Art enthusiasts who wanted to take in the Bayeux Tapestry have always had to travel to France for a valuable glimpse into medieval history. But now this 11th-century masterpiece can be viewed online from anywhere in the world.
Officials of the Musee de la Tapisserie de Bayeux are making the tapestry available for viewing from anywhere at any time at no cost.
How Can You See The Bayeux Tapestry?
The tapestry is on display at the Musee de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Normandy, but the status of French museums remains fluid during the coronavirus pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, museums in France closed. Most opened to limited crowds during the summer, but a resurgence of the virus caused them to close again in October.
Likewise, travel to France is a difficult situation right now. So the museum’s alternative is to allow anyone, anywhere to view the tapestry online at no cost. View it here.
The City of Bayeux, the Ministry of Culture, and the Fabrique de Patrimoines en Normandie teamed up to photograph the tapestry, then had the images reconstituted as a panorama available for viewing.
What Is The Bayeux Tapestry?
The Bayeux Tapestry was produced between 1067 and 1079 by English embroiderers. It shows in pictures the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror and his defeat of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Measuring about 224 feet wide and 20 inches high, it is the largest and best-preserved work from the Middle Ages. Historians consider it to be invaluable because of its depictions of daily life and aspects of warfare, in addition to the story of the Norman conquest.
The Tapestry consists of 75 scenes with Latin inscriptions. The textile’s end is missing, but historians believe it probably showed the coronation of William as king.
How Was The Bayeux Tapestry Made?
Though commonly known as one, the Bayeux is not technically a tapestry. A traditional tapestry features images woven into the cloth, but that’s not the case with the Bayeux. It features images and inscriptions embroidered with wool yarn onto the linen cloth.
Historians believe the tapestry was made in Canterbury, England, but it is unknown who came up with the design and the story depicted on the cloth. Many suspect it was the creation of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and the half-brother of William.
Many of the scenes depict the Norman Conquest, but that story is interrupted by scenes of everyday life in the 11th century. These visuals are considered important historical documents of the era.
What Does The Bayeux Tapestry Depict?
Each of the 75 scenes follows a similar pattern, with each divided into three horizontal zones. The main images take up the bulk of each scene in the large middle zone. The small upper and lower zones, meanwhile, contain images of animals, people, scenes of hunting, dragons, corpses, body parts, and even scenes from Aesop’s Fables.
Of the 75 scenes, 58 deal with the Norman Conquest. In total, there are 626 characters depicted, as well as a variety of animals, nature, and buildings.
“The tapestry contains a considerable amount of information not only about the political events surrounding the conquest story, but also about other aspects of military, social, and cultural history,” David Musgrove of History Extra said of the tapestry’s importance. “Historians of clothing have gleaned much about Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman garment styles and fashions, while academics interested in early medieval ship-building, sailing and carpentry have likewise learnt [sic] much from the sections dealing with the construction and voyage of William’s invasion fleet.”