Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry (UK: /bˈjɜː, b-/, US: /ˈbj, ˈb-/; French: Tapisserie de Bayeux [tapisʁi də bajø] or La telle du conquest; Latin: Tapete Baiocense) is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 metres (230 ft) long and 50 centimetres (20 in) tall[1] that depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings. It is thought to date to the 11th century, within a few years after the battle. It tells the story from the point of view of the conquering Normans but is now agreed to have been made in England.

A scene from the Bayeux Tapestry depicting Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, rallying Duke William's troops during the Battle of Hastings in 1066

According to Sylvette Lemagnen, conservator of the tapestry, in her 2005 book La Tapisserie de Bayeux:

The Bayeux tapestry is one of the supreme achievements of the Norman Romanesque .... Its survival almost intact over nine centuries is little short of miraculous ... Its exceptional length, the harmony and freshness of its colours, its exquisite workmanship, and the genius of its guiding spirit combine to make it endlessly fascinating.[2]

The cloth consists of some seventy scenes, many with Latin tituli, embroidered on linen with coloured woollen yarns. It is likely that it was commissioned by Bishop Odo, William's half-brother, and made in England—not Bayeux—in the 1070s. In 1729 the hanging was rediscovered by scholars at a time when it was being displayed annually in Bayeux Cathedral. The tapestry is now exhibited at the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Bayeux, Normandy, France (49.2744°N 0.7003°W / 49.2744; -0.7003).

The designs on the Bayeux Tapestry are embroidered rather than in a tapestry weave, so that it does not meet narrower definitions of a tapestry.[3] Nevertheless, it has always been referred to as a tapestry until recent years when the name "Bayeux Embroidery" has gained ground among certain art historians. It can be seen as a rare example of secular Romanesque art. Tapestries adorned both churches and wealthy houses in Medieval Western Europe, though at 0.5 by 68.38 metres (1.6 by 224.3 ft, and apparently incomplete) the Bayeux Tapestry is exceptionally large. Only the figures and decoration are embroidered, on a background left plain, which shows the subject very clearly and was necessary to cover large areas.