William the Conqueror and the Bayeux Tapestry

This is part of a series of posts about the city of Bayeux in Normandy, France. See the other posts here.

If you have a chance to visit Bayeux, you should definitely go to the Tapestry Museum in town. The tapestry is really more of a work of embroidery and it tells the full story of William the Conqueror so that the masses who could not read would be able to understand and learn the story.

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Postcards of a few scenes from the tapestry

The 1,000 year old tapestry is 230 feet (70 meters) long and almost 2 feet (50 centimeters) tall and is displayed behind a glass case in a controlled environment to preserve it.

When you enter, you will get an audio guide (available in multiple languages) that describes each scene in the tapestry, which depicts the series of events between 1064–1066. There’s even a panel that features a visit to Mont St. Michel.

As you may (or may not) recall from your history class in school, 1066 marked the Battle of Hastings. William was victorious (thus the “conqueror”) and was then crowned King of England.

Not too shabby for William who went from being William the Bastard to William the Conqueror, King of England. That’s what I call upward mobility. 🙂

Historians believe that the tapestry was made in England (not France) somewhere around 1070. It was stored at times in a trunk and displayed in the cathedral at certain times of the year to commemorate William’s victory. Given its age and rough treatment, it’s amazing that it still survives, although the end of the tapestry is missing and presumed forever lost. That would perhaps make a good plot line for the next Indiana Jones movie (Indiana Jones and the Search for the Lost Tapestry) or heaven forbid, another DaVinci Code thriller.

There is no photography of the tapestry allowed but you can see pictures and learn more about the various scenes in the tapestry and its history here. Or you can take a look at the picture of the postcards I picked up in the gift shop, although they really don’t do it justice.

I couldn’t resist being a sucker and buying this little replica of a piece of the tapestry – you can find them in the museum’s gift shop, where they are beautiful but pretty large and very pricey, or smaller and inexpensive versions in the various shops around town. I plan to frame this and hang it in my home office.


In addition to the tapestry display, there’s also a museum where you can learn more about the history of the tapestry as well as the historical context of the times. Well worth a walk through, especially since it’s included in the price of admission.

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