Swiss museums are a wonder. I always end up learning something. This time it was Swiss textiles and embroidery. I could put up hundreds of links, but I recommend that you go to St. Gallen instead.
The textile museum has several sections – an extensive research library, special exhibits like the one on Church treasures – the clothes worn by the clergy during official functions, such as Mass and processions, hats, shoes and gloves. The clothing is called “parament.”
In the Church fabrics room, embroidered pictures of the Cruxifiction from about 1450 to about 1600 were intriguing. One showed Jesus sitting on a sort of saddle, to hold up his body as he died. No other depiction had that particular item. I imagined arguments the designers must have had with the clergy.
Most embroiderers of Church fabrics were nuns – I wonder if that had anything to do with it.
On a hall wall, a big printed display described liturgical colors, what they symbolized and when they were used:
*white with gold and silver for purity, inncence, light and joy;
*red for blood and fire on Pentecost, martyrs feast days, Palm Sunday and Good Friday;
*violet for transition and transformation;
*rose for joyous anticipation,
*black for mourning and death, but also transition from earthly to eternal life; and finally, my favorite…
*green for hope and life on ordinary Sundays and workdays.
Other rooms featured a woman operating a huge mechanical loom embroidering long rows and rows of pink, blue, green and violet flower bouquets; a series of women’s fashions using St. Gallen and Eastern Swiss embroidery through the decades of the 19th and 20th centuries; and a place for a party by salesmen featuring the latest fabrics and designs.
The Swiss use, and have used, silk, linen and cotton – each with its own technological challenge.
All the displays stressed the flexibilty and adaptability of the textile manufacturers. As each new technological development threatened to destroy this important industry, those involved reacted quickly to meet the threat with new technologies of their own.
Economic lesson: There was nothing in the museum about how the manufacturers went to their government to ask for help. On the other hand, I believe there can be some help with tariffs (taxes paid by buyers) and low taxes on the locals.