Thomas Becket Mitre

Mitre with representation of the Stoning of St. Stephen and the Murder of Thomas Becket. England, c. AD 1200. Mitre with representation of the Stoning of St. Stephen and the Murder of Thomas Becket. England, c. AD 1200. Copyright Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, acc. no. T 17.

The Bayerisches Nationalmuseum (Munich, Germany; acc. no. T 17) houses a mitre (17.3 cm high) from England, which dates to about AD 1200. It bears representations of the Stoning of St. Stephen (reverse) and of the Murder of Thomas Becket (obverse). It is made of white silk, probably from the Middle East or Byzantium.

The embroidery is carried out in silver-gilt thread and underside couching, as an early example of opus anglicanum.

Soon after his death on 29 December 1170, Thomas Becket was honoured in England as a martyr who had died for the freedom of the Church. Depictions of his martyrdom in gold embroidery, especially mitres elaborately embroidered in gold thread (opus anglicanum), acted to propagate the cult throughout the European continent.

This mitre originates from Kloster Selingenthal, near Langshut (Bavaria). It is said to have been donated by Duchess Ludmilla of Bavaria (c. 1170-1240), and it may thus show the early spread of Thomas Becket's cult across Europe. 

Bayerisches Nationalmuseum online catalogue (retrieved 8 November 2016).

WV

Last modified on Wednesday, 15 March 2017 11:28