Living history in the weaving factory for ecclesiastical vestments and altar hangings
“The Haus der Seidenkultur is a relatively recent cultural institution which is deeply rooted in the history of the town of Krefeld.
The Hubert Gotzes weaving factory for ecclesiastical vestments has a tradition extending back over one hundred years”, writes Gregor Kathstede, mayor of the town of Krefeld (formerly) in his opening speech on the occasion of the company centenary, thereby succinctly underlining the significance of the institution.
The Hubert Gotzes Weaving Factory for Ecclesiastical Vestments, Ecclesiastical Textiles and Banners
On 21st. October 1905, Hubert Gotzes was entered as an independent maker of ecclesiastical vestments, ecclesiastical textiles and banners in the commercial register of the town of Krefeld and as a result he became part of the story surrounding the Krefeld silk weavers. Having completed an apprenticeship under and then worked for his cousin Theodor Gotzes, who was also involved in the manufacture of ecclesiastical textiles, he set up his first independent business on the Westwall in Krefeld. The premises were soon too small for a rapidly growing company. Hubert Gotzes therefore purchased the building Luisenstraße 15 in 1908.
This building had been constructed in 1868 by the silk goods manufacturer, Gottfried Diepers. The large windows facing south met the special lighting requirements for manual weaving. This ensured that there was adequate light over the full width of the looms all day long. Gottfried Diepers seems to have opened the way for a new working structure when he set up this new type of weaving workshop. Up until the mid 1900s, weavers still worked predominantly on their looms at home and such workplaces were only gradually brought together in factories and subsequently increasingly mechanised. The weavers’ houses Inrather Strasse 197-203 which are now listed buildings still provide a reminder of the home weavers in Krefeld. The new factories which started to spring up made it possible to produce sumptuous textiles on the new technically advanced Jacquard hand looms. Up until almost the turn of the last millennium, the cloth interwoven with gold and silver threads for the precious ecclesiastical vestments was woven on such looms. It was only due to this fact that the weaving workshop in the Luisenstrasse hardly changed at all in over one hundred years.
One weaver who started his apprenticeship at Gotzes in 1937 remembers that the looms were in the same position then as they are in the weaving workshop today: close together and as near as possible to the window in order to take optimal advantage of space and light.
The legacy of Hubert Gotzes
Four sons joined the family-run company Hubert Gotzes: Jakob was employed in the administration, Matthias was a weaver, Josef was travelling as a sales representative and Hubert, the youngest, went to America in 1914. In Chicago he successfully set up a subsidiary, procured cloth from the parent company in Krefeld and produced the ecclesiastical vestments in America.
Very early on the company established a reputation for supplying high-quality and sound products. A letter received from a nun in Chicago is repeatedly quoted in this respect. She describes a procession to mark the 26th World Eucharistic Congress in 1926. During this procession, those taking part were suddenly overcome by a heavy shower of rain. This washed the colours out of the ecclesiastical vestments which they were wearing, making them a sorry sight to behold. Only the vestments made from cloth supplied by Hubert Gotzes retained their true colours. It was the best advertisement that the company could have wished for. Unfortunately Hubert Gotzes senior, the founder of the Krefeld-based weaving factory, did not live to experience his company’s triumph. He had already died in 1916. Initially Jakob and Josef Gotzes took over the management as executors. Then between 1931 and 1934 Matthias Gotzes was the sole owner of the company.
Josef Gotzes set up his own weaving factory for ecclesiastical textiles. The sets of Jacquard cards - the design templates used to control the Jacquard machines- still existing in the factory in the 1930s were shared amongst the brothers.
When Matthias Gotzes was killed in a road accident in 1936, his wife succeeded him in the business. “She was a good and circumspect manager” related the contemporaries who knew her. As she did not have any children of her own, she adopted her nephew, Erwin Maus and prepared him thoroughly for his subsequent position. He started in the weaving workshop and learned the trade right from scratch. He also worked in the office and became acquainted with the customers whilst acting as a sales representative. When his aunt died in 1969, he was well prepared to succeed her. In the meantime, Erwin Maus had married Helga Meyer from Koblenz in 1954. But that is another story....
The 2nd Vatican Council from 1963-1965 which introduced new regulations governing the desired simplicity of church vestments did lead to a significant decline in business but Erwin Maus countered this by providing a better service. He transformed the vehicle in which he visited his customers into a mobile shop which became known as the “Mausmobil”. Even customers far beyond the boundaries of Krefeld were very familiar with it.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the precious textiles were still being produced on Jacquard hand looms in Luisenstrasse. In the meantime, however, Andreas Friedenberg was the only weaver working in the factory. When he died suddenly in 1989, Erwin Maus gradually phased out the business and finally closed it completely in 1992.
From factory for ecclesiastical vestments to Haus der Seidenkultur
However, it was very important for the businessman Ernest Maus who died in 2004 to preserve his weaving factory for subsequent generations as it was the only factory still in existence with an authentic weaving workshop and eight Jacquard hand-looms. Following initial negotiations with the town’s decision-makers, a process was set in motion which resulted in the Kulturstiftung NRW together with the Sparkassenstiftung Krefeld acquiring the premises which they then handed over to Association of Friends in the year 2000. At this point it should be mentioned that it was thanks to the commitment of the archivist of the city of Krefeld, Paul Günther Schulte, and Dr. Stratmann that the Association of Friends was “launched”.
The active volunteers and the members of the Association of Friends now strive to literally keep the history of the premises alive. Weavers and point pattern makers amongst others contribute to this by demonstrating what it was once like to work in the weaving workshop at Hubert Gotzes.
The former cutting and embroidery rooms are now the setting for temporary exhibitions and demonstrations of former craftsmanship which are in most cases connected with the history of the building or the “town of silk and velvet”. Apart from gaining impressions of past history, there is always something new to see and experience at the Haus der Seidenkultur.