Maaseik Embroideries

One of the panels of the Maaseik embroideries, probably 9th century. One of the panels of the Maaseik embroideries, probably 9th century.

The so-called Maaseik embroideries are believed to include the oldest extant Western European embroidered pieces of fabric. They are incorporated into a medieval ecclesiastical vestment, namely a chasuble (casula). The chasuble and related textiles are housed in the Sint-Catharina (St. Catherine) Church, Maaseik, Belgium. The chasuble is now known as ‘The chasuble of Sts Harlindis and Relindis’.

Saint Relindis (Renule) and her sister, Saint Harlindis, who lived in the eighth century, were the daughters of the Frankish Count Adelard. They lived for the latter part of their lives at the Benedictine convent of Aldeneik, near Maaseik, which was founded by their father. Upon the death of her sister, Relindis was installed as abbess by St Boniface. According to tradition, Relindis was a gifted craftswoman and she was allegedly responsible for these particular embroideries.

Titel page of 1596 book on the Saints Harlindis and Relindis.

It is more likely, however, that the pieces are of Anglo-Saxon English origin and date to the ninth century. In the course of time they were combined with a late medieval silk fabric and some modern materials that are used as a foundation. Together they are now c. 87 x 57 cm in size. The textiles were conserved in 1990.

The embroideries, eight pieces in total, are made up of two long rectangular fragments decorated in multiple colours with arcades, and a dense, interlaced design with foliate and animal ornamentation. There are also two shorter strips, which are decorated with parallel horizontal rows of roundels in the form of vine leaves. Each roundel encloses a bird or animal form seen in profile. There are also four multi-coloured embroidered monograms.

The embroideries are worked on a linen ground and decorated using gold thread (passing), coloured floss silk (beige, light and dark blue and yellow) and z-spun red and green silk (with some 3-ply silk thread). In addition, there are applied pearls and glass beads. The techniques and stitches used are couching, split stitch and stem stitch. The main designs and ground are filled with the gold and silk threads, while the roundels are outlined with the pearls and beads.


  • BUDNY, Mildred (1984). The Anglo-Saxon Embroideries at Maaseik: Their Historical and Art-Historical Context, Academiae Analecta, XLV, pp. 1-84.
  • BUDNY, Mildred and Dominic TWEDDLE (1984). 'The Maaseik embroideries,' in (ed.) Peter CLEMOES, Anglo-Saxon England vol. 13, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 65-97.
  • CALBERG, M. (1951). 'Tissus et broderies attribués aux Saintes Harlinde et Relinde', Brussels: Bulletin de la Société Royale d'Archéologie de Bruxelles, pp. 1-26.
  • HEYMANS, H. (1983). 'De middeleeuwse stoffen te Maaseik,' Het Oude Land van Loon, 38, pp. 231-271.
  • COATSWORTH, Elizabeth (2012). 'Maaseik textiles', in: Gale Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth and Maria Hayward (eds.). Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles, c. 450-1450, Brill: Leiden, pp. 354-357.
  • (retrieved 16 May 2016).
  • (retrieved 16 May 2016).

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 9 July 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 05 October 2016 09:50