Bathilde de Chelles Band

Lady Arabella De Mere, OM
January 2021 (A.S. LV)

The Original Band

There were a few bands found in the tomb of St. Bathilde and Abbess Bertille. The band I am focusing on was found on St. Bathilde. Since it was found in their tomb, it is very easy to date the band, as Bathilde died around 680 AD and Bertille around 704 AD and was also buried in Bathilde’s tomb.

The original is made of silk in blue, yellow and red, and is 18 mm wide. The original threads were likely, based on the time period, to be dyed with indigo (for the blue), madder (for the red), and weld (for the yellow).  Four pieces have been preserved for a total length of 125 cm. The band shows a series of a total of 24 (21 as seen in Trésors de Chelles) geometric patterns, many of them similar, mirrored, or the same patterns but differing in which colors are used.

The pattern cards are threaded with two red threads in opposite holes, with one blue and one yellow thread in opposite holes. The border cards are threaded with red threads in all four holes.

Portions of the band are in excellent condition, with other parts being damaged. The band is displayed in 4 pieces.

The most common picture of this band can be seen in Trésors de Chelles.

While researching, I came across this picture of the display in Musée Alfred Bonno provided by Siglinde Harfnerstochter, OL. They were on a layover in Paris on the one day of the week the museum is open to the public, and went and took pictures of the exhibit. While the museum is only 3 rooms of exhibits, it has the original bands that were recovered from the burial, and the photographs of the originals show additional design motifs that are not featured in the normally cited book.

About St. Bathilde: she was queen consort of Burgundy and Neustria by marriage to Clovis II, the king of Burgundy and Neustria (639–658), and regent during the minority of her son. She is famous for her charitable service and generous donations. From her donations, the abbeys of Corbie and Chelles were founded. As queen, she was a capable stateswoman. She abolished the practice of trading Christian slaves and strove to free children who had been sold into slavery.

About My Band (a work in progress – 12 of 24 motifs completed)

Technical information:

30/2 silk, 25mm wide. Warp is approximately 108 inches (3 yards) long.

After reading about other people’s attempts, 20/2 silk was too big at 22mm, and 60/2 silk yielded a width of 14mm, so I decided to try 30/2 to try to get to the original width of 18mm.  My first attempt was able to achieve 18mm of width, but the pattern was extremely elongated.  I then chose to reweave that portion of the band with a focus on widening the band to improve the proportions of the pattern.  When I did this, I found a width of 25mm to be a good compromise between attempting the original width and keeping the fidelity of the pattern.

Upon speaking with Mistress Eowyn of Gleann Abhann, she advised that while we know the width of the original and the pattern used to produce it, we have no solid evidence on the weight of the silk used to produce the original, so some variance in the finished product is understandable, and the goal should be to faithfully recreate the pattern to the best of our abilities.

Patterning:

This portion of the project took a substantial amount of time. I prefer to use Microsoft Excel to make my patterns as I can set the size of the cells and individually fill them with color as needed. While working on the pattern, I would chart 1-2 large motifs with the transition motifs per day. The colors in my pattern show the card turning direction. The darker colors are turns backwards, lighter are turns forward. The band is red, yellow, and blue; the cards threaded with two red (in opposite holes), one yellow, and one blue. Each line of the pattern is 1/4 turn of the cards.

Due to cultural sensitivities, I felt it prudent to modify some of the motifs. While these original motifs were not the same form as seen in other recent well-known card-woven bands, they were similar enough to cause some potential discomfort.

As mentioned earlier, the most exciting thing about my project was finding “bonus motifs”!!! I was able to chart them and include them in my pattern. Comparing the two available pictures (and using a computer to zoom in) I was able to see enough pattern to re-create the damaged portions, as well as chart the motifs that were omitted from the book.

My pattern contains annotations as to where I modified the pattern for various reasons – either to remove potentially sensitive symbols, to note where the original piece was damaged, and which patterns were not shown on the original image.



Interesting observation:


Is it presented correctly, or did the weavers change their orientation? After looking at the presentation of the band, I noticed that the width of the colored blocks in the transition motifs is not consistent between the first portion of the band and the remaining portions.  Due to the pattern portion being 44 threads wide, the 9-block transition motif cannot be evenly divided, leaving one block a thread narrower than the rest.  The overall pattern has transition motifs where there are groups of 5 colored threads in 8 blocks, with the 9th block being 4 threads. While I was looking very closely at the pictures of the band, it seems that on 2 of the 3 pieces that show this, the group of 4 on the transition motifs is on the top. On the 3rd piece, the group of 4 threads is on the bottom. Why would they change in the middle of the band? One possibility is that one piece may not be arranged in the same direction as the others.  As this is a fine detail, there is a possibility that the museum curators may not be specialized in historical tablet weaving.  All observations made are from studying details of third-party pictures, as I have not been able to examine the piece in person.

I have included images showing these differences.  Please note – the band layout in the book Trésors de Chelles is arranged differently than how the band is displayed at the Musée Alfred Bonno. 


What I would do differently?

Silk is commonly sold in sizes 20/2 and 60/2, in a great variety of colors. It is less common to see other sizes, but I was able to find 120/2, 30/2, and 5/2. Out of these other sizes the 30/2 is between the 20/2 and 60/2. Based on observations of other attempts at creating this band, 60/2 was too thin (at 14mm) and 20/2 was too wide (at 22mm).  This is not what I found while making my piece, as my result was 25mm in width using 30/2.  What makes creating these bands difficult is not only creating the correct pattern, but maintaining the proper proportions.  As seen in Snartemo V and Chelles, the patterns are very square, and not elongated.  Maintaining proper tension and width is key to obtaining the correct proportions.

When looking at the previously noted attempts at creating these bands, the resulting patterns are usually elongated.  If I were to create this band again, and wanted to use easily available silk sizes, I would attempt it using 60/2 silk with an eased weft to produce the proper proportions.

I previously wove another floatwork band, Snartemo V. These two bands are similar in that they both use the floatwork technique, where color threads “float” on the top of the band to form the pattern.  What I find interesting about these two bands together is the differences of time period (almost 200 years), countries of origin (Norway/France), and cultures (Pagan/Christian).

Snartemo VChelles
Age:6th century (500s CE)Approx. 680 CE
Width:5cm (my band was 3.5cm)1.8cm (my band was 2.5cm)
Card Width:56 cards50 cards
Colors:4 (red, blue, yellow, green)3 (red x2, yellow, blue)
Materials:WoolSilk
Thread size:20/2 (15/2 to achieve original width)30/2 (60/2 to achieve original width?)
Location:Grave mound under a large stone in Snartemo, NorwayTomb of St. Bathilde, Chelles Abbey, Chelles, France.
Condition:Small portion, very poor condition. Not on public display.Some sections in excellent condition, others damaged. On display at Musée Alfred Bonno in Chelles, France.
Status:Wealthy individualRoyalty

Citations

Siglindeart’s Blog “Visit to the Musée Alfred Bonno” February 16, 2013.
(https://siglindesarts.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/visit-to-the-musee-alfred-bonno/)
Mistress Siglinde Harfnerstochter, OL. Barony of Skaeling Althing, Kingdom of Ealdormere.

Trésors de Chelles : Sépultures et reliques de la Reine Bathilde (+ vers 680) et de l’Abbesse Bertille (+ vers 704), Jean-Pierre Laporte and Raymond Boyer. Société Archéologique et Historique de Chelles, 1991.

Project Gallery and Closeups of Motifs

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