Bayeux Tapestry

Covered in History 304 today: the Bayeux Tapestry, which, as one of my students pointed out, is neither from Bayeux nor a tapestry (it was probably produced in Canterbury, and is an embroidery). But it remains in the town of Bayeux in Normandy, where you can see it, displayed under conditions of the utmost security and climate control. It records Duke William’s claim to the throne of England, and his invasion and defeat of Harold Godwinson at Hastings in October 1066.* It is about 20 inches high and some 230 feet long, and was probably meant to have been displayed around the interior of a church. Here is a scene of the climax, when Harold is killed with an arrow to the eye. The action spills out on the margin at the bottom, where dead soldiers are being stripped of their equipment.

The University of North Georgia has recently acquired a reproduction of the Bayeux Tapestry, and will be hosing a one-day symposium on the topic on March 27, 2015, at which I will be speaking.

The distinctive style of the Tapestry has given rise to any number of parodies. A New Yorker cover by Rea S. Irwin appeared on July 15, 1944, recording the D-Day invasion. This cartoon was making the rounds on Facebook recently:

Although, as one of my friends said, “light saber” is probably better rendered as “gladium lucentem” (nouns generally do not modify other nouns in Latin, as they do in English).

See more at Medieval Macros!

* This is allegedly “the last successful invasion of England” but I’ve always considered this a bogus claim: for instance, Henry of Lancaster invaded in 1399, Henry Tudor invaded in 1485, and William of Orange invaded in 1688. All three of these men subsequently became king.

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