This is the coronation mantle of the German kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. Whenever you see a picture of an medieval and later (up to 1806) German emperor with the imperial regalia (loosely "crown jewels and other ceremonial imperial signs") he wears this one.
But I didn't just want to post a picture of an old piece of cloth. Please note the text on the lower round edge. It is a blessing for the wearer. Sorry, your German will not help you much to understand it. Nor will the knowledge of the Latin alphabet. The blessing is in Kufic, an old form of Arabic script. It ends with the date of the production: "year 528 of the Hijra" (year 528 after Muhammed's migration from Mecca to Medina, that is 1133 or 1134).
Just as a quick side note how old influence and interrelations are.
Here's more information, including translation of the border script: http://www.qantara-med.org/qantara4/public/show_document.php?do_id=1159lang=en.
"This large semi-circular cape – a common form in the mediaeval period for ceremonial mantles – is one of a whole batch of luxurious clothes made between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries in Sicily by craftsmen of Arab origin. Some are dated. Arriving in Germany by marriage or inheritance at the very beginning of the thirteenth century, they were very quickly used for the coronations of emperors of the Germanic Roman Holy Empire. Initially preserved in Aix-la-Chapelle (it is believed that the cape once belonged to Charlemagne), then, from 1424 to the end of the eighth century in Nuremburg, they finally entered the treasury of the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum in 1801.
The decoration of the back of the cape, in monumental mirror form, is in gold on a red background, detailed in red, light blue, yellow, dark brown or in reserve. It is entirely underlined with two rows of little pearls (several hundreds of thousands). Backing on to either side of a date-palm there are two couples of animals displaying the antique theme of the predator seizing its prey: a lion, with head proudly held high and tail curving up above its back to meet a half palm leaf, curves punctuated with rosettes broad-leaved foliage, crushing and holding a dromedary in it is powerful claws. If the different unrealistic details emphasising the anatomy of the animals were already common in the tenth century, others (lions claws, the hairs on the lips of the dromedary for example) are very realistic as well as the execution of volumes and the tension which emerges from the attack. While contemporary mantels offer repeated decorations on a small scale, this one, on the contrary was designed as a powerful symbol of the victory of the Norman Hauteville dynasty, whose emblem is a lion, over the Arabs. Because of its date, the cape cannot have been used at the coronation of Roger II (1130). Perhaps it was created for a particular occasion? The upper border of the item (which appears on its front when it is worn) is embroidered with a frieze of quatrefoils furnished with a lily alternating with golden lozenges. Behind the head of the lions, two circular broaches in goldsmith’s art, decorated with star-shaped rosettes are at the centre of a quatrefoil enriched with gems set in the claws; with two small “rings” in gold encrusted with rubies set on either side of the collar, these would fasten the mantle.
The inside of the cape is lined with different bits of material with diverse techniques and decorations. Several are ornamented with snakelike dragons whose bodies knot to form openings which frame isolated characters, knights, animals and “candelabra” trees. The way in which these dragons are crafted, with heads which face or back onto each other, evokes the decorations sculpted in stucco and stone of several edifices, or painted on the ceramics of the Seljuq and Ayyubid eras. On one of these materials, large ribbons draw lozenge shaped frames and semi-lozenge shaped frames in degree which enclose trees with parallel branches, two of which are longer and finish in dragons heads (?) which stand up, with leaves that are all downturned displaying birds heads; in the lozenge shaped frames, this tree is flanked by two moving women. Similar decorations can be found on other textile attributed to Sicily and even evoke the glazed ornate cup of the “bird tree” at the Louvre.
This unique item of clothing, by the extraordinary finesse of its creation, its decoration and its inscription, perfectly illustrates the luxury of the court of Roger II and the successful symbiosis of the savoir-faire and decorative themes of the Islamic Orient and Christian Sicily."
Translation of border script:
“Here is what was created in the princely treasury, filled with luck, illustration, majesty, perfection, longanimity, superiority, welcome, prosperity, liberality, shine, pride, beauty, the achievement of desires and hopes, the pleasure of days and nights, without cease or change, with glory, devotion, preservation, protection, chance, salvation, victory and capability, in the capital of Sicily, in the year 528 H. [1133-1134] ".
Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this! :) If you ever have extra time maybe you could do a post about the area you live in or come from. :)
Duo goes Schleswig-Holstein, nice idea! You know the old saying about Schleswig-Holstein's history (the SH question in particular)? Only three people understood it. One is dead, the second went mad over it and the third has forgotten everything. If you think the Holy Roman Empire was a patchwork of small territories - ha. We tried to do Baarle-Hertog on a state level for centuries. In complicated. Multi level same-person liege relations, sure, why not?
What I want to say: I fear that I will get lost in details (that are interesting... to me). But I will keep it in mind. As a border region with several semi-official languages it is quite relevant here. And a beautiful place to be.
Just a little note since we're all learning here: it should be "went mad", not "got mad."
To "get mad" is to become angry; to "go mad" is to become insane
Among my ancestors were German-speakers from Schleswig...who emigrated to the US after losing the First Schleswig War.
Yes, it would be so interesting to learn about this border region! Border regions are especially fascinating - when cultures are bumping right up against each other and overlapping sometimes. Plus it is so great when natives/insiders provide windows into their cullture(s). I love/taught history so no story is too small or too complicated for my interests. :) Danke.
Although I'm just a philistine peasant, I find your post awesome! Here, have a lingot, Sire
I believe that mantle and the gloves that go with it go back to Emperor Friedrich II's coronation in 1220. he grew up in partly-Arabic Sicily, seems to have spoken fluent Arabic and once shockingly concluded a crusade by cutting a peaceful deal with the Egyptian sultan, therefore depriving the other crusaders of bloodshed, pillage and rape. Needless to say, this was not well received.
Perhaps the blessing in Arabic was his private joke on the Pope? He went on to have the most epic celebrity death match with the Papacy ever.
Wait, ... so German kings and emperors have been crowned for almost 1,000 years with a dedication to Islam?
I wouldn't say that specifically. The blessing is mundane and the reference to the Hijra is just for date purposes.
I don't know why your post was downvoted, I have upvoted it but that only puts it back to zero I'm afraid. I found this very interesting, our traditions and histories are all so rich and interelated. Thank you . :-)