A new study attempts to address many unanswered questions about the Bayeux Tapestry, one of Europe’s most renowned works of art dating back to the 11th century.
Currently on permanent display at the Bayeux Museum in Normandy, northern France, the embroidered tapestry measuring 50 centimetres in height and 70 metres in length, commemorates the invasion of England in 1066 by William, the Duke of Normandy (William the Conqueror), who defeated Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England at the Battle of Hastings.
The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the epic conquest in a series of 58 scenes featuring 626 characters, which have been embroidered into linen cloth using wool yarn.
While the artwork sheds light on the events of the medieval period, not much is known about the creator or where and why it was created. Christopher Norton, an art historian at the University of York, has now published a study in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association, in which he presents evidence that suggests that it was created for Normandy’s Bayeux Cathedral.
The earliest recorded mention of the Bayeux Tapestry dates back to 1476 when it was hung in the nave of the Bayeux Cathedral and also listed in the cathedral’s inventory. The Bayeux Museum describes the tapestry as “a masterpiece of 11th century Romanesque art, which was probably commissioned by Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror’s half-brother, to embellish his newly-built cathedral in Bayeux in 1077”.
Norton decided to explore the history of the tapestry following French President Emmanuel Macron’s offer to loan the tapestry to the United Kingdom – the first time the artwork would move out of France in 950 years. He began by gathering information on the original layout of Bayeux Cathedral, with particular focus on the nave where the tapestry was once displayed. He was also able to estimate its probable original length based on standard lengths of linen cloth on which it was embroidered. Using these calculations, he was able to prove that the original tapestry would have fitted perfectly into the nave of the Bayeux Cathedral.
The study concluded that the masterpiece was designed specifically for Bayeux Cathedral, where it stretched across the north, south and west sides of the nave. Based on his findings, Norton recommends that the tapestry – when it is loaned to the UK – should be displayed along three sides of a rectangular space measuring 103 feet wide and 30 feet high to replicate the original setting.
Image: The Bayeux Tapestry (Public Domain)