Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Tablet-woven Braids from the Vestments of St. Cuthbert at Durham

  • Grace M. Crowfoot

The braids which form the subject of this study were found with a stole and maniple on the body of St. Cuthbert when the tomb was opened in 1827. The vestments are embroidered in coloured silks and gold thread: the stole with figures of prophets, and the maniple with those of saints. Both have an inscription embroidered on the ends, with the names of the donor, Ælflæda, and the ‘pious Bishop Fridestan’ for whom they were worked. Fridestan became the Bishop of Winchester in A.D. 905 and Ælflæda, second wife of Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, died in A.D. 916, so that the gift must have been made between these dates. It is further probable that this stole and maniple are identical with those recorded as having been presented to the shrine of St. Cuthbert (then at Chester-le-Street) by King Athelstan, stepson of Queen Ælflæda, in A.D. 934. Fridestan had died in 931, and this circumstance, together with the close connexion of the king's family with Winchester, supports the story.

Hide All

page 57 note 1 A second maniple was also found in the tomb, not on the body. It is embroidered with silk and gold thread in an elaborate acanthus scroll design.

page 57 note 2 Brown, G. Baldwin and Mrs. Archibald Christie, ‘St. Cuthbert's Stole and Maniple at Durham’, The Burlington Magazine, April 1913, p. 10, ‘On each side of the strip which forms the vestment is a border made of a separate fabric’; p. 4, ‘The braid which binds the edges is woven.’

page 57 note 3 Christie, A. G., English Medieval Embroidery, 1938, p. 49: ‘The edging braid was specially woven for its purpose; the materials employed, red silk and gold thread, are the same as those used in the embroidery. The pattern displayed upon it is a red silk figuring, difficult to make out, recurring at spaced intervals upon a chequered red silk and gold ground; lines of red silk run along the edges of the braid, and attached to its outer side is a neat, brown silk cord. On the underside of the vestments, narrower band of similar braid covers the margins of the silk lining.’

page 58 note 1 H. C. Broholm og Margarethe Hald, To Sprangede Textil arbejder. I Danske Oldfund.

page 59 note 1 Dedekam, Hans, To tekstilfund fra folkevandringstiden, Bergens Museums Aarbok, 1924–5, pl. 1, figs. 1–7, pp. 6–11.

page 59 note 2 G. Baldwin Brown, op. cit., p. 5.

page 72 note 1 See, for example, Lehmann Filhes, Ueber Brettchen-Weberei, figs. 14, 22, p. 11; Crowfoot, ‘A tablet-woven band of the Coptic period’, Ancient Egypt, Dec. 1924, pl. 4.

page 72 note 2 Tablet-woven bands of the same period from Akhmim are exhibited in the Musée Guimet, Paris.

page 72 note 3 Van Gennep and Jequier in Le Tissage aux cartons et son utilisation decorative dans l'Égypte ancienne argue that the craft was in use earlier because the 19th dynasty paintings of textiles show the chevron patterns which are so typical of tablet-weave, but so far no material has come from excavations to support this.

The Girdle of Rameses in the Liverpool Museum has been taken by some writers to be tablet-woven. It must be remembered that this piece is in double weave, lacking the characteristic twists of normal tablet-weave, and cannot therefore be taken as a proof of the existence of that weave. Replicas of the girdle have been made in different types of double weave, see Johl, Alt-aegyptische Webestühle, p. 61 (on 6-hole tablets); Kraus, , ‘Der sogenannte Ramsesgürtel ein Meisterwerk uralter Brettchen-weberei’, Deutsche Frauenkultur, part 6, 1931 (6-hole tablets); Crowfoot and Ling Roth, Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology, x, nos. 1 and 2, pp. 7–20 (on a primitive loom), but the question of the weave is not completely settled yet.

page 73 note 1 Broholm and Hald, Danske Bronzealders Dragter, Résumé, p. 347, fig. 30, 1. The Bronze Age textiles show twined borders as a beginning to the web. These borders can be made in a finger-weave, and no doubt were so made at first, but the authors point out that in the Iron Age textiles a border for the same purpose is made in a four-hole tablet-weave, and that therefore it is probable that two-hole tablets (which must have preceded the four-hole kind) had already been discovered and used for the twined borders in the Bronze Age.

