Friday, May 29, 2009

Catholic Bamberg: The Vestments of Pope Clement II and Other Treasures from the Diocesan Museum

As already mentioned in the installment about Bamberg Cathedral, this cathedral is distinguished by containing the only tomb of a pope north of the Alps. The Pope buried there is Clement II.

Clement II, born Suidger Count of Morsleben and Hornburg (1005 – October 9, 1047), was Pope from December 25, 1046 to his death. He was the first in a series of reform-minded Popes from Germany. In 1040, he became the second Bishop of Bamberg. In 1046, he accompanied King Henry III on his campaign to Italy and in December, participated in the Council of Sutri, which deposed former Popes Benedict IX and Sylvester III and persuaded Pope Gregory VI to resign. King Henry nominated Suidger for the Papacy and the council elected him. Suidger took the name Clement II. Clement remained simultaneously bishop of Bamberg, his "sweetest bride" as he called the Church of Bamberg in a famous document of September 1047, considering that it was impossible for him to be divorced from her (translations of bishops to other Sees wee only possible in exceptional cases then). Immediately after his election, King Henry and the new Pope moved to Rome, where Clement crowned Henry III as Holy Roman Emperor.

Clement II's short pontificate, starting with the Roman synod of 1047, initiated a period of reform that was carried on by his successors. Clement lost no time in beginning the work of reform. At a great synod in Rome, January, 1047, the buying and selling of things spiritual was punished with excommunication; anyone who should knowingly accept ordination at the hands of a prelate guilty of simony was ordered to do canonical penance for forty days. A dispute for precedence between the Sees of Ravenna, Milan, and Aquileia was settled in favour of Ravenna, the bishop of which was, in the absence of the emperor, to take his station at the pope's right. Clement accompanied the emperor in a triumphal progress through Southern Italy and placed Benevento under an interdict for refusing to open its gates to them. Proceeding with Henry to Germany, he canonized Wiborada, a nun of St. Gall, martyred by the Huns in 925. On his way back to Rome he died bear Pesaro. His remains were, according to his wishes, transferred back to Bamberg.

In 1942, the tomb (as well as that of Saints Henry and Cunegond) was opened and the remains removed to a safe place to protect them against air bombardments during the war. The pope was completely vested in liturgical vestments. Shortly before pope Clement was solemnly reburied in 1947 it was decided to remove the vestments from his remains and to restore them. This is why we can today admire them in the diocesan museum, the oldest complete set of papal vestments still in existence. They are made of Byzantine silk of the early 11th century.

The chasuble, corresponding to the earliest form, the bell shape, of that vestment (as ever, click on images for larger versions):

While the excellent quality of the material can already be seen from this image, a closer look reveals the pattern (make sure to enlarge):

The pontifical dalmatic:

The buskins:

Various other objects from the tomb, including the stole (note the narrowness characteristic for the time) and the cingulum, the cuffs of the gauntlets, crosses from the pallium, and the lappets of the mitre:

The diocesan museum also has some other spectacular vestments. First among them is the so-called "starry mantle of Emperor Henry":

The holy Emperor received it as a gift around 1020 from Melus of Bari and donated it to the cathedral for use in the liturgy. The cope as we see it today is, however, not the one St. Henry received in the 11th century. Between 1453 and 1455, the embroidered ornaments were cut from the original dark purple mantle (which can still be gleaned within the ornaments) and reapplied, in the same arrangement, though lightly altering the inscriptions, to a blue damask cloth. The original ornaments show in the middle of the back the Majestas Domini: in a square Christ in the mandorla, surrounded by the symbols of the four Evangelists, the letters Alpha and Omega, and slightly above Him, sol and luna. The rest of the mantle is strewn with images of Saints and signs of the zodiac. Here is a detail of the middle:

Then their is the equally magnificent mantle of St. Henry's wife, Empress St. Cunegond, which was also used as a cope in Bamberg Cathedral. It shows the history of salvation through the Old and New Covenant in 40 medallions, in the centre again Christ in the mandorla:

Another cope ascribed to St. Cunegond from the early 11th century; the shield and the fringe were added in the 15th century. The pearls with which all of these mantles were originally studded were cut off and sold by weight in the Napoleonic secularisation of 1802/03:

The bishops of Bamberg used to wear a rationale (as the bishops of Paderborn, Eichstätt, Cracow and Toul still do). One such rationale has been preserved, sewn onto a cope of blue damask (similar to the new cloth of St. Henry's mantle) in the 15th century, possibly also for conservatory reasons:

There are also precious vestments of later periods in the museum's collections. Here we have a beautiful blue chasuble of a splendid French early 18th century brocade (interestingly, the description on the showcase itself mentions that the use of blue vestments was dfeclared illicit by the Congregation of Rites):

Then there is this rose red-coloured set for pontifical Mass of a brilliant red-and-silver French (Lyonese) brocade of 1727:

Interestingly, the mitre is made from the same material as the rest of the set:

And a magnificent cope of gold and silver damask, with some restrained floral embroidery:

It was made for Bishop Lothar Franz von Schönborn (reigned from 1693 until 1729; he was also Elector-Archsbishop of Mainz, and one of the most famous and proliferous builders of the German baroque), whose coat of arms is embroidered on the seam:

Some othe pieces of interest in the diocesan museum:

The Cathedral Cross, the largest Ottonian Cross still existing in the German countries from the 11th century, in a precious casing of the 18th century. It is still carried each year in the Corpus Christi procession by 18 men:

A silver Madonna from the 18th century, which is also still carried in procession each year:

Various monstrances and cruets (note the As and Vs for aqua and vinum) from the Cathedral treasure:

The relic of a part of the towel with which Our Saviour girded Himself at the Last Supper to wash His Disciples' feet:

A portable altar from the 12th century (it would be very desirable if the use of portable altars could be resumed - of course they wouldn't have to be as ornate as this splendid example - instead of priests just celebrating on all sorts of surfaces, sometimes less than appropriate for the Most Holy Sacrifice):

Previous entries of the Bamberg series:

A Piece of Heaven on Earth: Bamberg

The Church of St. Getreu

House Shrines, Wayside Crosses and Easter Wells

Banz Abbey

St. Michael's Abbey


Bamberg Cathedral

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: