A Guide To The Bayeux Tapestry
There are 58 scenes embroidered on linen with coloured woollen yarns and Latin descriptions. It’s not technically a tapestry as it is not woven but has predominantly been known as such. Two methods of stitching are used: outline or stem stitch for lettering and the outlines of figures, and couching or laid work for filling in figures. Nine linen panels were sewn together after each was embroidered and the joins were disguised with subsequent embroidery.
The Museum, opening times and tariffs
Climb the steps to this rather grand building and the two ticket desks are immediately inside. There may be a queue for tickets as it’s a very popular attraction. I’ve been a couple of times and been lucky not to have to queue though. Purchase your tickets and then present them and have your bag searched before joining the queue for the audio guide. Ask for the audio guide in your chosen language and it will be programmed for you. The room the tapestry is displayed in is fairly dark. The audio guide will start playing automatically as you enter the room. Each scene is numbered and the commentary references this as the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings is told. You can’t pause the audio guide so just keep moving in front of the large glass case. The detail of the tapestry is amazing and the friezes above and below each scene are fascinating. The audioguide lasts perhaps 15 minutes or so. As you exit the tapestry room into daylight, your visit isn’t yet finished.
Go up a flight of stairs to the main exhibition and wander round at your leisure learning about the tapestry and the story it depicts. There’s plenty to entertain adults and children alike.
Another flight of stairs (or the lift) leads you to a room where a 2D facsmilie of the entire tapestry is displayed. This really allows you to see the complexity of the stitches and the intricate details you may have missed. This floor also houses the cinema where a 16 minute film is played regularly alternating in French and then English.
The scenes of the ships and the horses are particularly beautiful. Scene 57 (the penultimate one) shows Harold’ demise – killed by an arrow in his eye. Once you’ve watched the film you then return to the ground floor and exit via the shop if you’d like a souvenir.
For a more detailed look at the tapestry this video, filmed in the room where the tapestry is displayed, gives a good overview. David Dimbleby describes the historical significance of the Bayeux Tapestry for his 2009 BBC One Series, Seven Ages of Britain here.
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