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Eckenstein, Lina, d. 1931 / Woman under monasticism: chapters on saint-lore and convent life between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1500 (1896)

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[chapter vii]

  [p. 222]  

ART INDUSTRIES IN THE NUNNERY.

'Spernere mundurn, spernere nuihirn, spernere sese, Spernere sperni Se, quatuor haec bona sunt.' Herrad.

Art Industries generally.

FROM consideration of the nuns of different orders we turn to enquire more closely into the general occupations and productive capacities of nuns during early Christian times and the Middle Ages. It seems worth while collecting the information scattered here and there on the work done by these women, since the grouping together of various notices gives some, though necessarily an incomplete, idea of the pursuits to which nuns were devoted when not engaged in religious service. The work done, as we shall see, includes art productions of every kind, weaving, embroidery, painting and illuminating as well as writing, which during the period under consideration must be looked upon as an art.

From the first monastic life had been dominated by the idea that idleness is at the root of all evil. In a well ordered religious house the times for work and for leisure, for eating, sleeping and for attendance at divine service were fixed by custom and were enforced by routine; we shall treat later of the way in which the day was divided by the canonical hours. The purpose of the ordinary settlement, beyond observing the hours, was to educate girls, to train novices and to provide suitable occupation for the nuns of the convent. In all houses reading and copying books of devotion was included among the occupations, and in some, the cultivation of art in one or more of its branches. Between the 8th and the 14th century religious settlements were the centres of production in handicrafts and in art industry; to study the art of this period, it is necessary to study the productions of the monasteries.

  [p. 223]  

A sense of joint ownership united the members of each of the religious settlements, and this was especially true of the older Benedictine houses which have fitly been likened to small republics. To the convent inmate the monastery was the centre of his interests and affections, and the house's possessions were in a sense his own. He was proud of them and proud if he could add to their store. Increased communication with the south and the east brought books, materials and other beautiful objects which the inmates of the religious settlement zealously copied and multiplied. During times of political and social unrest, while states were in their making, the goldsmith, the scribe, the illuminator, and the embroiderer, all found protection and leisure in the religious house. The so-called dark ages, the centuries between 800 and 1200, cease to be dark as soon as one enquires into the contents of monastic libraries, and the monotony of convent routine ceases to appear monotonous on entering one of the old treasuries and reflecting on the aims and aspirations which were devoted to producing this wealth in design and ornamentation, the bare fragmentary remains of which are to us of to-day a source of unending delight and wonder.

Some of the houses ruled by women like so many of those ruled by men became important centres of culture, where the industrial arts were cultivated, and where books were prized, stored and multiplied. Nuns as well as monks were busy transcribing manuscripts, a task as absorbing as it was laborious, for the difficulties in the way of learning to write can hardly be overestimated considering the awkwardness of writing materials and the labour involved in fabricating parchment, ink and pigment. But as the old writer with a play on the words armarium, bookcase, and armatorium, armoury, remarks, 'a monastery without its book-case is what a castle is without its armoury. And all houses, whether for monks or nuns, took rank as centres of culture in proportion to their wealth in books.

Of the books over which the early scribe spent so much time and trouble, comparatively speaking only a few survive. All books are worn out by use, especially books of devotion; many were destroyed when printing came in and parchment was handy to the book-binder; many when the Reformation destroyed convents. The early scribe usually omitted to add his name to the book he was copying. In the books which are preserved the names of men scribes are few, and the names of women scribes fewer still, though they do occasionally occur. Wattenbach, a student of manuscripts   [p. 224]   and of the medieval art of writing, has collected a number of names of women whom he has found mentioned as scribes. He gives them, adding the remark that other books no doubt were written by nuns where mention of the fact is omitted.[1*]

It will be profitable to recall these names and examine the references to work done by nuns as calligraphists and miniature painters, for here and there women attained great proficiency in these arts. The amount of writing done in women's houses compared with that done by men was no doubt small, for it was not in this direction that the industry of the nun lay. But what remains shows that where scope to activity was given talents of no mean kind were developed.

In some departments of art industry, especially in weaving church hangings, and embroidering altar cloths and church vestments, nuns greatly distinguished themselves. In his comprehensive work on church furniture Bock is eloquent on the industry of nuns. He first praises their early proficiency in the art of weaving and passes on to the art of embroidery. 'This art also,' he says, 'was chiefly cultivated in religious houses by pious nuns up to the 12th century. The inmates of women's establishments were especially devoted to working decorations for the altar. Their peaceful seclusion was spent in prayer and in doing embroidery. What work could seem worthier and nobler than artistic work intended for the decoration of the altar? It is in the nunnery that the art of design as well as the technique of weaving were brought to their highest perfection.'[2*]

Owing to the perishable material of this work the amount which was done of course far exceeded what has been preserved. We often come across remarks on such work, rarely across remains of it, and we are obliged to take on trust the praise bestowed by early writers as so little exists by which we can judge for ourselves. But enough remains to bear out the praise which contemporaries bestow on the beauties of hangings and vestments manufactured by nuns, and to give us the highest opinion of their industry and their artistic skill.

Among women generally embroidery has always had votaries, and in the nunnery it found a new development. During early Christian ages nuns worked large hangings for decorating the basilica walls, and short hangings for the square altar; and when the Gothic style took the place of the earlier Byzantine in architecture,   [p. 225]   rendering such hangings superfluous, they devoted their energies to working church vestments and furniture.

The proficiency acquired by the girl in the convent was not lost if she returned to the world. We hear a good deal of badges and standards worked by ladies at baronial courts during the age of romance, and their work was no doubt influenced by what had been evolved in church decoration.

In studying the art industry of the convent, we needs must treat of work produced with the brush and the pen side by side with work produced with the needle. At two periods in history, the 8th and 13th centuries, England takes the lead in art industry, and at both periods there is reference to excellent work done by nuns.

A former chapter has mentioned how Eadburg, the friend of Boniface, was at work in her monastery in Thanet in the 8th century, transcribing scriptural writings on parchment in gold lettering, an art in which she excelled.[3*] Among the gifts sent to Boniface by lady abbesses in England vestments and altar-cloths are mentioned which had without a doubt been worked in the houses over which these ladies presided if not actually made by themselves.[4*]

The importance and the symbolical meaning which early Christians attached to death supplies the reason why the abbess of Repton in Mercia sent a winding-sheet to St Guthlac during his lifetime.[5*] Cuthberht of Lindisfarne was wrapped in a shroud which his friend Aelflaed, abbess of Whitby, had sent.[6*] Both were of linen, for early Christians, who were content to wear rough woollen clothes during their lifetime, thought it permissible to be buried in linen and silk. Thus we read that Aethelthrith the abbess of Ely sent to Cuthberht a present of silk stuffs which she decorated with gold and jewels and which were shown at his resting-place at Durham till the 12th century.[7*] The silk robe on which the body of Wilfrith (t 709) had been laid was sent as a present to an abbess Cynethrith.[8*]

About this time silk, which had been rarely seen north of the Alps, was frequently sent from the east and was greatly prized. It has been mentioned in a previous chapter how Radegund at Poitiers received a gift of silk from a relation in Constantinople,[9*] and   [p. 226]   among the charges brought by the turbulent Chrodield against the abbess Leubover was that she had appropriated part of an altar-cloth to make a robe for her niece. Caesarius of Aries in his rule for women forbade their working embroidery except for purposes of church decoration. Repeated complaints were made during the early ages in England against nuns for wearing embroidery and silks. The council of Cloveshoe of the year 747 censures the undue attention given to dress. 'Time shall be devoted more to reading books and to chanting psalms than to weaving and decorating (plectendis) clothes with various colours in unprofitable richness.'[10*] But to control the standard of clothes remained a standing difficulty in all convents, and especially in those of women.[11*]

Apart from personal decoration the arts of weaving and embroidering were encouraged in every way. 'Towards the 10th century the art of making large hangings had so far progressed in England,' says Bock, 'that large scenes with many figures were represented.'[12*]

Inside the cloister and out of it the art flourished, and the mention of gifts of hangings becomes frequent. Thus Ealdhelm in his 'Praise of Virginity' (c. 7) speaks of hangings made by the nuns, while reference is made to secular women at the time of the Conquest who did remarkable work. Among them were Aiwid and Liwid who practised the air of embroidery and taught it.[13*] Emma, otherwise Aelfgifu (†1052), after her marriage to King Knut, made a gift of hangings and vestments to the abbey of Ely, some of which were embroidered with gold and jewels on silk, others of green and purple colour were of such splendour that their like could not be found elsewhere in England.[14*] Again, Aelflaed, the wife of Edward the Confessor (†1066), made hangings with pictures of the apostles for Frithstan of Winchester.

