Steeple Aston Cope

The lute playing angle on the Steeple Aston cope The lute playing angle on the Steeple Aston cope © The Rector and Churchwardens of St Peter and St Paul, Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire

The Steeple Aston cope dates from c. 1320. It is an example of opus anglicanum. It is decorated with coloured silks with silver and silver gilt thread on a fawn silk ground, woven in a twill weave. The remains of the cope belong to the Steeple Aston Church (Oxfordshire, England) and are now on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, since 1905.

Steeple Aston is a village about 16 km south of Banbury. The church is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul and dates to the thirteenth century, if not older. It has been restored on several occasions. It is believed that the Steeple Aston cope was cut up during the Reformation and later parts of it were used to make an altar frontal and dossal.

Many fragments of the original cope have survived, including parts of the orphrey, which is the decorative band going down the front opening of a cope. The surviving orphrey pieces include an angel playing a viola, a winged angel strumming a lute while riding a horse, a Moor hitting St. Barnabas on the head with a large club, a saint being stabbed to death, St Catherine, as well as various lions.

The vestment is included in the exhibition on opus anglicanum at the Victoria and Albert Museum, October 2016 - February 2017.


  • BROWNE, Clare, Glyn DAVIES, and M.A. MICHAEL (2016). English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum, exhibition catalogue, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, Catalogue no. 45 (pp. 190-195)
  • CHRISTIE, A. (1938). English Medieval Embroidery, pp. 161-164 no. 87; pls. CXIV-CXIX; fig. 134
  • KING, Donald (1963). Opus Anglicanum, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, pp. 36-37
  • OWEN-CROCKER, Gale, Elizabeth COATSWORTH and Maria HAYWARD (eds., 2012). Encyclopedia of Dress and Textiles in the British Isles c. 450-1450. Leiden: Brill, esp. pp. 288, 290.
  • SYNGE, L. (2001), Art of Embroidery: History of Style and Technique, London: Royal School of Needlework, Antique Collector’s Club, p. 48; fig. 43.
  • (retrieved 7 May 2016).

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 9 July 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 01 February 2017 09:34
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