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It would be remiss not to mention a work of art, produced at about the time of William's conquest of England – the Bayeaux Tapestry.

It is exhibited in the Centre Guillame-le-Conquérant (William the Conqueror Centre), in the small town of Bayeux, situated in Normandy, just west of Caen and close to the beaches of D-Day. Actually, the tapestry depicts not only William's conquest of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 (14 October), but precedes that account with details of what led up to the invasion, the preparations, and finally the battle itself.

The Keepers of the Tapestry believe tit was begun the day after the battle, and took about ten years to complete. It is actually a work of embroidery, as opposed to a full-scale tapestry, but its size and story have given it heroic proportions.

It measures one foot eight inches high (50 cm.), and is nearly 230 feet long (70m.). Composed of nine pieces of linen, featuring 58 known pieces of the story, the actual ending has possibly been lost (William's coronation in Westminster Abbey, Christmas Day, 1066).

Briefly, it details how the English King Edward the Confessor had promised the throne to William of Normandy. Harold delivers the news to William in Normandy, returns to England. Edward dies, Harold takes the throne, and William invades at Hastings. All of this is depicted in the “tapestry.” With no rebuttal available, some view the entire panorama as “Norman propaganda.” Others view it as a major and serious work of art. Here are a few excerpts from that piece of linen:

This scene depicts William agreeing to pay a ransom for Harold, who had been shipwrecked and held for ransom, while attempting to give William the news of his succession to the English throne.

After landing at Hastings, William's soldiers leave to engage Harold.

The Normans attack the English, but are initially repulsed.

Norman soldiers and horses become trapped in a marshy ditch built by the English. Bodies are strewn about the tapestry.

After a false report of William's death, the French fight back. William orders his archers to aim high, to avoid their arrows falling uselessly against leather shields.

The English are slaughtered.

Harold is shot in the eye, the arrow pierces his brain, and William becomes the first Norman King of England.

First account of the tapestry (wall hanging would perhaps be more appropriate) is its use in decorating the nave of Bayeux Cathedral, consecrated in 1077. During the French Revolution it was almost used as a wrap-around for a wagon, to keep the rain out, but was saved at the last minute by a member of the City Council. As we are still learning today (2011), “revolutions” can be tricky events. Napoleon took it to the Louvre for exhibition in 1803, but it was subsequently returned to Bayeux.

A small sketch I did on the banks of the river Aure, which runs just in front of the exhibit Centre.

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