'We know,' says Michel in his work on silk and the use of it in embroidery,[15*] 'that the women of England, long before the Conquest, worked assiduously at weaving and embroidering, and that they were as distinguished in this branch of art as men were in others.' Unfortunately no specimens of the work done in religious settle   [p. 227]   ments during this early period have been preserved, so far as I am aware. We do not know what artist designed and executed the famous Bayeux tapestry which is worked in woollen cross-stitch on a strip of linen; but it was certainly not the work of nuns.

The references to weaving and embroidering during the later period are fewer, but a certain amount of the work done in England has been preserved, though the clue as to where and by whom it was done is generally wanting. While weaving and embroidery were throughout important branches of home industry, art-needlework seems to have owed its higher development to nuns.

In connection with the prioress Christina of Mergate we hear that she had worked three mitres and several pairs of sandals in wonderful work (opens mirifici) as a present for Pope Hadrian IV († 159), who was of English origin, and perhaps known to her. Her work was carried to Rome by the abbot of St Albans, who had affronted Hadrian in early days and wished to propitiate him; we hear that the Pope was so delighted with the work that he could not refuse the present.[16*]

England was, indeed, at this time famous for its embroidery, and her products were much admired abroad. In the words of Prof. Middleton:

'Another minor branch of art, in which England during the 13th century far surpassed the rest of the world, was the art of embroidering delicate pictures in silk, especially for ecclesiastical vestments. The most famous embroidered vestments now preserved in various places in Italy are the handiwork of English embroiderers between 1250 and 1300, though their authorship is not as a rule recognized by their present possessors. The embroidered miniatures on these marvellous pieces of needlework resemble closely in style the illuminations in fine Anglo-Norman manuscripts of the 13th century and in many cases have obviously been copied from manuscript miniatures.'[17*]

A conclusion to be possibly drawn from this is that some of the early work which has come back to this country from Italy may in reality be English. There is no doubt it is curiously like the work done in England.[18*] In a footnote to the above passage Prof. Middleton points out that the Popes of the period, on sending the   [p. 228]   pall to a newly elected English archbishop, suggested that they would like in return embroidered vestments of English work, 'opus anglicum,' a term at one time applied to work done in a special style.[19*] Its peculiarity seems to have consisted in the working of figures in coloured floss silk on a piece of material, generally linen; on this the silk was worked in close-lying chain stitches, which, following the contours of face and drapery, entirely covered the material just as the strokes of a brush in a miniature cover the parchment. The background to these figures was also covered with coloured floss silk, but this was not worked in chain stitch but in various styles of straight close-lying stitches in diaper pattern. Prof. Middleton, in the passage quoted above, says that the embroiderer copied the miniature painter; in composing scenes and arranging figures this would of course be the case. But considering the styles of some of the backgrounds, it seems possible that in his turn the miniature painter borrowed from the embroiderer, by taking the idea of filling up the background to his figures with lines and diagonal patterns, which lines and patterns had been suggested to the embroiderer by the texture of the stuff he was covering. Gold and silver threads were liberally used in the 'opus anglicum',[20*] and even jewels may have been introduced.[21*] The general effect was that of a shining, glossy picture, and the care and industry needed to produce it exceeded even that required in miniatures.

The English monk Matthew Paris († 1259) describes an incident illustrating at once the excellence of the embroidery done in England and the rapacity of Pope Innocent lV. The Pope he tells us was struck by the splendour of the embroidery worn by the English clergy who came to Rome in the year 1246, and asked where it was made. 'In England,' he was told. He replied, 'England is really a storehouse of delight; truly it is an inexhaustible fountain, and where there is so much, much can be taken.' And he sent letters to the abbots of the Cistercian houses in England, ordering them to forward to him gold embroidery of   [p. 229]   this kind, 'as though they could get it for nothing.' Curiously enough it was supplied to them by London merchants.[22*]

A certain number of pieces of early English embroidery now form part of the collection of art-needlework on view at South Kensington. Among them is a cope, nine feet seven by four feet eight; it is considered a splendid example of the 'opus anglicum,' and as is suggested 'may have been worked by the nuns of some convent which stood in or near Coventry.[23*] ' There was no nunnery in Coventry in the Middle Ages, the nearest nunnery of importance would be the one at Wroxhall. 'This handsome cope,' says Dr Rock, 'so very remarkable on account of its comparative perfect preservation, is one of the most beautiful among the several liturgic vestments of the olden period anywhere to be now found in Christendom.'[24*] It is made of linen entirely covered with embroidery in floss silk. The space is divided up into barbed interlacing quatrefoils, of which in the present state of the cope there are fifteen. These enclose pictures representing Michael overcoming Satan, the Crucifixion, the risen Christ, Christ crowned as King, Christ in the garden, the death of the Virgin, her burial, and single figures of the apostles which are placed in the quatrefoils along the lower edge of the cope. Among them are St Philip, St Bartholomew, St Peter and St Andrew. Other pictures of the apostles are wanting, for the lower edge in some places is cut away. The faces, hands and coloured draperies of these figures are worked in coloured floss silk in the way described above, and the background of all the quatrefoils is in diaper pattern, worked in short straight stitches in a dark green colour. The spaces between the quatrefoils were filled with crimson silk which has faded to a rich brown, and in each of these spaces stands a winged angel, those nearest Christ standing on a wheel. Their faces and draperies are worked in similar style to those of the other figures, and the dividing bands which mark off the quatrefoils are worked in a variety of stitches; sometimes loose threads are laid on and sewn over, sometimes gold thread is worked in. In spite of many colours having faded the effect of the work is splendid; no textile fabric of any period exceeds it in evenness and finish, to say nothing of beauty of design.

  [p. 230]  

The edge of the cope in one place is mended by cutting and sewing together. A band of embroidery which represents a succession of armorial bearings worked in small cross-stitch is carried right round it. This band is considered to be fifty years later in date than the cope, and is somewhat different in style. Its addition suggests that some accident happened to the cope, perhaps by fire, and that a piece had to be cut away and a new finish given to the edge.

At the time of the dissolution this cope was in the possession of the nuns of Sion, a house founded under peculiar circumstances as late as the 15th century. Its inmates left England in a body and carried the cope away with them in their wanderings. They finally settled at Lisbon, where the house continued to be recruited by English women. At the beginning of this century they returned to England, and the cope was acquired by the Museum authorities.

In looking at this piece of work it is distressing to think of the way in which the property of monasteries in England was appropriated, scattered, and destroyed at the dissolution. In no European country was the heirloom of medieval art so uniformly effaced and defaced. The old inventories give some idea of the art treasures that had accumulated in monasteries in the course of centuries, but very few fragments were saved from the rapacity of Henry VIII and his agents.

From England we pass to Germany to consider the remains of decorative work done by nuns in various departments of art between the 8th and the 14th centuries. Influence from two sides gave a new direction to art-industry; on one side was the influence of Roman art due to contact with France; on the other the influence of Byzantine art due to intercourse with the East.

A high standard of work was soon attained in France; and at Bourges, early in the 7th century, we hear of the abbess Eustadiola making many gifts to her settlement, vases of gold and silver ornamented with jewels, crosses, candelabra and chalices. 'Also she made holy vestments,' says her biographer,[25*] and decked the altar with costly hangings which with her own hands and through the help of her women she embellished with embroidery and with gold fringes; besides the hangings with which she decorated the walls.'

This active interest spread from France into the convents of the Low Countries during the 8th century, in one of which the sisters Harlind and Reinhild did excellent work, which is highly   [p. 231]   praised. They were contemporaries of Boniface and Willibrord, who visited and consecrated them in their settlement at Maaseyck.

There is extant an account, written between 850 and 880, of the education they received and the work to which they were devoted. We learn from this account that Harlind and Reinhild showed a serious disposition at a youthful age, and that their parents were persuaded to send them to the religious house for women at Valenciennes on the river Schelde, where, in the words of the 9th century writer, 'they were instructed in reading, in chanting (modulatione), in singing the psalms and also in what now-a-days is deemed wonderful, in writing and in painting (scribendo atque pingendo), a task laborious even to men. Likewise they were carefully trained in every department of work such as is done by women's hands, in various designs, in different styles; so that they attained a high standard of excellence in spinning, weaving, designing, sewing, and embroidering with gold and jewels on silk.'[26*]

When their education was finished the girls returned to their parents, but they found no scope for their energies at home and decided to devote themselves to religion. Their parents agreed to found a settlement for them at Maaseyck, where at first they had twelve women with them. But many noble as well as freeborn girls placed a black veil on their heads, as the biographer says, and came to them hoping to be taken into the settlement.

We hardly need to be told that these gifted sisters abhorred idleness and were devoted to work. Their energies were given to weaving, embroidering and writing. Among other things they had woven with their own hands short curtains, intended no doubt for the altar, which were splendidly embroidered with a variety of designs.[27*] These, in the words of their biographer, 'the holy women embroidered with God and his saints ornate with gold and jewels, and left them behind them in their house. The four gospels, which contain the words and actions of Jesus Christ our Lord, they transcribed with commendable zeal. Likewise a book of psalms, such as we call a psalter, they worked (stylo texuerunt), as well as many other holy writings, which to this day remain in that same place, and are resplendent in new and shining gold, and glowing   [p. 232]   with jewels, so that the work might almost have been done to-day.'

