Opus Teutonicum

An example of opus teutonicum from Lower Saxony. An example of opus teutonicum from Lower Saxony. Copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 38.19.32.

Opus teutonicum is a style of whitework embroidery popular during the medieval period in various parts of Europe that later became part of Germany, notably Lower Saxony, Hesse and Westphalia. It was also popular in parts of Switzerland and southern Scandinavia.

Opus teutonicum has been produced since at least the twelfth century AD. It was usually worked on a linen ground using a white linen thread, although sometimes white wool was used. There are two main forms of opus teutonicum, one is worked on a plain weave ground, the other on a net-like ground using a drawn thread technique. The first type sometimes used coloured wool or silk threads to highlight certain features. By the second half of the thirteenth century the use of coloured silks started to increase. This form of opus teutonicum uses a range of stitches, including chain stitch, gobelin stitch, long aand short stitch,satin stitch and stem stitch. This type is particularly associated with Kloster Lüne (northern Germany).

The second form was made using buttonhole stitch to outline a design. The interior of the design was left plain, but the areas outside of it were made into a net-like ground.

Earlier examples of opus teutonicum were usually decorated with Biblical and religious imagery. By the fourteenth century, however, there was an increase in the use of secular motifs, including non-religious human figures, as well as animals and birds, but also heraldic motifs.


  • BARNET, Peter (1995). 'Opus Teutonicum: A medieval Westphalian lectern cover,' Hali: Carpet, Textile and Islamic Art, 79, pp. 98-100.
  • CLABBURN, Pamela (1976). The Needleworker’s Dictionary, London: Macmillan London Ltd., p. 191.
  • SCHUETTE, Marie and Sigrid MÜLLER-CHRISTENSEN (1964). The Art of Embroidery, London: Thames and Hudson.
  • YOUNG, Bonnie (1970). 'Needlework by nuns: A Medieval religious embroidery,' The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, February, p. 263.

Metropolitan Museum of Art online catalogue (retrieved 6th July 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 14 May 2017 12:33