Clothing the Sacred

Workshop on Liturgical Textiles in the Middle Ages

ERC-Project „TEXTILE. An Iconology of the Textile in Art and Architecture“, Institute of Art History, University of Zurich


5 May 2011


HIM – Pavillon (so-called “Provisorium”), entrance from Obere Schienhutgasse, 8001 Zurich


At their most basic level, liturgical vestments serve to differentiate the clergy from the laity in the celebration of the liturgy. They further draw distinctions among the orders of clergy, visually clarifying the roles of subdeacons, deacons, priests, and bishops. From the earliest period of their development, however, the vestments of the clergy have attracted symbolic weight. Not only are they sacred objects in their own right, being consecrated to a holy use, but they point beyond themselves to historical parallels—to the life of Christ or to the temple priesthood of the Old Testament—or to anagogical symbolism of the heavenly graces. The papers presented in this conference will explore the symbolic meaning of liturgical vestments both in the “vertical” dimension of their theological interpretation, and in the “horizontal” dimension of their historical context. They will ask, for instance, how vestments’ visual elaboration and often conspicuous luxury amplified or competed with their claims to holiness. How did the decoration of vestments correspond (or not) with their received symbolic meaning? In the horizontal perspective, these papers will reach beyond the textile objects themselves in order to investigate their interactions with their contexts, both the physical topography of the church building and its decoration, and the wider religious and political backgrounds.


Session I:

Chair: Mateusz Kapustka (Zurich)


Welcome and Introduction


    Edification with thread and needle. On uses and functions of architectonic elements on medieval liturgical vestments and their representations in contemporary paintings of the Mass of St. Gregory (13th-16th c.)

Respondent: Tristan Weddigen (Zurich)

Coffee break


  • WARREN T. WOODFIN (Zurich)
    Disjuncture between text and image: Vesting prayers and embroidered iconography in Byzantine liturgical vestments

Respondent: Barbara Schellewald (Basel)


  • CAROLINE VOGT (Riggisberg)
    De sacris vestibus. Überlegungen zu bestickten bischöflichen Gewandinsignien des Hohen Mittelalters

Respondent: Beate Fricke (Berkeley)

13.15-14.30 - Lunch Break -

Session II:

Chair: Warren T. Woodfin (Zurich)


    Sakrale Bilder in Bewegung – Die Darstellungen von Heiligen auf dem Ornat des Ordens vom Goldenen Vlies

Respondent: Birgitt-Borkopp Restle (Bern)


    Die Auferstehung in einem Zelt. Mittelalterliche ephemere Heilige Gräber für die Osterliturgie

Respondent: Barbara Eggert (Berlin)

Coffee break


    Veiling the invisible corpus: image experience and liturgical simulations

Respondent: Xenia Stolzenburg (Marburg)

Concluding remarks



Mateusz Kapustka (

Warren T. Woodfin ( )