The Wonders of the Bayeux Tapestry
See it now. Yes, you can.
The wonders concerning the Bayeux Tapestry are many. The first is its mere existence; the ancient tapestry (or more accurately, wool embroidery on linen) was created in 1070, probably in Canterbury, England. Second, while an end section or two may be missing, the vast majority of this 20-inch high, 70-meter long (about 230 feet) work retains the glow of its youth. The third and newest miracle is that you no longer have to leave the Upper Valley to travel to the Bayeux Museum in Normandy, France to see it. Not only is it now accessible online (just! as of February 12, 2021), with a reverse pinch of your fingers on an iPad or other tablet (or given the tech capability, a click of a mouse on your computer), you can zoom in to examine every individual stitch.
600 characters, 200 horses, and 500 other animals are depicted. The Bayeux Tapestry consists of seventy-five scenes chronicling the events leading up to the Norman conquest and culminating in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. There are the expected scenes of men on horseback marching off to battle, but others of a more domestic nature like the one above, showing the preparation of a feast. You don’t have to take it all in, or pause over every panel. It’s fun to scroll, zoom in to catch the details—some men with spindly mustaches, some without, for example. Maybe kids would find identifying and counting the animals to be worth a half-hour of indoor winter time.
The tapestry is sometimes described as “Britain’s first comic strip.” One commentator, George Wingfield Digby, wrote in 1957:
It was designed to tell a story to a largely illiterate public; it is like a strip cartoon, racy, emphatic, colourful, with a good deal of blood and thunder and some ribaldry.
Click here for the Bayeux Museum website (there are both English and French versions) and follow the cues to see the tapestry online. For more information about the tapestry itself, Google freely or click here.
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Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.