Textiles studio > The life of Christ

Treatment of tapestries with The Life of Christ from the St Salvator Cathedral in Bruges

Staff members: Fanny Van Cleven (coordination), Shirin Van Eenhooge, Anouk Van Beurden, Michelle De Brueker, Rosetta Turco, Chantal Carpentier and Greta Bocqué.

Project carried out on behalf of the St Salvator Cathedral church wardens and the Museums of Bruges, financed by the InBev-Baillet-Latour Fund.  

The St Salvator Cathedral in Bruges owns a series of eight 18th century tapestries entitled The Life of Christ. Bishop Hendrik Jozef van Susteren (1716-1742) from Bruges asked the painter Jan Van Orley (1665-1735) to design eight paperboards (oil paint on canvas) for the St Donatian's church in Bruges. They were purchased by cannon Arents in 1814 and stored in the cathedral. The tapestries have not left the choir of the cathedral since 1970. It concerns the following scenes: Adoration of the Shepherds, Christ among the Doctors, Wedding at Cana, The Miraculous Draught of Fish, Christ with Simon the Pharisian, Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Christ Carrying the Cross and The Resurrection.

These tapestries are being treated in the textile atelier since January 2013. They were heavily restored in the 1960s. Gaps, caused by bats that had built their nests in the tapestries, were rewoven at that time. The tapestries are currently in a good state, but were very dirty when they arrived at the KIK-IRPA. During the first phase of the works, they continued to hang in the cathedral. As a result, dirt and dust was able to settle between the fibres.


Our task is now to clean the tapestries and perform minimal interventions, such as reinforcing the edges and refastening loose warp threads on a new supporting tissue. The eight tapestries, six of which have a length of about 8 metres and a height of 4 metres, will be given a new lining and a new mounting system. The tapestries will be on display once again at the beginning of 2017 or after the renovations in the cathedral are completed.