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Bayeux Tapestry - The Norman Conquest Immortalised

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One of the oldest and most unique tapestries in the world is the magnificent Bayeux Tapestry.
It stretches to more than 70 metres long and depicts the story of the events leading to William the Conqueror's invasion of England in 1066 and the Battle of Hastings.
The tapestry is currently displayed in a purpose built museum in France.
The Bayeux Tapestry is not technically a tapestry but an intricate embroidery.
Stitched in eight colours of woollen thread on linen it has survived for more than 900 years and is the only surviving relic detailing this significant historic event.
Origins and aesthetics The exact origin of the Bayeux Tapestry has never been truly confirmed, however most of the historical evidence now points to Bishop Odo, the half brother of William the Conqueror, as the original commissioner of the masterpiece around 1070.
This intriguing work of art was displayed in the Cathedral of Bayeux for a further 700 years where it served as a way of depicting the story of the conquest to the illiterate and uneducated masses.
Originally the embroidery was made from eight sections of linen which were then joined together.
The stitching was worked in wool using couched work, stem, chain and split stitching.
In sharp contrast to other examples of medieval embroidery the scenes stand out clearly against the linen and depict the events leading to the Norman Conquest and defeat of King Harold by William the Conqueror, and ends with the Battle of Hastings itself.
Inspiring Napoleon The Bayeux Tapestry has served as an inspiration to Napoleon Bonaparte during his war against the English and he ordered the tapestry to be transported to Paris, apparently to motivate his planned attack on England which never occurred.
The tapestry returned unscathed to the people of Bayeux, not for the first time.
During the French Revolution the masterpiece ended up as a wagon cover until, rather fortuitously it was recognised and returned.
This led the citizens to form an arts council to protect the work.
Northern France was devastated during both World Wars and the tapestry found itself hidden away during that time.
It is now on display in Bayeux.
The town of Bayeux was one of the first to be liberated during the Second World War by the Allies.
Rather poignantly, the war cemetery at Bayeux has an inscription on the memorial to allied forces in Latin which translates as, "We the descendents of the people conquered by William, liberated his homeland.
" The story within the tapestry On the surface the tapestry depicts a historical event.
Looking in depth at the characters, the armour and the expressions, one sees much more.
Each scene is a work of art in itself and could stand alone as a story in isolation.
The work has a timeless appeal to generations, probably explained by hidden meanings, and the character woven into the fabric itself.
In one scene as William sets out for battle the tapestry appears to give an impression of gathering momentum as horses charge across the linen, an anticipation of the devastating events to come.
The violence of war is evident in the depictions of fallen soldiers, horses, weaponry and the expressions on the faces.
In another scene great detail is placed on the shipping, some decorative, others with emblems and mast heads, all adding to the preparation of and anticipation of events to come.
A captivating work of art The Bayeux Tapestry has timelessly appealed to people for hundreds of years and has relayed a tale of a momentous battle and conquest to generations.
On the one hand the brutality of war and humanity is displayed, on the other the artistic appeal of the masterpiece itself.
Yet again there are still many unanswered questions about this work of art that will continue to intrigue and fascinate for many years to come.
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