The Torah Mantle: Preserving a Cultural Treasure

(Above) Post treatment: Mounted Torah Mantle


This drapery is known as “pruchat aron”, and is used to cover the sacred cabinet that houses the Temple’s Torah, in the form of a massive scroll. Along the upper section are the main symbols of First Temple: The Torah Crown; a pair of wings belonging to the “karuvim”, or angels, who were believed to overlook the sacrificial altar; a seven-light Menorah (as opposed to the eight-light Hanukkah Menorah); the robe worn by the great “cohen”, or priest, who would be commanding the Temple; the tablets with the Ten Commandments; and the sacrificial altar. Collectively, these symbolize the holiest of the elements pertaining to the Temple.

(Above) Detail of angels

The elements in the main section: columns, vases, tulips, winged horses, are decorative, and bear no religious significance. However, inside the red, central section is a dedication. The “pruchat aron” is always commissioned to honor the passing of loved ones. In this case, it appears to be in memory of a couple. The letters run into each other and as a result it is difficult to tell the exact names of each, but the dedication appears to read: “Torah Crown, belonging to the triumphant… Judah Moshe son of Joseph…and his important wife Hartsina daughter of Esther daughter of Shimon the Cohen…” This is followed by the date of their death. The year is unclear, but it is marked as “The beginning of the month of Elul” (the latter corresponds to the last month in the Hebrew calendar). An additional set of initials most likely stand for “May their souls be linked together in the chain of life.” (Translation courtesy of Shlomi Rabi)

To see additional information on the Torah, please see this PDF.  Courtesy of Moshe Armel. Moshe Armel is a writer, translator and teacher specializing in Judaic studies.

(Above) Detail of the main section with dedication

The Torah Mantle, pictured above, came to The Center in need of general conservation and new housing to preserve its cultural and historic integrity. This particular Mantle is made of beautiful rust and sienna colored velveteen with intricate and finely decorated images, which are depicted with exquisite threadwork throughout. Historically, Mantles are extremely elaborate and ornate in nature, and filled with ritual Jewish symbolism. The Torah Mantle’s sole purpose is to cover and protect the Torah that it houses.

Upon initial examination, it became apparent that this textile was in fragile condition and required great attention to the manner of handling. The piece’s fragility, coupled with its sheer size, required a detailed treatment to provide proper preservation. As with anything historic in nature, areas of previous repairs are commonplace, and this was no exception. The areas of previous repair were left intact to retain and honor the historical integrity of the piece. There were numerous broken threads in the metallic embroidery that needed to be addressed. The Mantle needed to be archivally mounted and displayed with stability and longevity in mind.

As part of the treatment, the fabric was meticulously surface cleaned by vacuuming it through a fine protective screen with a low power vacuum to remove any loose debris that had collected over the years. Additional surface deposits were removed manually with the aid of magnification. The broken metallic threads were repositioned and couched in place. The tassels were treated with the final housing in mind. Along the points of the valance, there are long cords that were secured with a wrapped tack allowing it to hang freely and naturally, without the danger of them coming into contact with housing materials.

(Above) Detail of tassles

A custom mount was devised and built to provide stable support for the Mantle while allowing the piece to be displayed to its fullest potential. The mount consisted of sealed wooden stretcher bars that were wrapped with prepared canvas, and then with prepared Belgian linen of a neutral color. Cotton floss stitches attached the textile to the mount. A custom built UV filtering Plexiglas vitrine was then placed on top and around the mounted textile and secured into place.

(Above) Torah Mantle before treatment housed in wooden vitrine.

 (Above) Post treatment: Mounted Torah Mantle