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Chemise de Sainte Balthilde

The Chemise of St Balthild, mid-first millennium. The Chemise of St Balthild, mid-first millennium.

The so-called 'Chemise of St Balthild' is preserved at the Musée Alfred Bonno, Chelles (Seine et Marne, near Paris), in France. It dates to the mid-first millennium AD and is attributed to an Anglo-Saxon slave girl who became the wife of the Frankish king, Clovis II. Balthild of Ascania died c. 680 in a convent that she had founded at Chelles (the later Abbaye de Notre Dames des Chelles).

Whether the shirt was actually worn or owned by Balthild remains unknown, but it does date from the seventh century. The chemise, which is also described as a chasuble or a tunic, or a funeral garment, was made of linen and embroidered with silk thread in four colours. The motifs represent expensive jewellery and strongly recall Byzantine garments and objects. More particularly, the embroidery imitates a necklace with pendants, reflecting Byzantine fashion. 

St Balthild is also known as Bathilda, Baudour or Bauthieult. Her hagiography, the Vita S. Bathildis, helped to have her canonised by Pope Nicholas I some two hundred years after her death. She was buried in the abbey that she had founded; in the early ninth century her remains were transferred to a new church upon the instigation of Louis the Pious.

A golden seal matrix with the name of Baldahildis, found near Norwich, England, in 1999.In 1999, a golden seal matrix was discovered close to Norwich, England. On one side there is a woman's face and the name of Baldahildis, in Frankish letters. If the name and seal refer to St Balthild, the question remains how the matrix ended up in Norfolk.

A golden seal matrix with the name of Baldahildis, found near Norwich, England, in 1999. See Norfolk Museums Service online catalogue (retrieved 28 October 2016)

Source: VIERCK, Hayo (1978). 'La "chemise de Sainte-Bathilde" à Chelles et l'influence byzantine sur l'art de cour mérovingien au VIIe siècle', in: Actes du Colloque International d'Archéologie.

Digital origin of illustration (retrieved 27 October 2016).

WV

Last modified on Sunday, 20 November 2016 09:00