The Regal Significance of the Dalmatic: The Robes of Le Sacre as Represented in Sculpture of Northern Mid-Twelfth-Century France

  • Janet Snyder
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The act of putting on a mask, a garment, or ornaments to transform appearance and disguise the self implies the choice to modify ones fundamental structure. During the Middle Ages, the prince, abandoning his first identity, took on a divine character through the act of the unction, and became another man: the king.2 In this reincarnation, he assumed an entirely changed aspect; the new clothes that he put on during the course of the sacre expressed the king’s experience of a right of passage and revealed his altered state. As part of the rituals associated with his consecration, the king disrobed to wear only a white silk chemise.3 After the unction at the altar, he was vested in the royal costume: over his chemise he put on a tunic, a dalmatic, and the royal mantle fastened by a fermail on his right shoulder.4 The man of flesh had transformed himself, becoming the anointed of God and acquiring the superior qualities transferred to him by the cosmos.


Twelfth Century Eleventh Century Metropolitan Museum Holy Roman Emperor Divine Character 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    J.-P. Bayard and P. de la Perrière, Les Rites Magiques de la Royaute (Paris: Friant, 1982), p. 156.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See the royal costume descriptions in P. E. Schramm, Kaiser Könige und Päpste, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Geschichte des Mittlealters III (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 1969), pp. 547–52. See also Archives nationales, Le Sacre, p. 54.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    A. Bonnefm, Le Sacre royal dans l’histoire de France, permanence d’une valeur fundamentale (Paris: Bonnefin, 1993), p. 8. Among the Romans, the dalmatic was an outer garment with short sleeves decorated with clavi under which was worn the tunica romain, a long gown with narrow sleeves. E. Piltz, Le costume official des dignitaires byzantins à l’époque paléologue. Figura Nova Series 26 (Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 1994), p. 10. See also Jules Quicherat, Histoire du Costume en France depuis les Temps les plus reculés jusquʼa la fin du XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1875, 1877), p. 161.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    A. van Gennep, Rites of Passage, trans. M. B. Vizedom and G. L. Caffee (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), p. 110.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Paris, Bibliothèque national, MS lat. 1246. See Henri Comte de Paris, Les Rois de France et le Sacr, with Gaston Ducheta-Suchaux (Paris: É ditions du Rodier, 1996), pp. 150–51.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, Dictionaire raisonné du mobilier français, 3–4 (Paris: V.S. Morel et Cie, 1872), p. 38; Joan Evans, Dress in Mediaeval France (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952), p. 8; Quicherat, Histoire du Costume en France, p. 147. The bliaut, a tunic worn on top of the chemise, a linen undergarment, has a closely fitted bodice, an ankle-length wide skirt, and comparatively loose sleeves.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    The term bliaut gironé differentiates the two-piece garment with a finely worked waistband from the one-piece bliaut. “The bliaut was cut in two distinct parts, the cors, or bodice, and the gironée, or skirt.” Eunice Goddard, Women’s Costume in French Texts (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, and Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1929), p. 20Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    In the present discussion, “the court” is construed as the circle of the king and his great vassals, the magnates of the realm, the elite community of these peers who had joined Louis VI when he took up the standard of the Vexin against the threatened invasion of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1124 and called on “all of France to follow.” M. Bur, Suger, abbé de Saint-Denis, régent de France (Paris: Perrin, 1991), pp. 115–16. See document #348, A. Luchaire, Louis VI le Gros, Annales de sa vie et de son Règne (1081–1137) (Paris, 1890; reprint: Brussels: Culture et Civilisation, 1964), p. 160. Du Tillet said the ordo prepared for Philipp: Auguste in 1179 established the twelve peers of France. See Brown, “Franks, Burgundians and Aquitanians.”Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    See the Falconer in the initial Q Incipit, Book 35, Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, in Dijon, Bibliothèque municipale, MS. 173, fol. 174, published in C. Oursel, Miniatures cisterciennes (Macon: Impr. Protat frères, 1960).Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    By the time Louis VII returned from the Second Crusade in November 1149, temporal and spiritual prerogatives were combined into comprehensive peace so that the peace of the kingdom and of God became one. The rights of the Church were identified as the rights of the king and vice versa. The transition was made from a loose system of government in which an overlord defended quasi-independent lords and enforced the peace of God to the institutional monarchy representing a single body of which the fiefs were integral members who embraced the peace of the king. Eric Bournazel, “Suger and the Capetians” Abbot Suger and Saint-Denis, A symposium, ed. Paula Gerson (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1981), p. 55. On the Peace of God and the Truce of God, see H. E.J. Cowdrey, “The Peace and Truce of God in the Eleventh Century,” Popes, Monks and Crusaders 9 (London: The Hambledon Press, 1984), pp. 42–67.Google Scholar
  11. 20.
    Dom Urbain Plancher, Histoire générale et particulière de Bourgogne (Dijon, 1739, reprint; Paris: Éditions du Palais Royal, 1974), p. 503.Google Scholar
  12. 21.
    See S. Pressouyre, Images d’un cloître disparu (Notre-Dame-en-Vaux à Châ lons-sur-Marne) (Bergamo: Joë l Cuénot, 1976).Google Scholar
  13. 25.
    S. D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society; the Jewish communities of the Arab world as portrayed in the documents of the Cairo Geniza 2 (Berkeley: University of California, 1967–1993), p. 214.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Stewart Gordon 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janet Snyder

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations