Sternenmantel of Heinrich II (973-1024)

The Sternenmantel of Heinrich II (973-1024). The Sternenmantel of Heinrich II (973-1024). Diocesan Museum, Bamberg.

The Sternenmantel of Heinrich II is one of the oldest surviving European embroidered copes. Heinrich II (973-1024) had many titles and positions. He was the Duke of Bavaria (from 995), King of Germany (1002), King of Italy (1004) and eventually he became the Holy Roman Emperor (1014). He was married in 999 to Kunigunde (Cunigunde) of Luxembourg, who later became known as St. Kunigunde.

It would appear that the (court?) Sternenmantel was given to Heinrich by Duke Ismahel of Bari in c. 1020 and at some point the mantle was donated to Bamberg Cathedral by either Heinrich or his wife.

In the twelfth century Heinrich and his wife were declared saints and as a result items associated with them, including the cope, became holy relics, which were regularly touched and revered. Apparently in c. 1503 the embroidered elements were cut off the original ground of purple (twill weave) cloth and mounted onto a blue silk damask ground with a woven pattern of pomegranates. As a result it is not certain whether the original order of the motifs on the mantle was moved to the new cloth or there were changes.

As it currently stands, the cope is 300 cm wide and 150 cm high. It is covered in embroidered slips that depict the Life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, as well as various celestial bodies (hence its present name). Along the bottom of the garment is an embroidered text that may have stated: “O Decus Europae Cesar Heinrice.” The design was worked in fine couched gold thread on a violet ground (twill weave). Some of the figures were worked in stem stitch. In addition numerous pearls were applied to the ground material. It is believed that the mantle was made in what is now southern Germany. The cope is currently housed in the Diocesan Museum, Bamberg.

See also the Great Mantle of St. Kunigunde and the Cope of St. Kunigunde


  • JUNG, Norbert, and Holger KEMPKENS (2014). Gekrönt auf Erden und im Himmel. Das heilige Kaiserpaar Heinrich II. und Kunigunde, Münsterschwarzach: Vier-Türme-Verlag, and Diözesanmuseum Bamberg.
  • O’CONNER, Elizabeth (1980). The Star Mantle of Henry II, PhD thesis, Columbia University.
  • WOODFIN, Warren T. (2008). 'Presents given and presence subverted: The Cunegunda chormantel in Bamberg and the ideology of Byzantine textiles,' Gesta, 47, no. 1, pp. 33-50.

For the latest information on scientific research about the garment, click here.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 12 June 2016).

See also the TRC blog for 11 June 2016.




Last modified on Wednesday, 24 May 2017 11:06