Worcester Cathedral Embroideries

Fragment from the burial shroud of king John, removed from his tomb in Worcester Cathedral in 1797. Fragment from the burial shroud of king John, removed from his tomb in Worcester Cathedral in 1797. Image copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK).

Worchester Cathedral in England owns some medieval embroidery fragments, including a fragment from the burial shroud of King John (1166-1216), made of Chinese silk with a geometric design and decorated with gold thread embroidery in underside couching. It was removed from King John's tomb in the Cathedral in 1797. The embroidery depicts an animal (a leopard?). The outline of the animal is highlighted with chain stitch.

Two other collections are of particular notice. The first includes the so-called ‘Cantilupe fragments’. They are traditionally thought to have come from the tomb of Bishop Walter de Cantilupe (r. 1236-1266) and were discovered in 1861. The finds are now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum (acc. no. 1891,0713.1 and 1891,0713.5) and at Worcester Cathedral. The fragments include the remains of a pair of pontifical stockings and those of an apparel, probably from an alb. They were worked in opus anglicanum. The stockings and apparel were made of silk, embroidered with silver-gilt and coloured silk threads, worked in underside couchingsplit stitch and stem stitch. The embroidered motifs on the stockings include a series of ovals, ach containing a standing king with crown, sceptre and fur-lined coat. The apparel was ornamented with medallions containing a strident lion.

The second group is generally known as the ‘Blois fragments’ and are thought to be those of Bishop William of Blois (d. 1236). The latter were discovered in a tomb in the Lady Chapel of Worcester Cathedral, in September, 1870. 

The 'Blois fragments' may actually be older than the early thirteenth century, and may not have come from William of Blois's grave at all. They include a fragment of a maniple, and one of the stole


  • BROWNE, Clare, Glyn DAVIES, and M.A. MICHAEL (2016). English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum, exhibition catalogue, London, Victoria and Albert Museum. London, Catalogue no. 12 (pp. 128-129).
  • PERKINS, Maggie (n.d.). ‘A stole, maniple and four other embroideries in Worcester Cathedral Library’, Sixteenth Worcester Cathedral Symposium Report (March 2006), ed. Christopher Guy, pp. 3-11.
  • PUGH, Rosie (2015). 'A Medieval Swap Shop?: Medieval Embroidery Fragments in Worcester Cathedral Library,' Worcester Cathedral Library and Archive Blog. Click here for downloading.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 18 December 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 16:43