Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Or even more when you are looking at the Bayeux Tapestry in Bayeux, France. This historic tapestry, which dates to the 1070s, depicts the story of William the Conqueror's invasion of England and the subsequent Battle of Hastings. The tapestry was an attempt to commemorate history and allow even the most uneducated and illiterate people of the time to see and understand their history. French legend had the tapestry being created by William's wife Queen Matilda and her ladies in waiting but scholars now think it was actually commissioned by William's half-brother Bishop Odo and stitched in England of vegetable dyed wool yarn on top of linen. There are a total of 50 panels starting with Edward the Confessor sending William to Normandy and ending with English troops fleeing the Battle of Hastings. In between the stitches tell the story of  battles and invasions, heroics and death and even a sighting of Halley's Comet, which in the Middle Ages was viewed as being a bad omen. Are the historical depictions accurate? Maybe or maybe not; but then again what version of history is completely accurate? But in my opinion, that really isn't the point. Rather the tapestry is a work of art that shows one version of a historical period that shaped the world.

A visit to the tapestry is a must see when visiting Normandy. All 230 feet of the tapestry is on display for visitors to see. Individual headphones guide visitors through the length of the cloth describing each numbered panel. (There is even a children's version of the narration which Sidney loved). There are so many levels from which one can look at the tapestry. First, there is the simple fact that this intricately hand stitched cloth is a piece of art. The work is beautiful and the details are so fine. It amazes me to think that every stitch on this cloth was sewn by hand. Second, it tells the story of a rich history that influenced and shaped western Europe. Even without narration or knowing the story of William the Conqueror one can learn about the past because the details are that rich. In many respects the narration, while wonderful and detailed, actually detracted from the viewing of the story. My advice would be to view the tapestry twice; first without the narration so you can focus on the details and let your imagination do all of the work and then a second time accompanied by the words. But, the words really are optional since pictures really are worth a thousand words!

Unfortunately photographs were not allowed so the only pictures I have are those I've found on the Internet. So, if you want to see more images of the tapestry click here. Or go visit the tapestry yourself. And while you are there check out more of the town of Bayeux including their grand cathedral where the tapestry was rediscovered hanging in the 18th Century.

If you go:

Bayeux Museum
13 bis rue de Nesmond
F14400 Bayeux France
33 02 31 51 25 50
Open daily 09.00-18.30
Adults 9 Euro, reduced rates for seniors, children and groups

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