Bayeaux Tapestry replica on display
by W. Winston Skinner
The Bayeaux Tapestry – subject of legend and a gem of artistry – offers a window into the world of medieval Europe.
One of the facets of the piece’s panoramic story is the pervasive nature of religion in that time – with monasteries, a murderous clergyman, other symbols and hints of the world of the crusaders. A church building depicted on the Bayeaux Tapestry, which is actually not a tapestry at all but a huge piece of embroidered cloth, still stands and is used as a church more than 600 years after stitchers recorded it for posterity.
The actual artifact is in a French museum, but the only hand-painted replica of the world-renowned piece of art is displayed in the Third Floor Atrium Gallery of the University of West Georgia’s Humanities Building.
In 1997 the City of Bayeux gave UWG’s art department the full-sized replica. On study trips, West Georgia art students often spend time in Bayeux, which is located in the Normandy region, eight miles from the English Channel.
“The Bayeux Tapestry is on the third floor of the Humanities Building, so it’s open when the building’s open,” said UWG spokeswoman Lisa Matheson. The building generally is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and “closed on Saturday and Sunday,” she said.
The university is proud of the replica. When Georgia first lady Sandra Deal visited the campus last year, her tour included a visit to the gallery in the atrium and a look at the replica of the famous piece of stitchery.
The first recorded mention of the tapestry is in an inventory of Bayeux Cathedral in 1476. A legend maintains the work was created under the direction of Queen Matilda, the wife of William the Conqueror.
Some experts think the piece was actually commissioned by Bishop Odo, the half brother of William. There are other theories about its origins, as well. It has been theorized the tapestry was completed in time for the dedication of the Cathedral of Bayeaux in 1077.
The background of the original tapestry is linen – embroidered with yarn made of wool. The West Georgia replica, like the original, is 224.3 feet long and 1.6 feet from top to bottom.
The tapestry is made of panels that tell of events in England from 1064-1066 ending in the Battle of Hastings. In that battle, the Norman army conquered the Anglo-Saxon forces of the English king.
Edward the Confessor, a particularly religious man and the only English king to be canonized, is depicted on the tapestry. There also is a scene showing soldiers getting mired in quicksand near the monastery of Mont Saint-Michel while another shows King Harold taking an oath on saintly relics.
Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury, performs a liturgical ritual in one panel. In addition, there is a panel that seems to depict a priest striking a woman’s face. The story behind the panel is unknown.
One of the buildings depicted on the tapestry is Church of the Holy Trinity, Bosham, which is partly of Saxon construction and still in use as a church today. It is depicted on the fabric because of its role as the local church of English kings of Saxon and Danish lines.
There may have been a small Christian community in Bosham as early as the 7th century. The chancel arch at the Bosham church is known to date to the 11th century and generally is believed to have been built shortly after the Norman Conquest.
A tower from Saxon times is the oldest part of the current church. In addition to its association with King Harold, the church is said to be the burial place of a daughter of King Canute, who died in the 11th century.
Sandra Deal visited the tapestry replica on her inaugural visit to West Georgia on Sept. 18. She also toured the campus and spent time with students, faculty and staff in the new Visual Arts Building, the Thomas B. Murphy Office replica and Center for Pubic History.
Dr. Micheal Crafton, professor of English, talked with the first lady about the tapestry and its significance.
Deal “was so engaged and appreciative through her visit, that our pleasure was doubled,” said Beheruz N. Sethna, who was UWG president at that time.
“It’s nice to see the work going on here, especially the new art facility,” Deal said. “I’ve had a great time visiting the university.”