Six gold-embroidered robes from the first quarter of the 11th century have been preserved in the Diözesanmuseum Bamberg (Diocesan Museum Bamberg). They are the main testimonies to Ottonian textile art and, as a first-rate cultural asset, are closely linked to Bamberg’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
They are the oldest robes in the context of European rulers and commemorate the founders of the Bamberg diocese, Emperor Heinrich II (973-1024, ruled 1014-1024) and his wife Kunigunde (died 1033). Since the late 14th century, they have been displayed as venerable relics of the holy founding couple during Bamberg’s ostensions of holy relics. Beyond that, people could request to be shown the robes and touch them in the hope of healing.
Their relic status is the reason for their preservation. But this use made numerous repairs necessary.
Since the 18th century, research has increasingly pushed the relic character into the background. As a result, they could later be exploited to legitimise the young German Empire, which wanted to place itself in the tradition of the medieval emperors. This change of character made it possible to interfere massively with the robes during the restoration in the 1950s in order to do justice to the claim of "imperial textiles".
The various changes could be shown by the DFG project "Imperial vestments – gold embroidered staging of the past" (2015-2020). Due to its importance for Bavaria’s cultural identity, the virtual exhibition introduces the 1000-year history of changes to the Bamberg imperial robes, facilitating an introduction to the collection. The virtual exhibition offers two access options for this purpose.
On the one hand, the object level makes it possible to view the individual robes independently and to trace the individual object’s evolution.
On the other hand, access through the time level enables a comparative view of all six robes in the three periods in which they underwent the severest changes: the modern period, the late Middle Ages and the 11th century.
The virtual exhibition also offers a special highlight: the transcriptions of the blue cope of Kunigunde contemplate liturgical chants from the period of origin. 13 chants were set to music for the first time in accordance with the performance practice of the 11th century.