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A mitra with animal symbolism from the Halberstadt cathedral treasure
The bishop’s headdress from the Halberstadt cathedral treasure embroidered on the most sumptuous of pearls impressively demonstrates the magnificence of the medieval church service as well as the great craftsmanship of contemporary textile art. The Mitra is almost completely preserved except for two formerly hanging on the back, wide bands and looks amazingly fresh in the color of the jewelry elements. In addition to gilded jewelery sheets and colored stones in golden versions, the variety of small pearls made of red coral, colorful glass flows and gilded metal and combined with river pearls is particularly impressive.
For a long time it was thought that these pearls were imported. However, there is evidence that freshwater pearl mussels were more abundant in native waters before being almost completely eradicated by depletion in the 18th century. Therefore, for the Lower Saxony beadwork – to which the Mitra belongs – pearls from the provenances of the Lüneburg Heath may well have been used.
The background for the beadwork, which is embroidered on pattern-precise parchment, is a thin gold foil. The two decorative bands, called Circulus and Titulus, are particularly broad and elaborate on this Miter . Horizontally, the Mitra move around many entwined tendrils with vine leaves, into which two quadruple-shaped medallions are integrated on the front and back. In miniature they depict representations of medieval animal symbolism, which was recorded in the compendium of the Physiologus, which has been immensely popular since early Christian times: On the detail illustration of the obverse, an eagle flies out of its nest with a young bird in its capture.
In the interpretation of salvation history, the eagle Christ immediately approaches the sun, the symbol of God, to whom he feeds a human child. In the neighboring medallion, the pelican, animating and nurturing the young with his blood, is shown. On the opposite side, the Phoenix rises from its ashes with its wings spread wide , and a lion bends over its still-born, unbroken boy to bring it to life with his breath . All four motifs are allegories of the resurrection of Christ and symbolize the Christian hope of the resurrection of the dead. This central content of faith finds a visible expression in a special way in the celebration of Easter, for which occasion the precious miter was probably determined.
Text: Dorothee Honekamp-Könemann
Internet: Dorothee Menke
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