Thus writes the 9th century chronicler. It seems from a remark made by Stadler that some of the vestments they made were sent as a present to Boniface, and samples of their work, it is not stated of what kind, are preserved to this day in the little church of Maaseyck.[28*]

A previous chapter has dealt with the rapid development of women's houses in Saxony in the 10th and 11th centuries. References to the encouragement of art in these convents are numerous; they became storehouses of wealth, partly through gifts bestowed on them by their abbesses and partly owing to the industry of the nuns. The marriage of Otto II with a Greek princess brought Greek decorative work into fashion, and workmen came from Greece into Germany, where they were patronised by bishops and lady abbesses.

Thus at Essen, one of the great Saxon abbacies for women, the art treasury to this day contains the celebrated bronze candelabra made at the command of the abbess Mathilde († 1011)[29*] , and a golden crucifix of Greek workmanship of great beauty which, as its inscription says, was the gift of the abbess Theofanu (1039-- 1054).[30*] This abbess was the granddaughter of Otto II and his Greek wife, and her appointment to the abbacy marks a great advance in the prosperity of the house. The treasury at Essen also contains a Bible cover carved in ivory, which represents the abbess Theofanu depositing a book at the feet of the Virgin.[31*]

An account of the great power and wealth of the abbey at Quedlinburg has already been given. Its treasury (zither) still contains many interesting specimens of early art industry collected in the days of its prosperity.[32*] The splendid cloak worked with figures from the Apocalypse belonging to Otto III was probably made under the direction of his aunt Mathilde, abbess of Quedlinburg († 999). Somewhat later we hear of another sumptuous cloak which the Empress Kunigund († 1040) had made for her husband Heinrich II, and of the wonderful embroidery done in gold on purple by Henrich's sister Gisela († 1037), the wife of Stephen, king of Hungary,   [p. 233]   which seems to have been embroidered in imitation of a painting on stuff preserved at a Benedictine convent near Raab. To the present day this embroidery forms part of the Hungarian coronation robes.[33*] Bock, F., Geschichte der liturg. Gewdnder, 1866, vol. I, 155. It is not directly stated where this work was made, but the general excellence of the work done by nuns,[34*] and the connection of Saxon princesses with convents, suggest the possibility that the work was done in convents.

One of these Saxon princesses, Hedwig († 994), sister of the abbess Gerberg and duchess of Swabia, gave the monks of St Gallen some vestments which she had embroidered herself.[35*] Among them was a white stole (stola) on which were worked in gold a series of pictures representing the 'Marriage of Philology to Mercury,' a subject taken from a story by Martianus Capella, a writer of the 5th century, whose works were much read in nunneries. The story was afterwards translated into German by Notker († 1022), a monk of St Gallen.

A peculiar interest attaches to Agnes, abbess of Quedlinburg (1184--1203). She encouraged art industry in all its branches and under her the nuns made large curtains for church decoration. Some of these are still in existence, and Kugler, the art student, considers them as of great value in the study of the art industry of that period. Agnes herself wrote an account of the property she bequeathed to the monastery, and in it she mentions a golden cup, several silken covers (dorsalia), and hangings.[36*] Her chronicler credits her with writing and illuminating with her own hands books for divine service; and a copy of the gospels, said to have been written by her, is still preserved.[37*] But the great work of her life was the manufacture of wall-hangings, which she and her nuns worked together. One set was intended for the Pope, but was never forwarded to him. Like the vestments made by Hedwig, the subject taken for them was the 'Marriage of Philology to Mercury. One curtain still exists measuring twenty-four feet by twenty; it is of a coarse woollen material, into which large figures are woven, which Kugler thinks must have been designed by two different   [p. 234]   hands. 'While some of the work,' he says,[38*] 'is in no way superior to other pictorial representations of the time, and only here and there in details shows superior skill, other parts though retaining the peculiar style of Byzantine art, show a grace and dignity in the arrangement of the figures, and a perfection in the drawing of drapery, which in works of such an early period arouse admiration in the beholder.' In his handbook on painting Kugler further says that we probably have in them the nearest approach of the art of the time to full perfection.

In describing the curtain he tells us of a manly bearded figure with raised hand, probably intended for the writer Martianus himself; near him stands Mercury half covered by a well-draped toga, a very youthful figure in accordance with the author's description. These and other figures hold scrolls on which their names are woven, but owing to the worn state of the hanging some of the names are gone and some are illegible. Three female figures are designated as 'Manticen,'--whom Mercury would have married had she not preferred Apollo; 'Sichem,'--a name standing for Psyche, whom Cupid had already enticed away according to Martianus; and 'Sophia,'--whom Mercury likewise desired to marry but in vain. All these figures are described by Kugler as splendid, especially that of 'Sichem' whose pose and drapery he pronounces most beautiful.

A crowned figure of a man comes next, with a scroll bearing the words 'happy in wealth' (qua felix copia talis), whom Kugler supposes to be Hymenaeus, and a man and woman joining hands, who are designated as Mercury and Philology. Similar allegorical figures fill the other parts of the curtain. In Kugler's estimation the figures of 'Prudentia' and 'Fortitudo' are strikingly grand; while others, 'Justitia,' 'Temperantia,' and 'Philologia' with her mother 'Pronesis,' are of inferior design.

There is another set of hangings preserved at Halberstadt, which, if the remark of an early chronicler may be believed, was also the work of the abbess Agnes and her nuns.[39*] Kugler however, apparently unacquainted with this statement, places these hangings at a somewhat earlier date, since they are of less finished workmanship, but he admits that 'in spite of their faded colours and their roughness of design, a certain severe dignity cannot be   [p. 235]   denied to these figures which with wide-open eyes stare at the beholder.'[40*]

We have a description of these curtains from Büsching, who travelled in quest of monastic treasures in the beginning of this century.[41*] They measure three-and-a-half by fifteen feet. On the centre piece a king (God?) is represented on a throne, with one hand raised, the other holding a sceptre; Cato and Seneca, each bearing a written scroll, sit on either side. Next to them come six apostles, sitting two and two under a canopy, each bearing a scroll with his name--another instance of how readily art in the 12th century grouped together figures of Christian and classical origin, where it was an object to unite the conceptions of religion and philosophy; then Christ, pictured under a rainbow arch, which is supported by angels. On Christ's further side come the other six apostles similarly arranged, and then follow scenes illustrating Old Testament history, such as Jacob's dream; Abraham visited by angels; the sacrifice of Isaac;--in these scenes the figures are comparatively small and of inferior design to the larger ones. Judging from Büsching's description, the style of the tapestry is the same as that of the manuscript illustrations of the time. The background is uniformly of one colour, and the contours of the figures and their draperies are in thick brown outline, the intervening spaces being filled with different colours. Kugler compares the pictorial effect of these hangings with that of the miniatures contemporaneously painted in the abbey of Hohenburg under the abbess Herrad, of whose work we shall speak presently. They recall the dignified and somewhat sombre character of Byzantine art.

There is plenty of information from the Continent to show that nuns belonging to houses of different religious orders were equally industrious at the loom and with the needle.

Thus at Goss, formerly a Benedictine nunnery near Loeben in Steier the church still treasures a complete set of vestments, ornatus integer,' worked by the nuns between 1275 and 1300 during the rule of 'abbatissa Chunegundis.' Bock describes them as most curious and beautiful, worked on linen with coloured silks in a design of fantastic animals and flowers.[42*]

Again at Wienhausen near Celle several ancient wall-hangings are preserved which were woven by the nuns of the Cistercian settlement there, and show their industry and skill, and the readi   [p. 236]   ness with which secular subjects were treated in the convent. On one which dates from the 14th century the story of Tristan and Isold is represented; on another hunting scenes; and on a third the figures of the prophets.[43*]

At Heiningen near Wolfenbüttel, a house of Austin nuns, the inmates wove hangings with allegorical figures which are still in existence. At Lune, Wende, Erfurt and at the Cistercian house of Ebsdorf wall-hangings were made which are still preserved, and show the ability of the nuns who worked at the loom between the 13th and 15th centuries.[44*] We are indebted to Bock for a comprehensive treatise on church decoration and vestments. He also made a large collection of specimens of such work, but it has apparently been scattered. Some part of it has been acquired by the authorities at the South Kensington Museum where it is at present on view.

