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The Bayeux Tapestry

Bijgewerkt op: 5 mei 2023

The Bayeux Tapestry is a 70m long, 50 cm high, embroidered piece of art, depicting the history leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The tapestry tells the story of William, Duke of Normandy, entering England and defeating King Harold II, king of England.

Alright, so the history is, well.. history and William won. The battle actually took place at a place now called Battle, which is a bit further north of Hastings, UK. The tapestry was named after the city Bayeux, France, and was - most likely - made in 1068.

The tapestry is from a time after the Battle of Hasting, possibly just a few years later, and is an important source of historical information, also for weaponry, clothing, and customs from that time period.

It's like a comic book: you look at the pictures - and read the text - and see history unfolding. In a large number of scenes, the pre-history, embarking, landing, and battle near Hastings are played out. A short description in Latin is given above and below the images.

One of the most famous scenes is the one that has long been referred to as the one in which "King Harold gets an arrow in his eye and dies". However, research has shown that the figure more likely to be identified as Harold is the one that falls to the right of the Norman horse-riding warrior and also drops the Anglo-Saxon sign of royal dignity, the two-handed ax or Dane axe.

Check out the tapestry for yourself HERE, with the online tapestry from the museum.

Embroidery, not a Tapestry

Most old tapestries were not made for use on the floor, they were made for hanging on the wall. Even other wallhangings in those days - like wallpaper - were made from actual cloth, hanging from the ceiling.

However, the Bayeux TAPESTRY is not a tapestry but an EMBROIDERY made from a linen cloth underground stitched with colored wool and gold. Although it's been damaged in certain areas over time, it's very well preserved overall.

The tessellation embroidery is mostly done with a specific stitch called the Bayeux Stitch.

Events depicted

Here's an amazing video explaining the story on the tapestry:

The other tapestries

In Victorian times (late 19th century), a 1-1 copy of the Tapestry was made for the English community, to also have an opportunity to see the tapestry in England. This tapestry can be visited in the Museum of Reading.

The Tapestry was the inspiration for the Dutch 'Tapestry of Vlaardingen', which was made in 2019 as a reminder of the Battle of Vlaardingen, which also took place in the 11th century (1018).

In pop-culture

Famous throughout the world, the Bayeux Tapestry is constantly parodied, copied, or re-invented. It has been copied in identical embroidery for many years, reproduced in LEGO®, in the form of thousands of pieces of metal or wood, recently in sand, and it has also been animated. Its design and narrative style have even inspired the creation of tapestries telling the stories of other famous epics such as Star Wars® (photo Star Wars ©Aled Lewis) or Game of Thrones®. (Source: Bayeux Museum)

The Bayeux Tapestry is one of those works of art which is popular in film and television culture. It was taken up in the title sequence of the films “The Vikings” with Kirk Douglas and “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” with Kevin Costner, and it makes a discreet appearance in “The Monuments Men”. As for animation films, the Bayeux Tapestry is used jokingly in an episode of “The Simpsons” as well as in a scene in “Shrek the Third”.(Source: Bayeux Museum)

Visit the museum

The Bayeux Museum consists of three museums: Bayeux Tapestry Museum, Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy and the MAHB - Baron Gérard Museum of Art and History.

It is located in Bayeux, France, and you can find all the information HERE.



Find your book on Amazon!

Check out the variety of Bayeux Tapestry books on Amazon HERE.

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