Bayeux Tapestry

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Background

The Bayeux Tapestry (French: Tapisserie de Bayeux) is not actually a tapestry (that is, a weaving), but is embroidery. It is currently to be found in a special museum in the town of Bayeux in Normandy. It was made in England, probably in Kent, after the Norman conquest of 1066, and commemorates the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings.

Techniques

The tapestry is 70 metres long and 0.5 metres wide. It has 58 scenes, which portray in detail the progress of William I of England to the throne. It was made using Laid and Couched Work of wool on a linen ground fabric. The embroiderers used wool which had been tinted with vegetable dyes. The colours of muted brick, rust, mustard yellow, olive-green, dark brown and off-white can be found in cloth traditionally woven in the region.

Personalities

There are five major personalities depicted on the tapestry: King Edward of England, Harold Godwinson the oathbreaker, Duke William of Normandy, Bishop Odo (who was William's half-brother), and Eustace Count of Boulogne (although an effort was made to erase his name). The English Archbishop Stigand, and Edward's queen Edith are also depicted, as is Duke Conan of Brittany. There are also four individuals otherwise unknown to history -- a dwarf, Turold (a name derived from the Norse Thorvald); two Normans, Wadard and Vital, and a woman, Aelfgyva (who appears to have been involved in some way with an un-named priest).

History

It is sometimes said to have been made by William's queen, Matilda of Flanders, and her ladies. Indeed, in France it is known as "La Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde" (Tapestry of Queen Mathilda). However, it was probably made in a workshop on the orders of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, who was William's half-brother.

The misidentification of Harold II of England in the tapestry has led to the widespread but incorrect idea that Harold was killed by an arrow striking his eye. The tapestry also contains a representation of a comet which is likely to be Halley's Comet. While political propaganda or personal emphasis may have somewhat distorted the historic accuracy of the story, the Bayeux tapestry presents a unique visual document of medieval arms, apparel, and other objects. However, it has been noted that the warriors are depicted fighting with bare hands, while other sources indicate the general use of gloves in battle and hunt.

External Links

For images of the tapestry, visit - http://rubens.anu.edu.au/htdocs/bytype/textiles/bayeux/