From these examples of art-needlework and tapestry, we must turn to the art of writing and decorating books. We hear of a woman calligraphist in connection with one of the ancient monasteries in Bavaria, the fame of whose industry was carried on through centuries.[45*] The monastery of Wessobrunn had been founded in the 8th century; it included a community of nuns as well as of monks, the dwelling allotted to the nuns being spoken of as the Parthenon, a term sometimes applied to a religious house for women in these districts. In the words of the monkish historian who wrote about 1513: 'the dwellings of the monks were where they are now, but those of the nuns where the parish church now stands.' Here between the years 1057 and 1130 Diemud the nun was active as a scribe, the amount of whose work in the estimation of many 'exceeded what could be done by several men.' She had become a professed nun at an early age and 'was most skilful in the art of writing; for while she is not known to have composed any work of her own, yet she wrote with her own hand many volumes in a most beautiful and legible character both for divine service and for the library of the monastery, which volumes are enumerated in a list written by herself in a certain plenarius.' This list which is extant includes works to the number of forty-five, which were highly prized during the nun's lifetime and had a considerable market value. We find in the list 'a Missal with Gradual   [p. 237]   and Sequences' given to the bishop of Trier, and a 'book of Offices with the Baptismal Service,' given to the bishop of Augsburg. A 'bibliotheca,' that is, a Bible, in two volumes, written by Diemud, was given by the monastery of Wessobrunn in exchange for an estate at Peissenburg. Besides these works the list mentions another Bible in three volumes, books containing the gospels and lessons, writings of Gregory and Augustine, and the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius. In course of time these books were scattered, lists of those which remained at Wessobrunn being made from time to time. At the sequestration of the monastery at the beginning of the 19th century only fifteen volumes written by Diemud remained, which were taken to Munich. They are said to be of rare beauty, distinguished by highly ornate initial letters and by small writing which is most elegant.[46*] An example of this writing was reproduced by Hefner in the hope that it might lead to the identification of other books written by Diemud which may have found their way into other libraries and be still in existence.

Contemporaneously with Diemud we find another Bavarian nun, Leukardis, active as a scribe at Mallersdorf; she is said to have been of Scottish origin and she knew Scotch (or Irish?), Greek, Latin, and German, and did so much good work that the monk Laiupold, who was also devoted to writing, established an anniversary in her memory.[47*]

The nuns of Admunt in Bavaria are also spoken of as devoted to transcribing, and Wattenbach comments on the neat and elegant way in which they mended the parchment leaves of their manuscripts with coloured silken thread.[48*]

Again a manuscript written for Marbach about the year 1149 by Gutta von Schwarzenthan is described as splendid. It contains the martyrology of Usuard, the Rule of St Augustine with the comments of Hugo of St Victor, the constitutions of Marbach and a homily for every day in the year.[49*] We hear of Emo, abbot of Wittewierum (1204--34), a Premonstrant house which contained men and women, that 'not only did he zealously encourage his canons (clericis) to write, acting as their instructor, but taking count of the diligence of the female sex he set women who were clever at writing to practise the art assiduously.[50*] Wattenbach   [p. 238]   considers that nuns were especially clever in copying books for choir use, and in decorating them.

These notices must suffice. They prove that women leading cloistered lives took an active interest in art-industry in all its branches and that productiveness in their houses was controlled by the same causes which led to the development and decay of art-industry in the houses of men. Excellent work was done in Benedictine houses during early Christian times, that is between the 8th and the 11th centuries; the revival of monastic life in the Middle Ages gave a new impulse to art-industry and the highest degree of excellence was reached in the first half of the 14th century. After that there are signs of a steadily accelerated decline. The reason of this, as a later chapter will show, lies chiefly in the changed conditions of life outside the convent, which made it easier for artisans in the townships to practise those arts and crafts which had hitherto been practised in religious settlements. Writing, decorating, and book-binding,[51*] as well as weaving and embroidering,[52*] were taken up by secular workers and were practised by them on a far larger scale; the spread of education in lay circles and the greater luxury in home surroundings having created a new taste and a new market for artistic productions. The taste of this wider public naturally influenced the character of the work which was produced; cheapness and splendour, if possible the combination of the two, were the qualities chiefly aimed at. These are valuable qualities no doubt in their way, but insistence on them had a discouraging effect on the productiveness of the convent. During the 14th and 15th centuries convents gave up their artistic pursuits. The self-denying industry and unobtrusive earnestness which set the stamp of excellence on the productions of the old hand-worker were no more, for the spirit which looked upon the production of things beautiful as a matter of religion had died out.

Herrad and the 'Garden of Delights.'

A work produced at Hohenburg, a nunnery in Elsass, in the 12th century confirms the belief that given favourable conditions it is possible for women to produce good work and to help to accumulate knowledge. Herrad, the abbess of this house, conceived   [p. 239]   the idea of compiling for the use of her nuns an encyclopedic work which should embody, in pictures and in words, the knowledge of her age. The importance of this work has long survived the attainment of its original purpose, for with its hundreds of illustrations and its copious text it has afforded a wealth of information on the customs, manners, conceptions and mode of life of the 12th century, to which many students of archeology, art and philology have gone for instruction and for the illustration of their own books.'Few illuminated manuscripts had acquired a fame so well deserved as the "Garden of Delights," the Hortus Deliciarum, of Herrad,' says the editor of the great collection of reproductions of the pictures which illustrated her work.[53*] For the work itself is no more. The MS. was destroyed in the fire which broke out in the library of Strasburg when that city was bombarded by the Germans in 1870, and with it perished a complete copy of the text. Our knowledge of the work is therefore limited to the remarks of those who had studied it and to those portions of it which had been copied or transcribed previous to its destruction. The 'Society for the Preservation of the Monuments of Elsass' is at present collecting and publishing a reproduction of all existing tracings and copies of the pictures or of parts of them, and this collection already numbers nearly two hundred. They are mere fragments of course of the work itself, and yet they are of the highest interest. For Herrad's 'Garden of Delights' with its apt illustrations gave a complete picture of life in its domestic and out-of-door aspects as it presented itself in the 12th century. It showed what conceptions and ideas were then attractive to nuns and their estimation of knowledge, and it has given greater insight than any other production into the talents, the enthusiasm and the industry which( were found at this period in a nunnery.

The religious settlement at Hohenburg[54*] was an ancient foundation situated on the flat summit of a spur of the Vosges mountains, which here rise abruptly to a height of over two thousand five hundred feet from the wide expanse of the valley of the Rhine below. The wooded heights on either side of the Rhine were the favourite haunts of missionaries in early times, who settled there and appropriated sites in close proximity to the castles or strongholds of the landed gentry. At one time there were as many as   [p. 240]   sixty religious settlements in the Rhine valley between Basel and Mainz and over a hundred castles or burgs. The nunnery of Hohenburg was of high rank among these religious settlements owing to its extensive property and to its commanding situation. The summit of the hill was surrounded by an ancient wall dating from pre-Christian times which is still known as the heathen wall; it enclosed a wide clearance of fields and meadows, and the numerous buildings of the convent settlement. This height was the goal of numerous pilgrimages and had various associations dating from heathen times. It is at the present day a favourite health resort on account of its aspect and romantic surroundings.

From historical information recently collected by Roth[55*] we gather that a religious settlement of women existed on the Hohenburg as early as the 9th century. Judith, the wife of Ludwig the Pious († 840), took some interest in it. Legendary lore has spun many webs about the religious settlements in the Rhine district including that of Hohenburg, and the majority of modern historians have taken no trouble to unravel them. Legend[56*] tells us that a holy maiden St Odilia fled from the persecution of a cruel father and came to the Hohenburg, where she settled and gathered many women about her. Various stories more or less fanciful are told of her. She was cured of blindness and baptized by Archbishop Hildulf of Trier and Bishop Erhard of Regensburg--who are unknown to history; she was carried down the river in a chest and educated at the convent of Beaume or Palma; and she has been given as a relative to St Leodgar bishop of Autun († 1678) and as a daughter to Eticho duke of the Allemanni. Besides these stories we find the name Odilia locally associated with a cave, a well, three linden-trees and a stone of peculiar shape which are obviously heathen survivals, and encourage the view that Odilia is the representative of some preChristian divinity. Roth has shown that the name Odilia is nowhere on record in these districts before the 10th century, and it occurs in connection with Hohenburg only in the 11th century, that is three or four hundred years after the saint's reputed foundation of the house. When Pope Leo IX (1048--1054), who was an Alsatian, visited his home he was presented with a rhymed 'responsarium' on the local saints of the district. Among them was Odilia, who at that time was directly associated with the nunnery. A hundred years later when the convent was better   [p. 241]   known through the influence and activity of its abbesses Relind and Herrad, St Odilia was looked upon as the daughter of Duke Eticho and the founder of the house--this will be shown from pictures preserved in Herrad's work. But evidently this abbess had no knowledge of the saint's blindness and sufferings, nor of her connection with St Leodgar and other prelates, which are all described in her legend written another hundred years later.

