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These interesting facts about the Bayeux Tapestry add to the delight of uncovering the stories and mystery that surround this famous tapestry.
The Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings 1066 made an impression on me as a young student. Somehow the story of William the Conqueror, the Norman Conquest of England and its ensuing visual representation stuck with me over many decades.
Thus, I have always wanted to see the Bayeux Tapestry in Bayeux France since I was a young girl.
Fast forward to 2020 when I finally orchestrated the opportunity. It was the year of the Coronavirus and also the year of living on a long-term visa in France, my dream.
So What’s The Story Of The Norman Conquest Of England?
In brief, this is the story depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
Hold on to your hats, because like every good story there is a voyage or two and a betrayal of trust. Oh… and add in an invasion.
King Edward of England knew he was going to die soon and as he had no heir, he asked his brother-in-law Harold Godwinson to go to France and deliver the news to William, Duke of Normandy that he was to become the King of England upon his death.
Harold did as he was told. He had a few adventures along the way but when he met William, Duke of Normandy he delivered the message. He even made an oath (possibly in the Bayeux Cathedral) committing to accepting William as King Edward’s successor.
King Edward dies soon after Harold’s return to England, and Harold fashions a coronation making himself King of England. Ouf. Quel betrayal.
When William hears of this, he gets ready to head over to England and take what is rightfully his.
I just have to say that the scenes in the Bayeux Tapestry when the French are preparing for battle are fascinating. Believe you me, there are many kegs of French wine being transported on those ships.
The Battle of Hastings takes place on the 14th of October 1066. William, Duke of Normandy (who was once known as William the Bastard) wins the battle and becomes the King of England.
11 Interesting Facts About The Bayeux Tapestry
1. Interesting Facts About The Bayeux Tapestry: Its Age
One of the most interesting facts about the Bayeux Tapestry is its age. The Bayeux Tapestry has survived over 950 years. For nine and half centuries it has been in existence. It survived the French Revolution and two World Wars. The tapestry of Bayeux is beyond ancient and still enthrals visitors from all over the world.
What about this astonishing fact about the Bayeux tapestry? About half a million people visit the Bayeux Tapestry museum each year.
2. The Tapestry Of The Battle Of Hastings
The Bayeux Tapestry really is misnamed because it is not at all about Bayeux nor is it a tapestry (spoiler for #3).
Although named the Bayeux Tapestry, the tapestry recounts the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror (Guillaume le Conquérant) in 1066. Possibly it should have been named the Battle of Hastings Tapestry or the Tapestry of the Battle of Hastings.
Never mind. At least it has always had its home in Bayeux France, except for a few brief periods in history such as during WWII when this famed Battle of Hastings Tapestry was stored in Sourches and then sent to the Louvre.
3. Interesting Facts About The Bayeux Tapestry: It Isn’t A Tapestry At All
This fact about the Bayeux Tapestry is a bit of a surprise. The Bayeux Tapestry, despite its name, is indeed a work of embroidery of woollen yarn. Embroidered on linen, there are four embroidery stitches used to create the Tapestry of the Battle of Hastings.
Most surprising when seeing the Tapestry of the Battle of Hastings is the vibrancy of the four muted colours used. Red, yellow (which appears like golden wheat), sage green and blue are the only colours used. The skill and variety of the embroiderers’ stitching create impressive depth perception.
Us humans have been creative since the dawn of time.
4. This Tapestry Is Longer Than Two Blue Whales
The Battle Of Hastings Tapestry is 68.38 metres (224.34 feet) in length. It is long and skinny. Longer than you can imagine. Enter the darkened room to view the tapestry and sitting behind the protective glass, it stretches along one wall and curves around into the next room!
There are 58 scenes depicting Harold’s arrival in France, the betrayal, preparation for the battle and the Battle of Hastings. With the audio guide, it is easy to follow the story.
Running above and below the main frame of the story are two decorative borders that portray animals such as dogs, lions and birds and fanciful animals as well. In the battle scenes, dead soldiers and horses are depicted in the lower border. There is a lot to look for when visiting the Bayeux Tapestry!
FYI: The maximum confirmed length of a blue whale is 29.9 metres (98 feet).
5. Interesting Facts About The Bayeux Tapestry: 6 Women Make An Appearance
We know that 950 years ago men were everything. So it is not surprising that the majority of characters in this Battle of Hastings Tapestry are men. There are though, six women that appear in the historic account. There are three women veiled in the main section of the tapestry. There are also three naked women that appear in the borders. The naked women appear just before the battle begins in the main part of the tapestry.
6. Halley’s Comet Appears In The Bayeux Tapestry
I love this fact about the Bayeux Tapestry. Halley’s comet appears in the Tapestry of Bayeux in all its glory with a fiery tail! Worried onlookers point to the sky and this strange phenomenon.
7. Interesting Facts About The Bayeux Tapestry: The Text
One of the interesting facts about the Bayeux Tapestry is the Latin text which offers insight into some of the scenes. Not a Latin expert? No worries. The story depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry is easy to follow without deciphering the Latin phrases.
Towards the end of the battle the words “Here the English and the French fell together in combat” make me wish I was able to decipher more Latin.
8. Interesting Facts About The Bayeux Tapestry: Mont-Saint Michel Is Depicted
William Duke of Normandy invited Harold Godwinson (who arrived from England to deliver King Edward’s message) to stay in Normandy. At one point they leave for a military expedition in Brittany. Lo and behold there is Mont-Saint Michel (which although technically is part of Normandy is right by the border of Brittany) the beautiful abbey church perched on the rock.
Read More: Mont-Saint Michel is a vision rising from the sea.
9. Who Created This Battle Of Hastings Tapestry?
There is still mystery surrounding the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry. There have been many theories over the years as to whose idea it was to retell this historical event in embroidery. And, who embroidered this Tapestry of Bayeux and where was it made?
At one point it was believed that Queen Matilda, William the Conqueror’s spouse might have produced the Battle of Hastings Tapestry. It was also believed to have been created in England in some of the towns that had embroidery workshops.
More recently, it has been agreed that Bishop Odo of Bayeux, William the Conqueror’s half-brother probably had it commissioned. He is featured in the tapestry as he partook in the battle.
The Tapestry of Bayeux could also have been produced in France. Historians have tried to uncover where it was created but it is still not known for sure.
10. Where Was The Bayeux Tapestry Displayed?
For one week every year (centuries ago), the Bayeux Tapestry was displayed in the nave of the Bayeux Cathedral for all to see. What a brilliant way to share historical events through visual storytelling with a population that was mostly illiterate.
11. The Bayeux Tapestry: No Photos Are Allowed
Although this might not rank as one of the interesting facts about the Bayeux Tapestry, it is something to be aware of. I was planning to snap away while viewing the tapestry.
It is probably not so surprising that there are no photos allowed in the darkened room where the antique tapestry is lit beautifully.
I hope you find these facts about the tapestry as interesting as I do!
Until next time,
More Travel Info…
The Bayeux Tapestry Museum
Find out all information here for the details of your visit. The Bayeux Tapestry Museum is open from February 1st to December 31st, seven days a week.
There are no advance reservations on line, therefore arrive early.
The Tapestry of Bayeux may go on loan to the United Kingdom in 2024. Read all about it here.
There is going to be a complete redesign of the Bayeux Museum housing the Tapestry. Opening of the new display area is scheduled for 2025.
Cost: 9.50€ ($14.90 Cdn/ $11.60US) including an audio guide available in 16 languages.