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The Story of English
Many people may ask, " What is the Bayeux Tapestry?" In the following paragraphs, the significance of the Bayeux Tapestry will be recognized.
First of all it should be understood that it is not a Tapestry in the full sense of the word. It is an embroidery. It was constucted from eight separate pieces of linen which were joined to make up it's length. It is approximately 70 meters long and a half a meter wide. It is evident that at one stage it ws longer, probably by as much as seven or eight meters are missing. This is a tragedy as it may have answered many of the questions that gives cause for debate today.
It is generally agreed that Bishop Odo was the architect who commisioned the Bayeux Tapestry. It was designed and constructed reasonably soon after the battle in 1066. It was made without any shadow of a doubt to celebrate and record for posterity the events leading up to battle and its aftermath.
If it is reasonably confident that Bishop Odo commissioned the Tapestry, debate still reigns as where to it was constructed, and by whom. It basically comes down to the allegiances. If one is French, they would like to believe that it was made in France. There are so many clues in its construction that indicate otherwise. Whereas it is known as the Bayeux Tapestry in England, it is sometimes referred to in France as the Tapisserie de la reine Mathilde or Queen Matilda's Tapestry. Matilda, one will remember, was William's wife. To infer that she and she alone constructed this work of art defies all credibility. As Queen of England and Duchess of Normandy, she would never have had the time. Another factor which excludes her from the equation is that she does not appear in it herself (although she may have been in the missing section). So if you discount the construction being undertaken in France, where was it made?
Over the years, the Tapestry has been studied by experts in this field and the consensus of opinion is that it was of English construction. Certain historical facts of the time and features of the Tapestry indicate where it was made. Following the battle in 1066, Bishop Odo was made Earl of Kent. This was partly because he was William's half brother and secondly because William was duty bound to repay the loyalty of his nobles.
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Another question comes to mind, who designed it? This is a more difficult question to answer. If one stands back and look at the Tapestry as a whole, they can perceive a certain flow which indicates an artistic impression in so much as the design was by one person. Was this person male or female?
Certain scenes in the Tapestry are vivid and bloody during the battle. It seems inconceivable that a woman would be able to perceive some of the seems depicted without being at the battle. It seems to unreal that a woman would be able to perceive some of the seems depicted without actually at the battle. It ws most likely designed by a man, who was French, and who possibly was involved in or was an eyewitness to the battle. The Tapestry that exists today covers the arrival of Harold in Normandy and concludes with his death and defeat of the English. Some of the scenes depicted are private, such as the death of Edward the Confesssor and Harold swearing over holy relics. This information had to be gathered and placed in chronological order. No one man could have been involved in this exercise. As stated earlier, the Tapestry was constructed out of eight strips of linen. Whether each section was made seperately or sewn together first is unknown. The designs were possibly lightly drawn on the linen and the embriodery places on top.
Like so many artifacts, the Bayeux Tapestry survived through luck and through certain individuals and groups. Following its construction in the decade following the battle, the exact date or time it took to construct is not known, it was transported to Bayeux. Here it is assumed, it was put on display in the church of Notre Dame, which was consecrated by Bishop Odo in 1077. The Tapestry remained within the Cathedral walls for the next 400 years. Little is known or interest shown for another 300 years. However, interest began to mount around 1750 in England where it was referred to in a work entitled the Palaeographia Britainnicus. No attempt was made to investigate it further by the English. In 1792, the seeds of the civil war has been sown. The Tapestry was in danger when the French revolution begun. It was at this time that the very existance of this masterpeice held in the balance. But for the actions of one man, a Lambert Leonard Leforestier, it would have been lost. The people of Bayeux now fighting for the Republic used cloth to cover their wagons. There was a shortage of cloth until somebody remembered a supply if it in the Cathedral. It was removed and used to cover a wagon, When Lambert saw what was happenning, he replaced the Tapestry with the other cloth. The people of Bayeux, determined never to allow this to happen again, the city council set up fine arts council to protect its treasures. It was just as well that they did because two years later in 1794, it was again to be cut up and used as decoration for a public holiday. In 1803 it was removed under protest by Napoleon and transpoted to Paris. Napoleon used the Tapestry as insinspiration for his planned attack on his natural enemy Engalnd. When this was aborted, it was returned to the people of Bayeux.
Frightened of losing the Tapestry, the council kept the Tapestry on a scroll. This tended to stretch the embroidery but at lest it was safe. In 1818, the existence of the Tapestry was causing great interest in England. To this end, an English draughtsman was sent to Bayeux to inspect and catalogue it. By inspecting every pin hole, he devised a program of restoration. In 1842, repairs were affected in Bayeux. The Tapestry was again removed in 1870 during the Franco Prussian was but returned to its glory 2 years later. Here it remained on display until 1913 prior to the outbreak of World War 1 ehere it was again removed and stored in a safe place. The same action occured during the secon Worl War, it was removed for safe keeping and out of the hands of Nazi Germany who intended to collect art from conquered countries. On the 6th of June 1944, a reverse invasion took place. This was known as D. Day. To avoid the Tapestry from being damaged during the conflict, it was secretly moved to the Louvre in Paris where it was stored in their vaults. Following the surrender of Germany, the Tapestry was displayed again in Paris in all its glory. The following year it was returned to Bayeux under jurisdiction of the municiple library. Today it is on display in Bayeux and can be viewed by the general public.
The Tapestry was designed and constructed reasonably soon after the battle in 1066. It was made without any shadow of a doubt to celebrate and record for posterity the events leading up to battle and its aftermath.