Ecclesiastical Garments of the 13th Century: The Alb

The overall shape of the alb has not changed in many years and, thanks to an alb

11th Century Alb

at the V & A Museum (No. 8710 of 1863 and labeled “Albe, white linen, with apparels of crimson silk, Sicilianfo urteenth century.”*), we can see how the garment was cut and created. The alb was the base garment for bishops, priests, deacons, sub-deacons, acolytes and choristers. The alb to the right is said to have belonged to St. Bernulf who died in 1056 but garment is dated to 12th century** and as such can be counted a the predecessor of the 13th century alb.  While the shape is almost exactly the same, is far more decorative than the extant 13th century alb. The alb that I am talking about was stripped of any superfluous decoration. I have included a simplistic line drawing below for reference. Please note that the under arm gores would have been the same color as the rest of the garment but OO.Draw wouldn’t let me color those sections in.

13th Century Alb Line Drawing

The “apparels” as the decorations were called, were located at the cuffs and at the center front just above the hem. These squares were worked in silk and gold and, at times, lace and measured anywhere from 20 inches by 9 inches to 9 inches by inches for the hem piece. The wrist pieces are said to have measured between 6 inches by 4 inches to 3 inches by 3 inches. The prevailing color was white though some may have been off white or natural and almost exclusively made of fine linen. The extant garment measures a surprising 94 inches wide by 65 inches tall and was made to be belted at the waist and held up from the ground by said belt.***

* Mary G. Houston, Medieval Costume in England and France: The 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries (New York: Dover, 1996) 22.
**”European Medieval, Alb of St. Bernulf.” Extant Orignals. Site created and designed by Martina a Martin Høibovi, 2006.
***Mary G. Houston, Medieval Costume in England and France: The 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries (New York: Dover, 1996) 23.

Categories: 11th Century, 13th Century, Alb, Ecclesiastical | Leave a comment

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