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This cope, a cape-like vestment worn at Christian church ceremonies, was originally part of a voluminous chasuble, the principal vestment worn by the priest for the celebration of Mass. It is now known as the Syon Cope and takes its name from the Bridgettine convent of Syon in Middlesex, which was founded by King Henry V in 1414-15. It is probable that the nuns took the cope with them when they went into exile during the reign of Elizabeth I and that it was returned when the Order was re-established in England in about 1810.

On the original vestment there would have been four rows (on the reconstituted cope there are three) of interlaced quatrefoil shaped compartments with scenes from the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ and the Apostles; the latter, seen in the fourth dismembered row, are not identifiable. Between the compartments are six winged seraphs and along the upper edge are the remains of angels holding crowns and the figures of two kneeling clerics, possibly representing the priest for whom the vestment was made. They hold scrolls with undecipherable Latin inscriptions.

Unique among surviving examples of opus anglicanum (the Latin term for English work, which was the high quality English embroidery known to have been bought by princes and popes), the ground is entirely covered in red (now faded to brown) and green silk thread. The orphrey bands (decorative strips) with heraldic shields around the circumference and along the top edge of the cope are made from pieces of contemporary vestments. These may be purely decorative.

The embroidery is worked in silver-gilt and silver thread in underside couching, split, cross and plait stitches and laid and couched work.

Details

  • Title: The Syon Cope
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1310/1320
  • Location: England
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 150.5 cm, Width: 305 cm, Depth: 0.5 cm
  • Medium: Linen, embroidered with silk, silver-gilt and silver thread

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