Vestments of St. Ambrose Undergoing Restoration

September 03, 2014 (Source:

Originally reported on September 02

Archaeologists from the University of Bonn, working with restorers, are preserving and studying 4th-century tunics ascribed to St. Ambrose. In the course of examining these valuable silk garments, they have made surprising scholarly discoveries regarding the development of early relic worship. In a few days they will return to Milan with a mobile lab to continue the project at the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio.

Saint Ambrose is the patron saint of grocers, beekeepers, and gingerbread bakers. He is also the patron saint of study, which explains why his attributes include the book and the flagellum, in addition to the beehive. What is more, Ambrose (339-397) is also the patron saint of Milan, where his bones rest in the Basilica that bears his name, Sant’Ambrogio. Born in Trier, Germany, he began his career as a politician, becoming elected, in 374, the influential Bishop of the emperor’s residenceof Milan. He enacted relic veneration, and would become frequently quoted in the catechism. The Ambrosian chants are associated with him, and he is honored as a Doctor of the Church. Surprisingly though, the tunics at Sant’Ambrogio, which are associated with the saint and venerated as relics, are little known.

“These are marvelously beautiful vestments of sumptuous silk that have been ascribed to the saint,” says Professor Dr. Sabine Schrenk of the department of Christian Archaeology at the University of Bonn. One of them has intricate depictions of hunting scenes with trees and leopards, while the other valuable textile is keptrather simple. There is yet no conclusive proof that these tunics date to the late 4th century, though they certainly cannot be dated very much later. Hence they are very significant testimony for the Late Antique and Early Christian periods.

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