Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A new visit to Kloster Wienhausen

Yesterday we went for our second visit to Kloster Wienhausen in Germany. This cloister - one of the six protestant female convents around the Luneburger Moor - hosts the famous Thomasteppich dating from the fourteeth century. During our first visit, five years ago, we saw the Thomastapestry for the first time and Anne and Katinka hatched the plan to embroider a (bit smaller(but still large) replica of this tapestry. Several blog posts have shown the progress of their work and now we wanted to show and compare the tapestries. We also had some questions on the tapestry which we hoped to solve as well. Like the previous time one of the konventualinnen - Frau Daenicke, who is also an expert on the tapestry stitchings - showed us around and answered our curiousity.

 
Our tapestries at the entrance of the cloister together with konventonalin Frau Daenicke.

The rows of the original tapestry were embroidered separately, just like Anne and Katinka are doing. However, the linen shrinks during the embroidery process, so both our rows likely end up having a slightly different width. Did this also happen with the original tapestry? This is quite possible. The end scene of the second row shows Thomas in prison. Next to the prison is a tree with a cut-off branch, but there are still some lines of blue and green next to it, which could indicate an extension of the row. On the other side of the same row, the space next to the throne is relatively large.

Another of our questions was how the rows were fixed to each other. This could probably be seen from the backside of the tapestry; however, as the tapestry nowadays is fixed in its showcase, this was not possible to see. There was however a part of another tapestry where the method of attachment could be seen. For this fragment, a 'hexenstich' was used, which is used for instance for seams and is a bit elastic. With this knowledge we again had turned our attention to the original Thomasteppich. What we then noticed was that the rows of text were neatly attached to the rows with the images. Likely the sewing together of both image-rows was hidden beneath the text row; and the added text row thus provided extra strength to the tapestry.

Some parts of the Thomastapestry have been cut off, most notably the top decorative row and part of the left decorative row that surrounds the tapestry. According to Frau Daenicke, there are still some fragments of the tapestry in the museum depot, e.g. a dragon that used to be part of the top row. The top row would thus have looked more or less similar to the bottom row.

Another thing we noticed was that the wool the nuns used to embroider the Thomasteppich was much thicker that the wool used by us. The spinned threads also looked more rough, having thicker dots of wool at places along the threads. Such unequal thickness of the thread have made embroidering more difficult for the nuns.

 
The 'old' and 'new' Thomastapestries together in the museumroom. 
From our tapestry 2 rows are almost ready (lying on the table).

After the meeting of the Thomas tapestries, we also received a small tour of this inspiring convent were we were shown some additional Thomasses, as well as some unique and interesting medieval furniture.

 'Unbelieving' St. Thomas on the ceiling of the nonnenchor of the chapel. The complete walls and ceilings of the chapel are covered with paintings dating from the 1325 (of course restored as can be seen by the bright colours). It is an impressive sight, showing the wealth of colour in medieval buildings.

'Unbelieving' St. Thomas putting his finger into the ressurected Christ. It is one of the images on the inside of the doors of the 'holy grave' reliquary shrine of Kloster Wienhausen. The shrine itself dates from the late thirteenth century. The inside shows 30 scenes of the Vitae Christi. The paintings on the shrine seem to be of a later date, more likely 15th century, according to the type of clothing the figures are wearing. The texts on the Thomas image are: D(omi)n(u)s meus et deus meus. [My Lord and my God] by Thomas. Mitte manum tuam et cognosce loca clauorum  [Take thy hand and know the place of the nails] by Christ. A complete description of the scenes and texts can be found on this site [in German].

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