In the year 1154 Relind,[57*] abbess of Berg, a nunnery near Neuburg on the Danube, was appointed abbess at Hohenburg in accordance with the wish, it is said, of the emperor Friedrich Barbarossa ( 1152--1190). Her influence was most beneficial; many daughters of the surrounding gentry came to study under her, and among them Herrad of the family of Landsperg. The term nun must be applied to these women with a reservation; some writers speak of them as Austin canonesses on account of the liberties they enjoyed. In Herrad's 'Garden' the picture of her nuns represents them wearing clothes that differ little from those worn by women in other walks of life. Their dresses are of different colours, their cloaks are generally brown, and their veils are always brilliantly coloured, some red, some purple.[58*] The only detail of dress which they have in common is a white turban or head-dress, over which the veil is thrown. They wear no wimples. The establishment of the house under Herrad's rule consisted of forty-seven nuns and thirteen novices (or lay sisters?) who are represented as wearing clothes similar to those of the nuns.

Herrad's admission to the house furthered its prosperity in every way, for besides literary and artistic abilities she had considerable powers of management. She succeeded Relind as abbess in 11167, and in 1181 she founded a settlement of Austin canons at Truttenhausen, and later another at St Gorgon, both of which are situated not far below the summit of the hill. The canons of these settlements took it in turn to read mass in the women's chapel. Roth speaks of other improvements which Herrad carried out with the help of her diocesan, the bishop of Strasburg.

The consecration of a church at Niedermünster, situated below the Hohenburg, also falls within the term of Herrad's rule. A second nunnery was founded there as a dependency, which was separated from the parent house probably during Herrad's lifetime,   [p. 242]   owing to the efforts of the abbess Edelind (1195--1200), who according to G&ard was also of the family of Landsperg.[59*] The claim of this abbess to the attention of posterity rests on her having been the possessor of a still extant chased case several feet high, which she had made to hold a fragment of the Holy Cross which a camel was alleged to have brought to Niedermünster of its own accord in the time of Karl the Great. This case is covered with many figures worked in relief and is praised by art students as a curious example of early metal work.[60*]

The history of Hohenburg and Niedermünster in the sequel offers much that is interesting. For while the nuns at Niedermünster accepted the rule of St Benedict, the nuns on the Hohenburg persisted in their independent course. At Niedermünster a stone monument is still to be seen which experts declare to be 13th century work, and which gives a clue to the association of St Odilia with Leodgar, to whom the church at Niedermünster was dedicated. Three sides of this monument are covered with figures. On one stands St Leodgar; on the next St Odilia with long tresses, and Duke Eticho; on the third the Virgin, also with long tresses, and below her the abbesses Relind and Herrad holding a book. Both these abbesses are designated by name, and wear convent garb and wimples utterly different from the clothes worn by them in the pictures of Herrad's book.[61*]

From these general remarks we turn to the great work of Herrad's life, to which she herself gave the title of the 'Garden of Delights.' It consisted of 324 parchment leaves of folio size, which contained an account of the history of the world founded on the Biblical narrative, with many digressions into the realm of philosophy, moral speculation, and contemporary knowledge--and with numerous pictures in illustration of it.

The book was so arranged that the pictures stood alongside of the text; and the pages of the work which were devoted to illustrations were in most cases divided into three sections by lines across, so that the pictures stood one above the other. The figures in each picture were about four inches high. There were, however, a certain number of full-page illustrations with larger figures, and it is among these that the greatest proofs are given of Herrad's imaginative powers and the range of her intellectual abilities.

  [p. 243]  

Engelhardt, to whom we are indebted for the fullest description of the 'Garden of Delights,' made tracings of a number of pictures and copied their colouring.[62*] He comments on the brilliant smoothness and finish of the original miniature paintings. Only the silver, he says, was tarnished; the gold was undimmed and all the colours preserved their full brilliancy, when he had the work before him in the early part of this century. According to him the method of painting was as follows. First the figures were drawn in dark outline, then the colouring was filled in bit by bit; shadows and high lights were next laid on, and then the dark outlines were again gone over.

The question has naturally arisen whether Herrad did the whole of the work herself. The text which stood at the beginning and at the end of it referred to her as its sole author. Students are generally agreed that the outline drawing and the writing were entirely her work, but the colours may or may not have been laid on by her. For the work was wonderfully complete in plan and execution--the conception of one mind, which laboured with unceasing perseverance to realize the conception it had formed.

The style in which the pictures were drawn has likewise been the occasion of much comment. We are here on the border-land between the conventional Byzantine and the realistic Gothic styles. 'We see very clearly,' says Woltman,[63*] 'how the new ideas which scholastic learning and poetry had generated required new modes of expression, and led to conceptions for which the older art yielded no models and which had to be taken from real life.' In most cases Herrad no doubt had a model before her and adhered to the traditional rendering, but where the model was wanting she may have drawn on her powers of imagination and supplied details from her surroundings. Thus incidents of Biblical history are represented by her in a manner familiar to the student of early Christian art. A grave and serious dignity which recalls the wall mosaics at Ravenna characterizes the figures of God, Christ, Mary, and the angels; Engelhardt has pointed out the close similarity of Herrad's picture of the Annunciation to that contained in a Greek MS. of the 9th century.[64*] But in other cases Herrad either composed herself or else drew from models which were nearer to her in time and place.   [p. 244]   Thus the picture of the sun-god Apollo represents him in a heavy mediaeval cart drawn by four horses, and the men and women in many pictures are dressed in the fashion of the time. The pictures drawn from real life especially delight the archaeological student. A water-mill grinding corn, men at the plough, soldiers on the march and fighting, are drawn with minute exactness and with considerable skill. Some of these scenes are powerfully realistic in spite of a certain awkwardness in the figures; for example, that of a traveller who is waylaid by robbers, coupled with the story of the good Samaritan, which is illustrated by a series of pictures. In the first of these a man is depicted lying by the roadside; in the second we see him on a horse which is led by the Samaritan, and in the third he has arrived at the inn and is being lifted down from the horse.

Herrad executed her work between 1160 and 1170, but additional entries were made as late as 1190. This period falls in the reign of the emperor Friedrich Barbarossa (1152--1190), which followed upon that of the luckless Konrad III, and was one of comparative quiet and prosperity in Germany. The power of the Pope had passed its climax, there was schism in the Papacy, which was greatly aggravated by the line of conduct Friedrich adopted, but the scene of their struggle had shifted to the cities of northern Italy. We shall see later on that political changes were watched with much interest in some nunneries, and that the conduct of the Emperor, the Pope, and the bishops was keenly criticised among nuns. It is difficult to tell how far events affected Herrad. The prose narrative which her work contained, as far as we know, has perished and we have no definite clue to her interpretation of contemporary affairs, but probably she was content to devote her energies to rearranging and interpreting the intellectual wealth of the age without entering into party conflicts. The illustrations of the 'Garden of Delights' which have been preserved are invaluable for the study of contemporary life, but they contain no information as to contemporary events.

The study and enjoyment of the work in its original form were facilitated by the addition to the picture of the name of every person and every implement in Latin or in German, sometimes in both; and in many cases an explanatory sentence or a moral maxim was introduced into the picture, so that the nun who studied the work naturally picked up Latin words and sentences. Through the industry of Engelhardt all these sentences and words have been   [p. 245]   preserved, and the coupling of implements with their names forms a valuable addition to our knowledge of terms as applied in early mediaeval times. The book also originally contained a continuous history in Latin for more advanced students, but unfortunately that is lost. Engelhardt says that it described the history of the world from the Creation to the coming of Antichrist, with many extracts from various writers. He enumerates twenty writers from whose works Herrad quotes. Among them are Eusebius Pamphili († c. 350), Jerome († 420), Isidor of Seville († 636), Bede († 735) Frechulf († 838), and others who were her contemporaries, such as Petrus Lombardus († 1164) and Petrus Comestor († 1198). When quoting from secular writers the abbess invariably made mention of the fact. In one instance she remarked that 'all these things have been described by philosophers by aid of their worldly wisdom (per mundanam sapientiam), but this was the product of the Holy Spirit also.'

The attitude which Herrad assumed towards learning generally can be studied in the pictures which deal with abstract conceptions. They are usually of folio size and contain illustrations which are instructive to the student of mediaeval scholasticism. Two pictures introduced into the history of the Tower of Babel which illustrate the falling away from true faith deserve especial attention. The one is a representation of the 'Nine Muses' on it female heads of quaint dignity in medallions are arranged in a circle. The other represents the 'Seven Liberal Arts,' in accordance with the mediaeval interpretation of the teaching of Aristotle.[65*] On it Philosophy, a female figure, is seated in the centre of the picture wearing a crown with three heads. These heads are designated as 'ethica, logica, phisica' by means of these three branches of learning philosophy adds to her powers of insight. Socrates and Plato, who are designated as 'philosophers,' sit below, and from the figure of Philosophy 'seven streams of wisdom flow which are turned into liberal arts as the text explains. These arts are personified as female figures in 12th century dress, and are so arranged that each figure stands in a separate division forming a circle round Philosophy and the philosophers. The Liberal Arts are robed in different colours, and each holds an emblem of her power. 'Grammar,' dressed in dark red, has a book and a birch rod; 'Geometry,' in light red, has a measuring rod and a compass; 'Arithmetic,' in light blue, holds a string of alternate white and black beads; 'Music,' dressed in   [p. 246]   purple, has a lyre, a zither and a hurdy-gurdy; 'Astronomy,' in dark green, holds a measure and looks up at the stars; 'Rhetoric,' in dark blue, has a stilus and a writing-tablet (tabula); and 'Dialectic,' in light green, holds the head of a howling dog. Each figure is encircled by a sentence explaining the special nature of her power. In the lower part of the picture are four men, seated at desks, with books, pens and penknives, engaged in reading and writing. These are the 'poets or magi, who are filled with a worldly spirit' black birds appear to be whispering in their ears.

