Saturday, June 15, 2013

Visit to St. Benedict's Monastery

Today our EGA (Embroiderers' Guild of America) chapter took a field trip to the St. Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota. What a treat! Upon our arrival we were warmly greeted by the sisters who had set out fruit, sweet bread and coffee for us. There were four vestments on display in the room where we were to hear Sister Moira tell us a little about the history of the embroideries stitched at St. Benedict's. This is one of them:

This was just a teaser for what was to come! But first, some background... Sister Moira told us that this order originated in Bavaria. They came to this country in 1852 and made their way to St. Joseph, Minnesota in 1863. In 1867 the Art and Needlework Department was established. St. Walburg Hall was built specially for doing needlework.

The sisters would take orders for liturgical pieces. They had a catalog of possible designs, but all items were made to order. There were as many as 18-20 sisters working in the Art and Needlework Department. They used quality materials, silk and gold threads and fine brocades. At the time these materials were not available in the US so had to be obtained from Europe. Sadly, the department was closed in 1968.

There were two people who were instrumental in the needlework efforts of the sisters, but more on that in my next post. For now, let's go back into the inner room!

One of the pieces that I was taken with was the ciborium cover. Look closely at the intricate detail of the stags. And notice the background of chain stitches. They loop over one another and create an intricate background all from a simple chain stitch.


Another favorite was this piece with the angels. The shading on the wings is incredible. And do you see what is at the top of the wings? The backs of the angel heads! Each strand of hair carefully embroidered. Just lovely!

This was truly a special day for our group and I have much more to show you in my next post! So, until then...

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