This clever animated version of the Bayeux Tapestry is well worth seeing but a visit to the real one in Northern France cannot be bettered!
Some years ago, travelling south on holiday having taken the ferry to the French port of Ouistreham, near Caen, we took the opportunity for a detour to Bayeux, also in Normandy. We looked round the town with its timbered buildings and the Norman Cathedral (a favourite memory of mine being the wonderful frescoes of angel musicians painted in the crypt), but most importantly we visited the Bayeux Tapestry.
This amazing 50 cm by 70 m (20 in by 230 ft) long piece of embroidery was stitched in about the early to mid 11th Century and is displayed in a long case under subdued light. The detail of the figures, colours and intricate stitching have survived the centuries remarkably well. Particularly notable are the borders showing animals, plants, scenes from daily life and soldiers fallen in the battle. Traditionally it is said to have been commissioned and stitched by Matilda the wife of William of Normandy (otherwise known as William the Conqueror), but the work was most likely to have been done by skilled seamstresses, quite possibly by nuns who were often ladies of high birth whose education would have included needlework skills. It is thought that the Tapestry could have been stitched in England rather than in France, quite possibly in Canterbury which was a centre of excellence for embroidery at that time and William’s half brother Bishop Odo, who commissioned the work, had been made Earl of Kent after the Battle of Hastings. In France it is often called ‘La Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde’ (Queen Matilda’s Tapestry). The Tapestry commemorates the events around the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when William and his army invaded England. It shows the history leading up to the invasion of England by William and his soldiers and ends after the death of King Harold (whom legend says was killed by being shot in the eye by an arrow). Two more useful links are a more detailed account of the story told by the Tapestry and selected images from the tapestry with a translation of the embroidered Latin words.
Bayeux is not far from the French coast and the Second World War D-Day Normandy landing beaches, which are also worth a visit.
There is also a Victorian replica of the Tapestry at Reading in Berkshire.