Shrewsbury Abbey, located in Shropshire, England, has been around for a Long Time! Founded as a Benedictine Monastery in the latter part of the 11th century, the portion of the Abbey that is still standing serves as a parish church.
For those who aren’t local to the area, but who are fans of British mystery shows, Shrewsbury Abbey (technically, the Abbey Church of St. Peter and St. Paul) is well known as the setting for the Cadfael mystery series.
When Virginia, a reader of Needle ‘n Thread, visited the Abbey recently, she took pictures of some of the embroidery she saw at the Abbey and sent the photos along. I thought I’d share them with you today. They’re beautiful!
I’m not sure what the different embroidered items are – I’m guessing from the shapes I can make out and the structure of the designs that we’re looking at some kind of frontal. Notice the Tudor-type rose, which is often found in English church embroidery.
I like the color scheme here – the paler pastels are very pretty. I’m not sure the age of the pieces, or whether or not there’s some fading going on, but I would imagine not much – the gold looks to be in pretty good shape, the grey is quite deep, so I’m guessing these colors are not far off from the original color scheme. I like the coral on the rose.
Here’s what looks like a continuation of the same piece – same background fabric, same basic layout, same grey triangles. Notice the gold bits on the lily, that look a little bit like spangles. I like these things! They aren’t flat spangles – they’re more donut-shaped.
You can see the gold accents a little better here. You don’t see this shape too often – I’ve only ever seen it on ecclesiastical embroidery from England. I’m not sure if they were used more widely or not.
I like them! I’d use them in goldwork if they were still available today! They’d make nice foundations or settings for pearls and the like.
Here’s a rose close up. Love the lattice in the middle!
And here’s a corner of the piece, where you can see the lily motif and the rose motif meet. The gold is quite damaged right along the corner. It looks like there’s a nice cord or twist along the edge.
I love this! Such a simple design element, but the movement and shading in it are quite nice! And the colors are very effective on the dark background. I especially like the goldwork “veins” in the center of each “leaf” area, and the fact that they are further outlined with black. It’s very striking!
Here, you can see that design element in context on the corner of something that I’m assuming is either a frontal, a pulpit fall, or even a banner of some sort. There’s some fringe along the bottom of whatever it is.
And another bit of design detail from the same piece. I like the goldwork on the lower right, as it moves up the swash and melds into the silk shading. So pretty!
Another striking piece – gold on a red background always catches they eye! This piece sports some gems in the center of the cross and a nice array of gold spangles be-speckling the outer perimeter of the whole design.
I like the way the flowers are not in high contrast to the background. They’re very subtle, but still there. And the couched goldwork is exquisitely done – very uniform and neat.
And here you can see the flowers a little closer. Notice that the “shading” on the flowers is rather rigid. It’s not a natural shading, with a smooth transition between colors. But if you step back from the piece, it doesn’t matter – the effect of the shading is pleasing from farther away.
Thanks, Virginia, for sending along the photos! I always appreciate the opportunity to travel vicariously, and I hope you all enjoyed a look at these bits of beautiful embroidery from Shrewsbury Abbey.
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