page 73 note 2 Bjorn Hougen, Snartemofunnene, p. 62.

page 73 note 3 Four-hole diagonal weaves: Three examples from Evebo, see Hans Dedekam, op. cit., Evebo 3a, pl. 1 and figs. 1–7, of which fig. 7 was used for the St. Cuthbert Braid 1; 3 b 1, figs. 2 and 3,; 3 b 2 described on p. 6. One example from Snartemo, 282 a, pl. vi, vii a, fig. 20; one from Thorsbjerg find, fig. 23. One also came from Setrang: see Bjorn Hougen, Snartemofunnene, pl. x, 6.

Two-hole diagonal-weaves: One example from Snartemo 282 b, Hans Dedekam, op. cit., pl. vii b, one from Vestrum, see Bjorn Hougen, op. cit., pl. xi, 1; one from Daetgen, see Stettiner, Brettchenwebereien in den Moorfunden, and a further description in Hans Dedekam, op. cit., p. 45.

page 74 note 1 Brøgger, Falk, Shetelig, Oseberg-fundet, i, Kristiana, 1917, fig. 57, p. 75.

page 74 note 2 Margrethe Hald, Brikvaevning i danske Oldtidsfund, Aarbojer, 1930.

page 74 note 3 Shetelig, Falk and Gordon, Scandinavian Archaeology, p. 344.

page 74 note 4 Agnes Geijer, Birka III, Uppsala, 1938.

page 74 note 5 These pattern weaves are much destroyed, and Agnes Geijer herself questions whether they are diagonal.

page 76 note 1 T. D. Kendrick, ‘An Anglo-Saxon Cruet’, Ant. J. xviii (Oct. 1938), p. 378 and pl. lxxii, 1.

page 76 note 2 T. D. Kendrick, Anglo-Saxon Art, p. 76.

page 77 note 1 Boinet, A., La Miniature Carolingienne, pl. cxl; also Psautier de Folchard, pl. cxli; Psalurium Aureum, pl. cxlv (end 9th cent.), Première Bible de Charles le Chauve (mid-9th cent.), esp. pl. lii. B, top of page.

page 77 note 2 Boinet, op. cit., pl. lii.

page 77 note 3 Zimmermann, Vorkarolingische Miniaturen I; Südenglische Gruppe, esp. pls. ccxcvn, ccciii, ccciv, cccviii; Cutbercht Evangeliar.

page 78 note 1 Kendrick, op. cit., p. 218.

page 78 note 2 B.M. Cat. of Coins, vol. i, Anglo-Saxon Coins, 117, Anlaf (Olaf Quaran). Penny.

page 79 note 1 The coins shown in fig. 12 from casts kindly taken at the British Museum are as follows:

Top row: 1, 2, 3, see B.M.C. English, vol. ii, pl. viii, 7, 4, 9.

Second row: 1, see Rud., pl. 16. 7 and 16. 2, see B.M.C. English, vol. ii, pl. viii. 16. 3, see B.M.C. Anglo-Saxon, pl. xxix, 5.

Lower row: 1, see B.M.C. English, vol. ii, pl. viii, 15.

page 79 note 2 A. F. Kendrick, ‘English Ecclesiastical Embroidery’, Embroidery, vi, no. 2, March 1928, p. 29.

page 80 note 1 Victoria and Albert Museum, Catalogue of English Ecclesiastical Embroideries, p. 1. Some foreign medieval examples are illustrated by A. Geijer in Birka III, pl. xxiv, e.g. braids brocaded with gold from Sens (12th cent.), Visby, and Alvastra (13th cent.), and a fine example of a diagonal weave brocaded with gold from Vienna, Mus. f. Kunst u. Industrie, of uncertain date.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Antiquaries Journal
  • ISSN: 0003-5815
  • EISSN: 1758-5309
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquaries-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed