Abraham and the Angels tapestry

Lower Saxony, c. 1150, inv. no. DS516
Linen and wool, woven

More than ten metres in length, this tapestry depicts steadfast faith, readiness to make sacrifices, and redemption. It adorned the cathedral’s choir area on special feast days and is believed to be the oldest surviving example of European tapestry-making. The clarity of its narrative structure, reduced to the essentials, and its large figures have an almost modern effect.

Four scenes illustrate the story of the patriarch Abraham, who was already an old man when three angels prophesied that his future son would found a nation. On the left, the angels appear before Abraham and he invites them for a meal. The right-hand side of the depiction shows Abraham sacrificing his promised son Isaac; first, the journey to the mountain, then the sacrifice itself, interrupted at the last moment by an angel floating down from above. Abraham stands the test of his firm faith in God. Archangel Michael fighting the dragon concludes the depiction, symbolising the victory of good over evil.