The whole of this picture is doubtless traditional; its admission into the work shows that Herrad's conception of ' profane' learning was one of distinct appreciation. The idea conveyed by means of the pictures to the young women students was by no means superficial or derogatory to learning. On the contrary, we see them under the influence of a teacher through whom their respectful attitude towards the means and modes of knowledge was assured.

Another picture of folio size, called 'The Ladder to Perfection,' shows that Herrad accepted a critical attitude towards the members of religion. A ladder is drawn diagonally across the page and a number of figures are seen ascending it on their way towards heaven. The highest rung has been reached by Christian love (Caritas) personified as a woman to whom a crown is proffered from heaven. Below her stand the representatives of different branches of the religious profession and laymen arranged in order of excellence, and with each is given a picture of the temptation which prevents him from ascending further up the ladder. Among these the hermit (heremita) stands highest, but he is held back by the charms of his garden. Below him stands the recluse (inclusus), -whose temptation is slothfulness, which is represented by a bed. Then comes the monk (monachus), who leans towards a mass of gold; 'he is typical of all false monks,' says Herrad, 'whose heart is drawn from duties by the sight of money, and who cannot rise above greed.' The nun (sanctimonialis) and the cleric (clericus) have reached the same rung on the ladder. She is the representative of false nuns who yield to the temptation of persuasion and gifts, and return to their parents, never attaining the crown of life; he is drawn away by the allurements of the table, and by a woman (amica) who stands below. There are also figures of a lay woman and a soldier who are respectively attracted by the charms of a city and of war.   [p. 247]   They are absorbed by vanities, and we are told 'rarely reach the crown of life through contemplation.' The picture is further crowded with demons who are attacking and angels who are defending the people on the ladder. The devil lurks below in the form of a dragon ready to seize upon those who fall.

In further illustration of Herrad's attitude towards the clergy, Engelhardt cites a passage from her work in which she severely censures the customs which the clergy tolerate in church on festal days. In company with laymen and loose women they eat and drink, and indulge in jokes and games which invariably end in uproariousness. How worthy of praise,' she exclaims, 'if the spiritual princes of the Church (principes ecclesiae spirituales) restored the evangelical teaching of early times in the place of such customs.[66*]

From these general remarks we turn to the pictures which illustrate the Biblical narrative in a number of scenes containing a store of imagery and a wealth of design. We cannot but admire the ready brush of the abbess and the courage with which she grappled with difficulties, drawing with equal skill human figures and divine personifications, dramatic incidents and allegorical combinations.

The pictures which illustrated the Creation were led up to by a number of diagrams and digressions on astronomy and geography, with lists of technical terms in Latin and their German equivalents. Among these was a picture of the signs of the zodiac and a 'computus' or table for determining the festal days of the year. The desire to fix the date of incidents of Old and New Testament history absorbed much attention at this period, and Herrad's table of computation was looked upon as so important that it was recently used by Piper as the starting-point for an investigation on the Calendar generally.[67*] In Herrad's table the date of Easter was worked out for a cycle of 532 years, that is from 1175 till 1706; leap-years were marked, and the day of the week on which Christmas fell was given for the whole period.

The history of the Biblical narrative opens with a picture illustrating the creation of the animals. The lion, the elephant, the unicorn and the giraffe are most fantastic, but the ox, the ass, the horse, the domestic fowl, the sylvan animals of northern latitudes,   [p. 248]   and fish, are drawn with tolerable correctness. God is represented in classical robes moving slowly across a wave of the waters. In another picture He is depicted in a simpler manner seated and fashioning the small figure of Adam, which He holds between His knees. Again He is seen breathing life into Adam's nostrils, and then holding in His hand a rib out of which projects the head of Eve, while Adam is lying asleep on the ground. There is a series of pictures illustrating the temptation and expulsion from Paradise. A full-sized one gives the Tree of Life, which has many ramifications out of which human faces are peeping. Adam and Eve are throughout pictured as of the same height and are several times drawn in the nude. There is a very graceful picture in which Adam is seen delving while Eve spins.

Poems on the First Man and on the Fall accompanied by musical notation are here introduced. The poems are preserved, the music is apparently lost; it is not stated whether Herrad wrote the music herself.

The story of Noah and his sleeping in the vineyard, and the building of the Tower of Babel, are illustrated by scenes details of which are presumably drawn from real life. Here we see wooden vats and buckets, the various implements used in the vintage, pictures of masons at work dressed in short kirtles, and the various implements and arrangements for building.

After the pictures on secular learning above referred to the thread of Biblical narrative is resumed, and there are many scenes from the lives of the patriarchs, such as Jacob giving his blessing, a picture of Jacob's dream, Pharaoh seated on his throne with sumptuous surroundings, and the passage over the Red Sea, in which the soldiers are clad in chain-mail and march with standards borne aloft. Soldiers similarly accoutred are drawn in one picture fighting under the leadership of Joshua; in another picture they are seen attacking a city, a scene taken from the story of the assault of Dan. The adoration of the golden calf gave occasion for a picture which also illustrates contemporary manners. Men and women dressed in the costume of the day are seen joining hands in a ring and dancing round the idol. We also have pictures of the Holy Ark and of the Tabernacle; the seven-branched candlestick is most elaborately drawn, and the twelve tribes of Israel are grouped in medallions around it.

The next remarkable picture is the burial of Moses. In a solitary rocky surrounding God lays the patriarch in his grave,   [p. 249]   while a demon holds him by the legs and is pushed away by' an angel. The demon was obviously a living reality to Herrad, and he frequently appears in her pictures with his wide mouth, long nose, pointed ears and green-coloured body, a figure grotesque rather than terrible. When the moment of death is represented he invariably puts in an appearance and claims the soul, which in one case escapes from the dying person's mouth in the shape of a small black demon. In another picture the soul is wrapped in swaddling clothes and is borne aloft by angels. This was a pre-Christian conception, that life is a small living thing which dwells inside a human being and escapes at death. On classic soil one comes across escaping life represented as a babe; in German folk-lore it is often a mouse or a toad.

The story of Goliath and of David is also illustrated. David is a diminutive figure wearing a kirtle, Goliath is huge and clad in chain-mail. Another picture represents David playing on the harp. There were also a number of scenes from the books of Kings, of Job, and of Tobit; none of these have as yet been reproduced. A picture of the prophets has, however, been published, in which a number of figures of different ages are depicted in different attitudes standing side by side. One of the most curious and dramatic pictures is the full-page illustration of Jonah being cast up by the fish. The fish is a carp of huge size, but it is designated as a whale.

The New Testament pictures follow on the Old Testament, but between them stand several which illustrate their unity. One is an allegorical figure with two heads, the one the head of Moses, the other that of Christ. There is also a picture in folio size of the mystic family of Christ. At the bottom is Abraham, who holds the mystic vine which grows upwards and divides into beautiful twisted ramifications forming circles, and in these are arranged the heads of patriarchs, kings, and groups of other members of Christ's family. A picture of Leviathan is extremely curious. He is depicted floating below. God stands above with a rod and line, and uses the cross as a fish-hook, dragging out of the huge creature's mouth the heads of the prophets which are strung together in a row.

The history of Christ was led up to by an account of the birth of John the Baptist. The Nativity was celebrated by several poems, the words of which have come down to us; the music which accompanied them is apparently lost. Among the most realistic pictures   [p. 250]   preserved is that of the 'Murder of the Innocents' agony is characteristically expressed in the attitude and faces of the mothers who watch the soldiers fulfilling their task.

Other pictures, copies of which have been preserved, illustrate the arrival of the three kings and Christ's baptism. In this latter picture the Jordan is personified as a river-god sitting in the water; the doors of heaven above are wide open and a dove drawn in the accepted style is descending. Christ's parables gave the abbess many occasions for depicting scenes taken from real life, many of which in their simplicity are truly delightful. Biblical stories were supplemented by incidents taken from legendary history, which were likewise accompanied by pictures, few of which seem to have been preserved. The story of the healing power of the statue of Christ, the legend of the Vernacle, and the story of the True Cross were all illustrated. There was Adam planting the Tree of Life, King Solomon fetching its wood to Jerusalem and making a bridge over the river with it, and the Queen of Sheba coming on a visit and hesitating to cross the bridge.

The pictures of the story of the Agony, the Resurrection, and the Acts of the Apostles met with great praise from all who saw them. There were folio-sized pictures setting forth the Universality of the Church, and the Contending of Virtues and Vices.[68*] Of this latter series several pictures have just appeared in reproduction; some are arranged in pairs, facing each other. The chief Vices, each with a band of attendants, are depicted confronting and then overcome by the chief Virtues; all are represented as women. Thus Pride, 'Superbia,' seated on horseback on a lion's skin and brandishing a spear, is leading a band of women, who are clad in chain-mail with robes flowing about their feet and carrying spears, against a band of Virtues similarly attired but carrying swords. A most interesting picture is that of Luxury, 'Luxuria,' who is seen with fourteen attendant Vices riding in a sumptuous four-wheeled car; Luxury is in front throwing violets. She is confronted by a band of Virtues led by Temperance, ' Temperantia,' who are in front of the horses and hold up their hands in reprobation. On the next picture the car of Luxury is smashed, the horses are overturned, and she herself is under the wheels. Of her attendants 'Voluptas' has cast aside her rings and ornaments and is caught in a briar-bush, 'Amor' has thrown away bow and quiver, and 'Avaritia' is   [p. 251]   seizing upon what the others have dropped. On another picture Liberality, 'Largitas,' has stripped Rapine and Avarice, and has transfixed Avarice with a spear.

Some of the pictures which illustrate Solomon in his glory and Solomon's Vanity of Vanities have also been preserved. Among them is Solomon lying on a sumptuous couch and surrounded by his warriors. A representation of two mannikins occurs among the Vanities; these mannikins were moved by threads, exactly like a modern toy. The pictures illustrating the experiences of the Church, the position of her members from Pope to cleric, the means of repentance, and the coming of Antichrist, all roused the enthusiasm of those who saw them; none of these have till now been reproduced. Gérard, who was probably the last to see and handle the work of Herrad, was especially struck by the pictures of the Last Judgment and of Heaven and Hell. His descriptions of them were lying in the library at the time of the bombardment, and were only rescued by the devotion of a friend.[69*] On the strength of these pictures he numbers Herrad among the most imaginative painters the world has known. Engelhardt also was greatly struck by them. He describes a picture of Hell in the following terms (p. 51):

'A mass of rocks was arranged so as to make a framework to this picture, in the chasms of which rocks flames were flaring and the condemned were seen suffering torments. Rivers of flame divided the inner part of the picture into four divisions. In the lowest of these, at the bottom of Hell, sat Lucifer or Satan in chains holding Antichrist in his lap. Next to him a demon carried along a covetous monk, whose punishment was then represented:

He lay on his back without clothes and a demon poured molten gold into his mouth. In the second division counting from below two boiling caldrons hung suspended: in the one were Jews, in the other soldiers (the text says 'milites vel armati '). Demons stood by holding men of either kind ready to add them to those already in the caldrons; other demons were stirring the caidrons with forks. In front of the Jews' caldron a demon was depicted holding a naked sinner to whom he administered punishment by beating him. In the division above this a usurer had hot gold poured into his hand; a slanderer was made to lick a toad; an eaves-dropper had his ears pinched; a vain woman was assisted at her toilet by demons (they seemed to be lacing her); the woman [70*]   [p. 252]   who had murdered her child was forced to devour it. The following peculiar picture filled the highest division: a rope was drawn through chasms in the rocks so as to form a swing; on this a grinning demon sat swinging. At the ends of the rope which hung on the other side of the rocks two sinners were hanging bound head and foot so as to balance each other; demons held them by the hair. Another sinner hung suspended by his feet, with a block of stone hanging from his neck on which a demon was swinging. Sensual pleasures personified were wound around and bitten by snakes, and a man who had committed suicide was depicted plunging a knife into his own body.'

These pictures illustrated with forcible directness conceptions which were current throughout the religious world and served as a means of teaching the lesson of reward and punishment in the world to come. Later on in treating of mysticism we shall again see these conceptions stimulating the imaginative powers of women living in convents.

Copies of the last pages of the 'Garden of Delights,' which are devoted to a representation of the Hohenburg and of its convent of women, have fortunately been preserved. Here we see the settlement as it presented itself to Herrad and the thoughts she associated with it. The picture is the size of two folio pages. High above in the centre stands Christ in front of the convent church, holding in His right hand a golden staff which is touched by the Virgin and St Peter, and the end of which is supported by Duke Eticho, whom Herrad looked upon as the father of St Odilia. St John the Baptist and St Odilia are seen standing on the other side of Christ. A green hill is represented below roughly studded with bushes or brambles,--this is the hill of the Hohenburg. On one slope of it Duke Eticho is seated, and he hands the golden key of the convent to St Odilia, who advances towards him followed by a band of women. Relind, Herrad's teacher and predecessor, also stands on the hill with her hand resting on a cross on which are inscribed verses addressed to the nuns. The fact that she restored the church and the discipline at Hohenburg, which had fallen entirely into decay, is commemorated in a sentence which is placed on the other side of her. Over against her stands Herrad herself, who also holds verses addressed to the nuns. And between these two abbesses all the members of Herrad's congregation are drawn, six rows of women's heads placed one above the other. There is no attempt at portraiture, but the name of each nun and each novice   [p. 253]   is added to her picture. Among these names are those of families of the surrounding landed gentry, from which we gather that the nunnery was chiefly for the upper classes. The nuns in the picture address lines to Christ begging Him to number them among the elect.

Such in rough outline was the 'Garden of Delights,' the loss of which is greatly to be deplored, both from the point of view of culture in general, and from that of women in particular. But even in its fragments the work is a thing to dwell upon, a monument which bears the stamp of wide knowledge and lofty thought. It shows how Herrad found her life's interest in educating the young women given into her care, how anxious she was that they should be right-minded in all things, and how she strove to make their studies delightful to them. The tone which she took towards her congregation is apparent from the words in which she directly addressed them. For besides occasional admonitory words, two long poems, one at the beginning, the other at the end of the work, are devoted to the admonition of the nuns. Herrad's poems are composed in different metres; some have the dignity of the hexameter, some the easier flow of shorter-lined dactylic verse. The poems addressed to her nuns are of the latter kind. Their incisive rhythm and ringing rhyme, in which their value chiefly lies, make a translation difficult. Still a version of the first of these poems in English prose will help to give the reader some idea of the tone of the abbess; the form of address is necessarily determined by the mode of expression of the 12th century, the meaning of the original is by no means always clear.

This is: 'The rhyme of Herrad, the abbess, in which she lovingly greets the young maidens (virgunculas) of the Hohenburg and invites them to their weal to faith and love of the true Bridegroom.

'Hail, cohort of Hohenburg virgins, white as the lily and loving the Son of God, Herrad, your most devoted, your most faithful mother and handmaiden sings you this song. She greets you times countless and daily prays that in glad victory you may triumph over things that pass. 0, mirror of many things, spurn, spurn those of time, and garner virtues, Band of the true Bridegroom. Press on in the struggle to scatter the dread foe, the King of Kings aids you for His desire is towards you. He Himself strengthens your soul against Satan; He Himself will grant the glory of His kingdom after victory. Delights await you, riches are destined for you,   [p. 254]   the court of heaven proffers you countless joys. Christ prepares espousals wondrous in delights, and you may look for this prince if you preserve your chastity. Mean time put around you noble circlets (?) and make your faces to shine fair, freed from mental strife.

Christ hates spot or stain, He abhors time-worn lines (of vice); He desires beauteous virgins and drives forth women who are unchaste. With a dove-like faith call upon that your Bridegroom, that your beauty may become an unbroken glory. Living without guile, be admonished by praise giving, so that you may complete your best works of ascent. Do not hesitate amidst the doubtful currents of the world, the truthful God holds out rewards after danger. Suffer hardships now, despising the world's prosperity, be now fellow of the cross, hereafter sharer of the kingdom. Steer across the ocean freighted with holiness, till you leave the bark and land in Sion. May Sion's heavenly castle with its beauteous halls be your home when the term of life is past. May there the virgin Ruler, Mary's Son, receive you in His embrace and lift you up from sadness. Setting aside all the wiles of the mean tempter, you will be abundantly glad, sweetly rejoicing. The shining Star of the Sea, the one virgin Mother will join you to her Son in bond eternal. And by your prayer do not cease to draw me with you to the sweetest Bridegroom, the Son of the Virgin. As He will be partner of your victory and of your great glory, He will draw you from earthly things. Farewell, chaste band, you my exceeding joy, live without offence, ever love Christ. May this book prove useful and delightful to you, may you never cease to ponder it in your breast. May forgetfulness not seize you like the ostrich (more Struthineo),[71*] and may you not leave the way before you have attained. Amen.

