The Bayeux Tapestry is a remarkable survivor of an age when little survives to describe the events of the time. It was made approximately ten years after the Norman invasion of England and was hung at the consecration of Bayeux cathedral in 1077. The Council of Arras had recommended in 1025 that the illiterate masses could be better educated by hanging suitable pictures in churches. It is therefore likely that this was part of the motivation for such a large undertaking.

The tapestry itself is slightly over 70 metres long by about half a metre wide, although to be accurate it is not technically a tapestry at all but an embroidery. It is not known who commissioned it, or who did the actual work, but the current belief is that Bishop Odo, who at many points appears as the central figure, may have been responsible. In France the tapestry is known as Matilda's tapestry -- Matilda was William's wife. William was one of the few monarchs who at that time remained faithful to his wife throughout his complete reign, enjoying a large family. A number of stories indicate a strong bond between William and Matilda that was uncommon for a monarch in a period when women played a minor role in affairs of state.

Analysis of the embroidery style and the use of spelling in the Saxon manner, as well as spelling mistakes in the Latin, suggest that contrary to past belief it was probably made at Canterbury in Kent, England. Canterbury was at that time one of Europe's leading embroidery schools and by way of circumstantial evidence Bishop Odo became Earl of Kent after the Norman Conquest. The size and speed with which it was designed and completed indicates a considerable production process that could only have been completed at one of the major schools of embroidery.

The most remarkable element of the tapestry is its authentic traceable pedigree and the faithful cartoon-like description of events. There are many mysterious elements that historians have found impossible to equate and debate continues to this day as to the accuracy of styles of clothing, building and the events it depicts.

Ba`yeux" tap"es*try (?).

A piece of linen about 1 ft. 8 in. wide by 213 ft. long, covered with embroidery representing the incidents of William the Conqueror's expedition to England, preserved in the town museum of Bayeux in Normandy. It is probably of the 11th century, and is attributed by tradition to Matilda, the Conqueror's wife.

 

© Webster 1913.

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