Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Steeple Aston Cope

This is my Angel Embroidery ,which I embroidered , the design taken from the 14th century Steeple Aston Cope .

 I dont have a picture of the actual Steeple Aston Cope to show you ..but you can find out a bit more on other websites too ..... although having said that...I couldn't find as much as I would have liked .
  The Steeple Aston Cope , it is thought was made between 1310 and 1340 .
Beautifully embroidered , it was a  long semi-circular cape to be worn by bishop or priest maybe in procession or ceremony .. Holy Mass of a feast day of which there were many more observed back then than today .
 This precious treasure has been miraculously kept safe in the Church of St Peter and St Paul at Steeple Aston for seven hundred years !
 Seven hundred years of history . Wars , plagues , fire and floods , upheaval of the church and Cromwell's rampaging and plundering .....not to mention England's inclement weather.
 Threads of linen and fine silk dont last forever .... beetles , woodworm and mould .
  I have no idea when  , but at some point in time . someone thought " to make better use of it "  ....... and cut it up to make an Altar Frontal ..I,m sure it was very beautiful ...and must have been left on display on the Altar ....but the vicar became aware that it was in danger ..people were coming in and trying to snip pieces off of it ...and  so he arranged for it to be kept safely , on loan at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London .
 I believe that it is occasionally brought back to St Peter and St Paul's Church in the village of Steeple Aston to be put on display ...and quite rightly , they should be so proud !

So I first came across it  , a picture in a library book .
   It was a picture of only a small section of it ....an Angel on horseback , playing a lute .
 Well , I became enchanted with it  ..and thought that I would like to have a go at stitching it .

                  Look at the sweet expression on the horse's face !  I fell in love !
......and on a small scrap of upholstery fabric I drew it on with my pencil and with DMC cotton ,a few gold threads and beads .

 I began to work....and as I worked , I found myself meeting minds and thoughts of the medieval hands that originally drew and embroidered it .

 I looked forward to any odd minute that I could grab to sit and embroider it ...I didnt think I would do so much of it , or I would have used a larger piece of material .

I enjoyed making the tiny tassels on the horse bridle and across his chest I stitched a kind of braid, weaving it as I stitched .
 The halo around the Angel's head I stitched with gold threads .
The lute has playable strings !

In both embroidery and illumination , I love the medieval sense of humour !
   This kind of English Ecclesiastical embroidery is known as Opus Anglicanum .
The reason I haven,t finished it is I am uncomfortable about putting in in a frame. ... I dont think it would look right somehow . I dont think medieval textiles were ever made to be displayed the way we do today , hung in a frame covered with glass . Wall hangings were hung just as they were and church vestments , albs, copes and altar cloths were worn and then stored carefully away in oak coffers in the Sacristy of the church or cathedral .
 I ,m thinking of working it some more , out onto the green fabric and maybe make a devotional piece of some kind ... any ideas ?
 I hope you enjoy my needlework pictures and that you might now have a go at this . I wish you a beautiful Christmas !
                                Debbie x

1 comment:

  1. Ah, what a piece of lovely embroidery. In Medieval Times, banners and tapestries were used as decorations. If I had made such a beautiful item, it would hang close to where I sleep, as a depiction of the type of angel I would like to sing me to sleep, especially when I wake up in the middle of the night. It would from time to time have to be moved so that others could enjoy it...