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Die Kaisermäntel im Diözesanmuseum Bamberg

Dear Colleagues,
We are happy to announce that the new virtual exhibition on the Bamberg’s imperial robes is now online. Six gold-embroidered robes from the first quarter of the 11th century have been preserved in the Diocesan Museum of Bamberg. They are the main testimonies of Ottonian textile art and the oldest robes in the context of European rulers and commemorate the founders of the Bamberg diocese, Emperor Henry II (973-1024) and his wife Kunigunde (died 1033). A new virtual exhibition in the culture portal bavarikon with the title “Imperial robes in change – gold-embroidered staging of the past” (www.bavarikon.de/kaisergewaender) now takes a look at the precious imperial robes: so it is possible for everyone to view the Bamberg imperial robes in high-resolution images and detailed photos and get to know their 1000 year history of change.
In addition to the reference to the only canonized imperial couple, technology is the connecting element of the six Bamberg robes. All are adorned with gold embroidery using the lay-on technique. The gold threads consist of thin lamellas with over 90% gold, which are wrapped around a silk core and laid on the original carrier tissue (Byzantine weft-faced compound twill) with a thread density of between 30 and 70 threads per centimeter.
Despite all the preciousness of the material, it was the relic status to which we owe its preservation. Since the canonization of Henry II in 1146 and Kunigunde in 1200, the robes have been regarded as highly venerated relics. But this use made numerous repairs necessary, including a late medieval transmission campaign for gold embroidery. The robes underwent significant changes. But its restoration in the 1950s, which is considered to be the birth of modern textile restoration, also led to massive changes in the external appearance.
The fame of Bamberg’s imperial robes is based on religious studies on the Star Mantle of Henry II published early in the middle of the 18th century. Since then, however, the Star Mantle has overshadowed the other five robes to such an extent that these gold-embroidered robes are hardly perceived as a first-rate cultural asset outside of Bamberg.
The virtual exhibition, which was created in cooperation with the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, the Diocesan Museum in Bamberg, the Bavarian National Museum and the Bavarian Palace Administration, offers two different approaches: via the six individual robes and via the three times in which the greatest changes took place. It presents the history of change with a total of 56 individual objects (high-resolution (detailed) images and microscope images). In addition, 6 short lectures are included, each highlighting a special aspect of a garment. In addition, the blue cope of Kunigunde is made to sound in 13 audio files.
In this way, access to the digital collection of over 770 digital copies is made easier for users. This collection presented an annotated selection of recordings from the DFG project “Imperial vestments – gold embroidered staging of the past” (2015-2020). It gives an insight into the research project and guarantees long-term archiving and reusability of primary research data on bavarikon.
bavarikon (www.bavarikon.de) is the internet portal of the Free State of Bavaria for the presentation of art, culture and regional studies. bavarikon provides worldwide free access to Bavaria’s diverse cultural heritage and is aimed both at the broader public interested in culture and at scientific users. There are now more than 370,000 pieces of content from more than 110 cultural institutions online. bavarikon is a joint project of the Bavarian State Ministry of Science and the Arts and the Bavarian State Ministry for Digital Affairs. The Bavarian State Library is responsible for ongoing editorial, technical and organizational operations.
A scientific publication was published at 2020: Kohwagner-Nikolai, Tanja: Kaisergewänder im Wandel – Goldgestickte Vergangenheitsinszenierung. Rekonstruktion der tausendjährigen Veränderungsgeschichte. Regensburg 2020 (ISBN: 978-3-7954-3584-4)

We hope you enjoy your journey of discovery through Bamberg’s imperial robes.
Best Regards,
Tanja Kohwagner-Nikolai