Photo courtesy of Bayeux Tapestry
Besides being near the D-Day beaches in Normandy, Bayeux boasts of another attraction, the Tapestry. The embroidered linen cloth is 230 feet long and about 19 inches high. It tells the story of the Norman Invasion of England in 1066. There are 58 intricately woven panels that take you through the journey from start to finish, giving a portrayal of the conquest led by William the Conqueror. For all of you embroidery aficionados out there, only a "couching" and "stem" stitch were used. Admittedly, that means nothing to me, but it sounds cool!
Originally, it was believed that Queen Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, created the piece. This theory was discredited because she was, afterall, the Queen of England. When would she have had the time to embroider such a piece? And, the Queen never appears in the tapestry -- we all know a queen would never let that happen! Now, it is thought to be of later origin and possibly constructed by English embroiderers shortly after the battle in 1066 to celebrate and record the events that took place.
The tapestry was put on display in Bayeux's cathedral for 400 years but didn't hold much interest until the French Revolution broke out. During that time, there was a shortage of cloth. Since the people of Bayeux used cloth to cover their wagons, someone remembered a "cloth" in the cathedral. The tapestry was removed and used to cover a wagon. A man by the name of Lambert Leonard Lefrestier (don't you just love those French names?) saw this happening and saved the tapestry by replacing it with another cloth. That's when Bayeux established a fine arts council to protect its treasures. Even with the councils protection, the tapestry endured several more attempts of demise. During WWII, it was kept out of the hands of Nazi Germany by sneaking it into the vaults of the Louvre in Paris. Today, it is behind glass and on exhibit for public viewing.
Although I'm not crazy about artistic renderings of war scenes, I do admire the talent and work put into this piece. It's hard to believe that panels of linen and thread have survived time and war. Such a remnant of history deserves at least a few minutes of your time in Bayeux.
The tapestry is on view in the Bayeux Tapestry Museum. It's easy to find as signs are posted throughout town directing you to the museum. Be sure to pick up an audioguide. It's a little dry, but at least you will better understand the story that is being told through each panel.
Planning a trip to France? Click here to find out how I can help make your experience a unique postcard in your travel scrapbook!