Mantle of Roger II of Sicily

Mantle of Roger II of Sicily, bearing a date of AD 1133-1134 Mantle of Roger II of Sicily, bearing a date of AD 1133-1134 Copyright Kaiserliche Schatzkammer, Vienna, acc. no. WS XIII 14.

The Mantle of Roger II, the Norman king of Sicily (r. 1130-1154), is made of red silk and is embroidered with gold and silk thread as well as with applied semi-precious and glass jewels. It formed part of the imperial regalia of the Holy Roman Empire. The mantle dates from c. 1134. The garment was made in Palermo, Sicily, probably by Arab craftsmen.

The mantle is 345 x 146 cm in size and decorated with gold thread (passing) and blue, red and white floss silk, with applied jewels including garnets, glass, pearls, rubies, sapphires and cloisonné enamel. The lining of the mantle dates to the early sixteenth century and was completed before the coronation of Charles V.

The embroidery is worked in couched gold thread used in pairs in a brick work pattern, with details picked out in chain stitch using floss silk. The main pattern consists of a central palm tree flanked on either side by a lion attacking a camel. The lion was an emblem of the Norman kings of Sicily, while the camel represents the Arab world.

Along the lower edge of the mantle is a Kufic Arabic inscription (called tiraz), which reads in translation:

"This belongs to the articles worked in the royal workshop, (which has) flourished with fortune and honour, with industry and perfection, with might and merit, with (his) sanction and (his) prosperity, with magnanimity and majesty, with renown and beauty and the felicitous days and nights without cease or change, with honour and solicitude, with protection and defence, with success and certainty, with triumph and industry. In the (capital) city of Sicily in the year 528." The Islamic Hegira date corresponds to AD 1133/1134.

The mantle is often called the coronation mantle of Roger II, but it was actually made several years after this event. The mantle is also the inspiration for the one worn in the portrait of Emperor Charlemagne (died 814) by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). The Roger II mantle and other embroidered garments worn by various kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were taken from Nuremberg to Vienna in 1796 and are on display in the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer ('Imperial Treasury') in Vienna, Austria (between 1938 and 1946 the regalia were again, but temporarily housed in Nuremberg). The mantle has the accession number XIII.14.

The mantle may be compared to the very similar, but more ecclesiastical cope or pluvial.

See also TRC blog of 10 June 2016.

See also the TRC Needles entries on the Imperial glove of the Holy Roman empire and Sicilian embroidered tiraz.

Kaiserliche Schatzkammer online catalogue (retrieved 27 April 2017).


Last modified on Wednesday, 26 April 2017 12:35