embroidering activities at Glattburg came to an end. The Catholic Church no longer needed the precious vestments and on the other hand Fraefel & Co. in St.Gallen diminished its production. Although not in use any longer, the sisters at Glattburg still preserve about 30 vestments in boxes and cupboards of the former workshop. Written documents are to be found in the cloister's archives.


Center of Humeral, around 1920
Abbey of Glattburg
embroidered by Sr. Benedicta Thoma,
designed by Fraefel & Cie.

Chasuble around 1920, Abbey of Glattburg
embroidered by Sr. Benedicta Thoma,
designed by Fraefel & Cie.


Detail of Cope, around 1920, Abbey of Glattburg
embroidered by Sr. Benedicta Thoma,
designed by Fraefel & Cie.

Page of catalogue from manufacture of Fraefel & Cie.,
with product number 1998.
This picture is very similar to the Cope of Glattburg


Black chasuble, made around 1920 in Glattburg,
with machine embroidered elements (handmachine).

Pattern of this kind could be ordered.
Its number 2715 is listed in the catalogue
of the Fraefel manufacture.
For this chasuble a former wedding gown
of the mother of one of the sisters was used

Detail from chasuble with Madonna
made around 1900 in Glattburg.

Embroidered with chainstitch by chainstitch machine.
This kind of embroidery machine was also used
to repair old vestments


home  content Last revised January 29, 2005

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