This address in verse was followed by these lines in prose-- 'Herrad, who through the grace of God is abbess of the church on the Hohenburg, here addresses the sweet maidens of Christ who are working as though in the vineyard of the Lord; may He grant grace and glory unto them--I was thinking of your happiness when like a bee guided by the inspiring God I drew from many flowers of sacred and philosophic writing this book called the 'Garden of Delights' and I have put it together to the praise of Christ and the Church, and to your enjoyment, as though into a sweet honeycomb. Therefore you must diligently seek your salvation in it and strengthen your weary spirit with its sweet honey   [p. 255]   drops; always be bent on love of your Bridegroom and fortified by spiritual joys, and you will safely pass through what is transitory, and secure great and lasting happiness. Through your love of Christ, help me who am climbing along a dangerous uncertain path by your fruitful prayer when I pass away from this earth's experiences. Amen.'

Thus far we have followed Herrad in her work and in her relations towards her nuns; the question naturally arises, What inner experiences prompted her to her great undertaking and in what spirit did she carry it through? It has been noticed that a sombreness is characteristic of certain parts of the work, and is peculiar to some of her poems also. Two short verses which occur in the work seem to reflect her mental state. The one urges great liberality of mind. It discusses the basis of purity, and comes to the conclusion that purity depends less on actions than on the spirit in which they are done. The other follows the mind through its several stages of development and deserves to be chronicled among the words of wisdom. It runs as follows: 'Despise the world, despise nothing, despise thyself, despise despising thyself, --these are four good things.'


Notes

[1*] Wattenbach, W., Schriftwesen im Mittelalter, 2nd edit. 1875, p. 374.

[2*] Bock, F., Geschichte der liturg. Gewänder, 3 vols. 1866--71, vol. I, p. 214.

[3*] Cf. above, p. 122.

[4*] Cf. above, pp. 122, 132.

[5*] Cf. above, p. 109.

[6*] Cf. above, p. 106.

[7*] Michel, F., Ètoffes de soie au moyen Age, 1852, vol. 2, p. 339, contains this and other references.

[8*] Eddi, Vita Wilfredi, c. 65 (it is unknown over which house she presided).

[9*] Cf. above, p. 63.

[10*] Haddon and Stubbs, Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents, 1869.

[11*] Cf. above, pp. 103, 115, 198, and below, ch. II, 1.

[12*] Bock, F., Geschichte der liturg. Gewänder, 1866, vol. I, p. 142.

[13*] Michel, F., Étoffes de soie pendant le moyen age, 1852, vol. 2, p. 340.

[14*] Wharton, Anglia Sacra, vol. I, p. 607.

[15*] Michel, F., Étoffes de soie pendant le moyen age, 1852, vol. 2, p. 338.

[16*] Dugdale, Monasticon, 'St. Albans,' vol. 2, p. 186 footnote.

[17*] Middleton, J. H., Illuminated MSS., 1892, p. 112.

[18*] For example in the South Kensington Museum, nr 594-1884, Italian chasuble; nr 1321--1864, panel of canvas, from Bock's Collection (Descriptive Catalogue of Tapestry and Embroidery, 1888).

[19*] Bock, F., Geschichte der liturg. Gerwänder, 1866, vol. I, p. 209, suggests that gold plaques may have been sewn into the work.

[20*] Cf. South Kensington Museum, nr 28--1892, a number of fragments of textile linen worked over in coloured silks and gold thread with scenes taken from the life of the Virgin. English work of the 14th century (Descriptive Catalogue of Tapestry and Embroidery, 1888).

[21*] Michel, F., Étoffes de soie pendant le moyen âge, 1852, vol. p. 337, points out that the expression 'opus anglicum' was applied also to the work of the goldsmith; comp. Ducange, Glossarium, 'Anglicum.' Loculus ille mirificus.. argento et auro gemrnisque, anglico opere subtilitater ac pulcherrime decoratus.'

[22*] Historia Major Angliae, sub anno.

[23*] South Kensington Museum, nr 83--1864 (Descrptive catalogue of Tapestry and Embroidery, 1888).

[24*] Ibid. p. 168.

[25*] A. SS. Boll., St Eustadiola, June 8. Vita, ch. 3.

[26*] A. SS. Boll., SS. Herlindis et Renild, March 22, ch. 5 (videlicet nendo et texendo, creando ac suendo, in auro quoque ac margaritis in serico componendo).

[27*] Ibid. ch. 12 (palliola.. multis modis variisque compositionibus diversae artis innumerabilibus ornamentis).

[28*] Stadler and Heim, Vollstädndiges Heiligenlexicon, 1858, 'Harlindis.'

[29*] Zeitschrit für Christl. Archaeologie, edit. Schnuetgen, 1856, 'Münsterkirche in Essen,' 1860, Beitrage.

[30*] Labarte, Arts industriels au moyen âge, 1872, vol. I, p. 341.

[31*] Ibid. vol. I. p. 84.

[32*] Fritsch, Geschichte des Reichstifts Quedlinburg, 1828, vol. 2, p. 326.

[34*] Schultz, A., Hofisches Leben zur Zeit der Minnesinger, 1889, cites many passages from the epics which refer to embroidery worn by heroes and heroines. A piece of work of special beauty described vol. I, p. 326, had been made by an apostate nun.

[35*] Ekkehard IV., c. 10, in Pertz, Mon. Germ. Scriptores, vol. 2, p. 123.

[36*] Erath, Codex diplom. Quedliburg., 1764, p. 109.

[37*] Brunner, S., Kunstgenossen der Klosterzelle, 1863, vol. 2, p. 555.

[38*] Kugler, F., Kleine Schriften, 1853, vol. I, pp. 635 ff.; part of the hanging is given by Muentz, E., Tapisseries, broderies et dentelles, 1890, plate 2.

[39*] Fitsch, Geschichte des Reichstifts Quedlinburg, 1828, vol. I, p. 121.

[40*] Kugler, F., Kleine Schriften, 1853, vol. I, p. 540.

[41*] Büsching, F. G. Reise durch einige Munsterkirchen 1819, p. 235.

[42*] Bock, F., Geschichte der liturg. Gewänder, 1866, vol. I, p. 227.

[43*] Bock, F., Geschichte der liturg. Gewänder, 1866, vol. 3, pp. 201 ff.

[44*] Ibid. 1866, vol. 3, p. 202.

[45*] Hefner, Oberbair. Archiv, 1830, vol. I, p. 355.

[46*] Westermayer in Allgemeine Deutsche Biog., article 'Diemud' Catalogus Cod. Lat. Bibliothecae Reg. Monac., vol. 7, 1881, nrs 140, 146--154.

[47*] Wattenbach, W., Schriftwesen im Mittelalter, 2nd edit. 1875, p. 374.

[48*] Ibid. p. 177.

[49*] Ibid. p. 304.

[50*] Ibid. p. 374.

[51*] Middleton, J. H. Illuminated MSS., 1892, p. 216.

[52*] Michel, F. Étoffes de soie pendant le moyen âge, 1852, vol. 2, p. 350.

[53*] Reproductions par la Société pour la conservation des monuments de l'Alsace, Sept livraisons containing Plates 1--53 inclusive (till 1895).

[54*] Silbermann, J. A., Beschreibung von Hohenburg, 1781.

[55*] Roth, K.L. 'Der Odilienberg' in Alsatin, 1836, vol. I, pp. 91 ff.

[56*] Comp. Above, pp. 22, 24.

[57*] Wiegand, in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, article 'Relind.'

[58*] It is possible but hardly probable that the miniaturist in colouring the picture gave free play to bis fancy.

[59*] Gérard, Ch., Les artistes de l'Alsace, 1872, p. 92.

[60*] Ibid.; Engelhardt, Herrad von Landsberg und ihr Werk, 1818, p. 16, footnote.

[61*] The monument is represented in Schoepflin, Alsatia Illustrata, 1751, vol. I, ad pag. 797.

[62*] Engelhardt, Herrad von Landserg and ihr Werk, 1818, with sheets of illustrations, which in a few copies are coloured.

[63*] Woltman, in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, article 'Herrad.'

[64*] Engelhardt, Herrad von Landsperg and ihr Werk, 1818, Vorwort p. xi.

[65*] Cf. Above, p. 180.

[66*] Engelhardt, Herrad von Landsperg und ihr Work, 1818, p. 104.

[67*] Piper, F., Kalendarien und Martyrologien der Anglsachsen, 1862.

[68*] Apparently following the 'Psychomachia' of Prudentius, a Christian poet of the 5th century.

[69*] Gérard, Ch., Les artistes de l'Alsace,1872, Introd. p. xix., p. 46, footnote.

[70*] Gérard, Ch., Les artistes de l'Alsace, 1872, Introd. p. xix., p. 46, footnote.

[71*] Probably with reference to Job xxxix., 14-15.

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