Cope of St. Boniface, Utrecht

Cope, allegedly ascribed to St Boniface. Cope, allegedly ascribed to St Boniface. Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

There is a medieval cope associated with St. Boniface. It is now in Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, The Netherlands (acc. no. ABM t2341). It is sometimes described as being embroidered. However, no decorative needlework appears to have survived. The museum has dated the ground cloth of the cope to between AD 1190-1209 and suggests an Eastern Mediterranean (possibly Egypt) origin.

The cope is made of a dark blue silk cloth with a woven design of peacocks. Although copes of this period were often decorated with an embroidered orphrey down the front opening and a symbolic hood (koorkap), these are no longer present. In its current form the cope has a hood that was probably added in the seventeenth century and is made from woven bands.

According to various accounts, Saint Boniface (c. 675-754) was born in Wessex, England. He was a member of the Anglo-Saxon Christian mission to the Frankish Empire in the eighth century. During this period Boniface stayed for about one year in Utrecht with a Northumbrian missionary called Willibrord (c. 658-739), the first bishop of Utrecht who later became St. Willibord. Boniface became the first archbishop of Mainz and following his death in Frisia in 754 (he was killed near Dokkum) he was declared a saint and later became the patron saint of Germania. A cult of St. Boniface developed, especially in Dokkum (Netherlands), and various items associated with the saint were deposited there including a fragment of his skull, a copy of the gospel copied by Boniface and a chasuble and cope said to have been worn by him. In 1588 the Dokkum church was destroyed and these relics disappeared, probably taken into safekeeping by a local family. When things became safe these items re-surfaced and were placed in a new Catholic church that was built there.

It is clear, however, from the type of cloth used and the style of decoration that this garment is not of the seventh/eight centuries AD and thus not the cope directly associated with the saint. However, by the sixteenth century it had become an accepted relic within the popular culture surrounding the saint

Digital source (retrieved 6 April 2016)

Catharijneconvent online catalogue (retrieved 9 July 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 08 March 2017 16:11