A very special birthday for the Tapestry of Bayeux – Meanderings through France n° 102
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
The Tapestry of Bayeux is 950 years old this year and the city of Bayeux wants to make it a real celebration. The Tapestry is a unique testimony of the conquest of England by William the conqueror and was designed to adorn the newly built Bayeux cathedral in 1077. It is one of the rare artefacts listed Memory of the World by UNESCO that is open to the public. It relates the Epic Adventure of William the Conqueror, the famous duke of Normandy, who was victorious in Hasting in 1066 therefore seizing the throne of England.
To celebrate this 950th birthday Bayeux proposes a spectacular winter event set in its magnificent cathedral. The show, called “The William’s Cathedral”, recreates the 70 meters long embroidery on the inner cathedral’s walls where it was originally exhibited every year during the “Feast of the Relics” in July. All December long the nave and the Tapestry are re-united. During the show dynamic images run on 30 meters long screens installed over the entire length of the balustrade where it was probably exhibited for the first time in 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror himself.
The cathedral’s architecture is enhanced with a precise and colourful lighting in the lower parts of the nave. It recreates medieval patterns and colours and redraws the volumes of the cathedral that looks even bigger and taller than ever. Yet, the contemplative atmosphere is totally respected. The show will take place every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday until the 31st December (except on the 24th and 25th. For optimal comfort only 200 persons can attend to one show, but there are 5 shows each day from 6.00pm till 8.30pm. Access is free.
Bayeux is an old medieval town that was fortunately spared in the bombings of 1944 and is a key destination of Medieval Normandy. Of course, being in Bayeux don’t miss to go to the “Bayeux Tapestry Museum” that opened in 1983 and where the original tapestry attracts 400,000 visitors every year (50% come from UK, Canada and USA). It’s amazing to realise that for more than 9 centuries it was saved from a possible destruction caused by dust, bugs, mould, light or wars and revolution. It is today on display in its entirety in an airtight glass showcase where the temperature, the humidity level and the light intensity are strictly monitored.
The Tapestry of Bayeux is like a precursor of comic strips and tells a wonderful story. It has 58 different “images” of which 25 take place in France and 33 in England. No less than 10 of them depict the Hasting battle. Nine pieces of linen have been sewn together and embroidered with wooden threads of 10 different colours. 626 characters, 37 monuments including the famous Mont-Saint-Michel, 41 boats and 202 horses and mules have been patiently designed and embroidered. A true masterpiece!
Text © Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
For more information: http://bayeux-bessin-tourisme.com/en/