The Shroud of Rudolf
The Shroud of Rudolf
The Shroud of Rudolf
The Shroud of Rudolf
The Shroud of Rudolf

1319-1335

Material
Textile

Collection
Dom Museum Wien
On loan from St. Stephen's Cathedral

Inv.Nr.
L/7

Textile
Textile
Medieval art

On view

Query
Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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Gilt-Thread and Silk Fabric of the Shroud of Duke Rudolf IV

The precious silk fabric shot with gilt-thread bears a muslim blessing. Under unknown circumstances it becomes the splendid shroud for a christian ruler.

Shimmering golden, the textile pieces inside the showcase make one think of a tailor’s shop: two parts spread out flat like cut sleeves. The largest piece of fabric looks like the front and back of a tight body bag, covering a person from the neck down and over the feet.

This textile was indeed made-to-measure, if only after the person’s death: following a brief illness, the Habsburg duke Rudolf IV had unexpectedly died, only twenty-six years old, on a politically important journey to Milan. The choice to shroud his body for the ceremonious transportation back to Vienna was a precious oriental brocade: on a ground of red and greenish-blue silk, ornamental patterns in silver-gilt thread were worked in using the most elaborate technique.
What leaps to the eye is strips of highly decorative, huge Arabic letters, of which only few are extant in full size due to how the fabric was cut. They are lined with narrow bands of tiny panthers hunting antelopes. Also fascinating in the strips between is the elegance of the peacocks amid plant patterns. These are surrounded by intricately patterned rhombi and curved medallions.

The writing turned out to be an Islamic blessing for an Ilkhanid sultan by the name of Abu Sa’id who ruled over the territories of today’s Iran and Iraq between 1316 and 1335. The fact that he is mentioned by full name and title is a unique stroke of good luck for research. The Mongolian ruler probably had the fabric made in one of his court workshops in the capital city of Tabriz. Gold brocade textiles like these were given to high-ranking officials and dignitaries at and around the court. How and through which channels this textile from the Islamic area came to be used as a shroud for the Christian ruler Rudolf IV remains unclarified.