From the book The Burdens of Sister Margaret by Craig Harline

Klosterarbeiten – translated from the German it means Monastery Work. These little altars or shrines were among the most stylish items in Catholic devotion of the time. Developed in the fifteenth century, and perfected by nuns and beguines who often worked in tandem with lay painters and woodcarvers, such shrines came to the Low Countries by way of Brugge around 1500 and spread from there. Some were in the form of a triptych, as most altarpieces, but much smaller, perhaps thirty-nine inches high by fifty inches wide. The wings, usually painted by professionals, portrayed saints or benefactors of the house and order. But the central portion was the crucial and distinguishing part, for it was usually fashioned by the nuns themselves, and often stood alone. It consisted of a fairly shallow case full of meticulously carved figures – saints, angels, biblical characters, and so on – which were then adorned with a wagon full of carefully crafted artificial flowers, usually from silk or parchment or even metal. Situated behind a small fence that might stand amid imitation grass, here was the hortus conclusus, or enclosed garden, which was not only the usual symbol of Mary’s virginity but also the place where the inspiring characters portrayed – and by implication the chaste viewer as well – could best work out salvation.

Besides the general artistic significance of the little altars, they likely reflected as well a distinctively female way of expressing religious feeling or artistic prowess in this time – for cloistered women inevitably restricted worship to their home convent, while the better-traveled male religious might worship in a multitude of places during his life and possess less motive or opportunity for the careful embellishment of his house. Indeed, a comparison of decoration in male and female convents and parish churches, may lead to the detection of genuinely different attitudes between the genders about form and manner of worship.


I have found that the easiest way for me to get a good translation is to put the information on a web page and then feed the page’s address into a translation site and go from there. Below is a list of source material I’ve been collecting. I have only included the pages that were directly related to the flowers which, for the most part, would be the pages sited by other authors on the subject. In most cases I converted the whole page(s) to Word format so I could upload and run it through translation programs. I have gathered the links here so I’d have an easier time finding them. They are in no specific order.


The item pictured just above – I’ve yet to look into this one more closely:

Krone und Schleier: Kunst Aus Mittelalterlichen Frauenklöstern 383 Heiligenkrone (Blütenkranz) aus Rostock

Rostock, um 1500 | Draht, Seide, Glas-, (Türkis-) und hornperlen, organisches Marerial; H. ca. 5, Dm. ca. 8 (unten) und ca. 9 cm (oben) | Staatliches Museum Schwerin, Kunstsammlungen, Inv. –Nr. MK 135

 Noch 1593/1595 besaß das nunmehrige evangelische Damenstift 14 Heiligenkronen, zwei Marienkronen, eine Brautkrone sowie die Kronen von sechs kleinen bekleideten Statuetten. Im Gegensatz zu der silbervergoldeten Krone aus St. Marienstern (Kat. 293) gehört die Rostocker mit ihrem Reifengestell und künstlichen Blüten wie die Brautkronen zum Typ der Blütenkränze und wird gegen 1500 im Konvent angefertigt worden sein. Der Blütenkranz, seit nachreformatorischer Zeit einer thronenden Madonna (Kat. 382) zugeordnet, zeichnet sich durch die reiche Verwendung organischer Materialien und des Spiraldrahtes aus. Seine Herstellung entspricht den Blumenranken des ebenfalls im Rostocker Kloster entstandenen Tafelreliquiars mit Vesperbild (Inv. Nr. MK 38).


Translated to:

Crown and Veil: Art from medieval woman-monasteries 

383 holy crown (bloom ring) from Rostock       Rostock, around 1500|Wire, silk, glass -, (Turkish -) and horn beads, organic Material; H. approx. 5, DM. approx. 8 (down) and approx. 9 cm (above)|National museum Schwerin, art collections, Inv. No. MK 135       

Still 1593/1595 possessed mehrige Evangelist lady pin 14 holy crowns, two Marian crowns, a bride crown as well as the crowns of six small dressed Statues. Contrary to the silver-gilded crown from pc. Marienstern (Kat. 293) belongs the rust ochers with their wire rack and artificial blooms like the bride crowns to the type of the bloom rings and against 1500 in the convention will have been made. The bloom ring, since after reformationist time of one throne-end Madonna (Kat. 382) assigned, is characterized by the rich use of organic materials and the spiral of wire. Its production corresponds the flower climbing in the rust ocher to monastery developed board likewise reliquiars with Vesperbild (Inv. No. MK 38).