Spain (?), first half of 12th century, inv. no. DS218
Silk samite, patterned

The cope – the bishop’s cloak – appears rather plain at first glance. However, it is not only one of the oldest surviving examples of its kind; on second glance, the golden shimmer of its patterned silk also gives it an exquisite appearance through the play of light and shadow. The decorative motif is made up of offset pointed ovals with flowers set in them.

The silk fabric, with its pattern that seems to have been carved into it, is of a type known as “incised” fabrics. In the 12th century, silk fabrics were extremely rare in Europe, and the cultivation and production of silk was still a carefully kept secret. Silk fabrics mainly came from Byzantium or the Arab regions. As the characteristics of the technique and the specifics of the weave are not typical of Byzantine production, the material is believed to originate in Moorish Spain.