Luxurious Merovingian Textiles Excavated from Burials in the Saint Denis Basilica, France, 6th-7th century

Desrosiers, Sophie; Rast-Eicher, Antoinette (2013). Luxurious Merovingian Textiles Excavated from Burials in the Saint Denis Basilica, France, 6th-7th century. In: Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings. Textile society of America Symposium proceedings: Vol. 675. Washngton: Textile Society of America

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A new examination of the textile fragments found in the Merovingian burials in the basilica of Saint Denis, near Paris, has recently underscored the diversity of fabrics used to make garments in which members of the royal court were buried. Among them, some woolens of fine quality had been dyed with indigotin. The most astonishing fibre found belongs to a mixed textile (not skin) with beaver fibers and wool. Silks contained shellfish purple and in one case kermes? Two dyestuffs associated with royalty and privilege. Along with this was large number of gold threads, probably produced locally and that were used in tablet-woven borders or for embroideries. In addition, several figured silks, of oriental origin, testify to the importance of this "foreign" material and the taste for textiles woven with complex techniques and probably what had originally had beautiful designs. Although none of these designs have been preserved and many colors have been greatly damaged, the technical characteristics of the remnants indicate proveniences as far as Byzantium, Sassanid Persia and the Chinese court. Such precious textiles show the high social status and political power of the Merovingian court, a testament to their ability to access such luxurious and costly textiles through diplomacy and/or trade with other powerful empires. The examination of these rare textiles along with other fine silks and luxury objects from the same period found in France expand our view of the fundamental role of textiles in the political sphere of this early period of European history.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of Archaeological Sciences > Pre- and Early History

UniBE Contributor:

Rast-Eicher, Antoinette


900 History > 930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)


Textile society of America Symposium proceedings


Textile Society of America




Antoinette Rast-Eicher

Date Deposited:

23 May 2014 09:55

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:34

Related URLs:

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Early medieval textiles, Saint-Denis/Paris, Arnegundis, silk Chinese textiles




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