Bayeux: tapestry and war

It’s a cute little town on the Normandy coast, but there are really only two reasons for visiting Bayeux – its proximity to the D-Day beaches and the Bayeux Tapestry.

Bayeux 15-10-2005 17h11 by Panoramas

Bayeux 15-10-2005 17h11 by Panoramas

The WWII sites are fodder for a much bigger and encompassing post, so I wanted to focus this one on that other war: the 1066 Battle of Hastings, picked out in vibrant threads on a millenium old cloth.

The tapestry is on display in the Musee de la Tapisserie de Bayeux which is in an old seminary in the town centre. Entry for adults is 7.70€ and includes an audio guide.

A full 70 metres long, the tapestry tells the story of Harold II and William the Conqueror. The earliest record of it is 1476, although it is commonly believed to have been commissioned by William’s brother which would put it at almost one thousand years old. It was a visual record of the Norman conquest and could be rolled out for the illiterate public of the time to see.

P3240031 by Webjan

P3240031 by Webjan

In the museum it is hanging vertically in a dim room. The audio guide will take you along it, telling the story the embroidery depicts, but at a rapid pace, completing the entire length in twenty minutes. It pays to go back along it again, taking your time and really looking at the details. Halley’s comet, exposed genitalia, decapitated Saxons. The colours of the thousand year old thread are brighter than most in my wardrobe after six months and the detail, especially of the final battle, is impressive. Pictures really do not do it justice.

Now I’m aware most people would respond with “embroideryschmoidery boooring” and, even as someone who embroiders, I felt that way before seeing it. But it is more imposing than the usual museum wall hanging, with a solemn majesty that I last felt when I saw the Book of Kells. You may not want to base an entire trip on just visiting this but if you’re visiting the Normandy coast it is well worth an hour or so of your time.

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About Jacinta Lodge

Jacinta Lodge is an Australian expat located in Berlin, Germany. She is a freelance writer, freelance scientist, freelance embroiderer and freelance tourist, and thinks that life probably couldn’t get much better. When not kicking back in the world’s coolest city, she jaunts around Europe in a thirty year old VW bus in the company of a sarcasm-challenged German and a mongrel dog. As well as blogging here, she is a blogger on Berlin for PlanetEye.