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Ecclesiastical stole

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1290-1340 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered in silver-gilt, silver and silk thread

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Monsieur G. Saville Seligman

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Ecclesiastical stoles were long narrow scarves worn around the neck by Christian clergy, they usually fell to the knee or lower. The best English embroidery of this period, known as Opus Anglicanum (Latin for 'English work'), can be seen in this example. It was of superb quality and highly regarded throughout Europe. The heraldic shields shown can be identified as those of some of the leading noble families of the age: Percy, Beauchamp, Roos, Dacre and Blount. However, the way they are arranged here suggests that they may have been selected for decorative reasons.

Physical description

Stole, silver gilt and silver thread and silk embroidered in plait stitch and underside couching on silk (?), only visible in small hole on reverse. Edges bound in yellow silk braid, lined in pink linen attached with later crude red stitching. Fringed at both ends. Shields of arms of English families.
The heraldic shields shown can be identified, but the fact that they are alternatively azure and gules suggests that they were selected for decorative reasons.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1290-1340 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered in silver-gilt, silver and silk thread

Marks and inscriptions

On each side, 19 heralidic shields on alternate square of gules and azure


Length: 271 cm with fringe, Width: 7 cm, Length: 257 cm without fringe

Object history note

Formerly in Lord Willoughby de Broke's collection and sold at Sotheby's on 28th of January, 1921 for £125, lot 247. Sold to Monsieur G. Saville Seligman who lent it to the Franco-British Exhibition of Textiles in the V&A, 1921, and subsequently donated it to the museum.
Lent by Lord de Broke to the Exhibition of English Embroidery at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1905, and to the Burlington Fine Arts Club Heraldic Exhibition in 1916.

Historical significance: The stole is significant as an example of Opus Anglicanum, the renowned embroideries made in England for both domestic and international commissions. The majority of surviving examples were made for ecclesiastical use.

Historical context note

Two of the arms on this stole, 11 (Brandison) and 19 (Mountenay) correspond with those on the Syon Cope edging (nos. 25 and 9 - see Ecclesiastical Embroideries Catalogue 1916, pp. 11 & 12). A good deal of research has still to be done upon the heraldic embroidered stoles which group themselves with the Syon Cope before it will be possible to deduce the locality where they were worked. The Willoughby stole seems to be most valuable from this point of view. It is (speaking from the armoury) possibly slightly later than the Syon Cope, and present the arms on shields, not upon lozenges or roundels as does the latter. It contains fewer of the well-known arms (which tell one less of locality) than Miss Weld's two stoles. (See illustrated catalogue from Mr. Van de Put's report of 21.01.1921).

(Taken from the green catalogue description).

Descriptive line

Embroidered ecclesiastical stole

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Burlington Fine Arts Club, Catalogue of Exhibition of English Embroidery, 1905, plate VII (I), p. 54.
Catalogue of English Ecclesiastical Embroideries of the XIII to XVI Centuries (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1930, pp. 27-29
The Arts Council, Opus Anglicanum (London: The Arts Council, 1963)
Takahiko Sano, ed., The European Art of Textiles (Japan: The Victoria & Albert Museum, 1995), p.41

Production Note


Silver thread; Gilt thread; Silk thread; Linen


Embroidering; Couching; Weaving

Subjects depicted

Lion; Heraldic Shields


Christianity; Ecclesiastical textiles; Embroidery; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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