History Lesson: Bayeux Tapestry



I have always been fascinated with this bit of preserved history in the Bayeux Tapestry. First of all I love fabric and embroidery so this piece really speaks to me on an aesthetic level, but it is also an amazing scene by scene account of the events that lead up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Originally I planned to use some of the scenes for a hanging stained glass lamp over our pool table. Since the pool table no longer lives with us and we are now working on our back yard garden beds, I thought I would resurrect my idea as a "fresco" on the plaster walls of our patio planters. I will use latex paint over dried plaster/stucco instead of real lime putty and true fresh paint (which I would still love to learn) but not having access to these materials I will do the next best thing!



The Bayeux Tapestry chronicles the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when the Norman invaders conquered England, led by William of Normandy. The tapestry itself is really an embroidery since it was not woven but embroidered with crewel (wool) yarn on a natural linen background. It is approximately 1 1/2 feet tall by 225 feet long and each panel was sewn together and embroidered over to camouflage the seams. It is supposed to have taken a couple years to complete and no one is quite sure who commissioned it, but the most popular view is that Bishop Odo of Bayuex (William's half brother) commissioned it for the dedication of the Cathedral of Bayeux in 1077.


There are many fascinating aspects of the embroidery that give a great historically accurate account of the events depicted, but the story is from the point of view of the conquering Normans. Briefly, the events shown are of the aging Edward the Confessor, king of England sending his brother in law Harold Godwinson to Normandy to possible pledge his loyalty to William, Duke of Normandy and Edward's great nephew. Since Edward had no clear heir, he supposedly offered William the throne, and then some sources say on his deathbed told Harold he could have it. In any case, the events that followed were Harold getting accidentally kidnapped in Normandy, going back to England, William bringing an army with him to England to reclaim his throne and ultimately beating Harold and becoming "William the Conqueror".


The embroidery has amazingly survived relatively intact and in excellent condition considering all of the transfers of ownership, wars, Nazi's and other trials it has gone through. Its history is worthy of study and adding this little bit of culture to our garden patio is our way of enjoying its beauty and keeping our past alive.




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