Valley Grove Tapestries: Adding Angels Above the Arch

Putting together designs for the Valley Grove tapestries is an enormous puzzle. I want to use every opportunity to reference something from the history of the churches or their particular environment in southern Minnesota. In addition, I’m referencing many historical Norwegian tapestries. It would make sense to pay homage to the most famous and the earliest known Norwegian tapestry, the Baldishol Tapestry. Note how the figures are framed in arches with columns.

The Baldishol Tapestry has been dated at about 1180.

An important architectural feature of the original stone church was a filigree carved wooden arch. I enlarged the arch in the photo using Photoshop, chose a center section, and will use it at the top of the tapestry that will include images of a Ladies Aid woman and the stone church. (See those images in this post: “Valley Grove Tapestries: What was I Thinking, Part Two.”

The arch left two blank areas in the top corners. Should I just use a plant-like form in the corners, like the old Baldishol Tapestry? Then I noticed that many Norwegian tapestries of the Adoration of the Magi from the 1600s included angels in the corners. Angels seem perfect for the Stone Church tapestry.

Here is a section of the arch in my design underway, with an angel sketch in the corner. Just a start.

Look again at the Baldishol Tapestry above and notice the meandering ribbon-like design along the bottom. I emulated that, too, in the Ladies Aid woman tapestry, except I modified it to add two roosters, to honor the rooster at the top of the filial on the stone church. Here’s the rooster on the church.

Here’s the border sketch.

I think the rooster shape needs a bit more work, now that I see the real one in my photo again. (I was thinking about colors, and that’s why there are dots of red yarn on the drawing.)

There is an interesting artifact in the stone church; a 19th-century board was found with a rooster sketch. The Norwegian words translate roughly to, “Look here, Anton, this is the way it should be.” It likely guided the construction of the first church spire for the 1862 church. The spire came down in 1905.

A new spire with a rooster was erected in 2007. John Maakestad drew a new rooster based on a photo from the 1890s.

This is such rich material to work with. Right now it’s a bit overwhelming–will I ever get to the weaving part?


  1. Hi Robbie You documentation is terrific Robbie. This is such an interesting process and your creative energy shows through in all aspects of your research and preparation… I’m beginning to think that your project is worthy of a separate documentary. We’ll talk at some point about the possibilities. Thanks again for keeping me posted. Paul

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