Beaded container for the Holy Host
Second half of the 13th Century, Schnutgen Museum, Köln (Cologne) Germany
In german: Ziborium mit perlstickerei, Niedersachen, 2, Halfte 13 JH
Wooden core, embroidery with glass beads, freshwater pearls, and metal bead appliqué on parchment. H. 29.5 cm, Dia. 10 cm (Inv. N 42)
This precious and extremely rare vessel of extraordinary artistic quality was created to store the consecrated host for the Eucharist. The utilisation of different materials in this ciborium, originally from Hildesheim Cathedral, is particularly exceptional. Parchment is wrapped over the wooden core in the shape of a chalice, which is closed with a lid, and the object is entirely adorned with freshwater pearls and glass beads as well as metal appliqués. Various scenes from the history of salvation are depicted against a blue background: the Annunciation, the Crucifixion with Mary and John, and the Coronation of the Virgin by Christ can be seen in medallions on the body of the ciborium. Symbols of the four evangelists adorn the lower part of the chalice and white lilies its base. Scenes from the Passion are embroidered on the cone-shaped lid: the Flagellation and the Carrying of the Cross. A gilded cross crowns the entire vessel.
Kleinschmidt and later von Bock mentioned the ciborium in connection with a portable altar from the church treasury of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Münster, whose side walls are adorned with technically as well as stylistically similar pearl embroidery. According to von Bock, “the style and technique of the embroidery [demonstrate] the earliest phase of glass beads embroidery, which before the 13th century does not evidence figural representation filling the entire space”. She dated the ciborium and the portable altar to the second half of the 13th century (von Bock, p. 288). Witte referred to an antependium from the church treasury of Halberstadt Cathedral with several medallions embroidered with true pearls, dated to 1200, together with the ciborium from the Museum Schnütgen, as persuasive examples of “evidence for the very invention of pearl embroidery” (Witte, p. 1). Von Euw likewise dated the liturgical vessel to the second half of the 13th century and located it in Lower Saxony (Hildesheim?).
Sporbeck followed this attribution both chronologically and geographically (Sporbeck, p. 18). Confirmation of this attribution is supplied by a container for the host, which has a similar blue background and is from Lower Saxony, from the church treasury of Halberstadt Cathedral, dated by Schorta to the second half of the 13th century (Meller/ Mundt/Schmuhl 2008, pp. 136-137, no. 37).
In 2011-2012 extensively cleaned and conserved in the Abegg-Stiftung, Riggisberg (CH).
Documented in the church treasury of Hildesheim Cathedral from the early 15th century; likely arrived after 1833 as part of the collection of the Hildesheim bishop Eduard Jakob Wedekin (1796-1870; see Roth); acquired in 1876 by Alexander Schnütgen from the collection in Hildesheim.
Cat. Kunsthistorische Ausstellung 1876, 58, no. 364 (A. Schnütgen) – Kleinschmidt 1903,332
– Witte 19116 – von Bock 1963, 287-288
– Cat. Schatzkammer 1991, 143-144, no. 42 (L. von Wilckens) – von Euw 1993b, 40-41 – Sporbeck 1996, 18-19
– Depierraz 2012, 10-11
– Roth 2018, 45-46, 61.
Some Color Pictures from “Stadt im Wandel: Kunst und Kultur des Bürgetums in Norddeutchland 1150-1650”
Some pictures from: https://www.bildindex.de/document/obj05071467?medium=rba_c005536
Some photos are copyright courtesy the most gracious Racaire at www.racaire.com