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The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image


The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 162 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image BAYEUX TAPESTRY (DETAIL), 1066 See larger image BAYEUX TAPESTRY (DETAIL), 1066 The history it portrays in all its seventy-odd yards is easy enough to verify. That is like working out a puzzle with the key in hand. But the history of this keenly interesting embroidery is not so easy. The records are niggardly. Inventories record it in 1369 and 1476. In an inventory of the Bishop of Bayeux it is mentioned in 1563. About this time it was in ecclesiastical hands and used for decorating the nave of the Bayeux Cathedral. Then the world forgot it. How the world rediscovered that which was never lost is interesting matter. Here is the story: In 1724 an antiquarian found a drawing of about ten yards long, taken from the tapestry. Here, said he and his fellow sages, is the drawing of some wonderful, ancient

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 163 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 work of art, most probably a frieze or other decoration carved in wood or stone. Naturally, the desire was to find such a monument. But no one could remember such a carving in any church or castle. Father Montfaucon, of Saint Maur, with interest intelligent, wrote to the prior of St. Vigor’s at Bayeux, and received the most satisfactory reply, that the drawing represented not a carving but a hanging in possession of his church, and associated with many yards more of the same cloth. So all this time the wonderful relic had lain safe in Bayeux, and never was lost, but only forgotten by outsiders. The rediscovery, so-called, aroused much comment, and England declared the cloth the noblest monument of her history. It was in use at that time, and after, once a year. It was hung around the cathedral nave on St. John’s Day, and left for eight days that all the people might see it. The fact that it was not religious in subject, that it could not possibly be interpreted otherwise than as a secular history, makes remarkable its place in the cathedral. This is explained by the suggestion that while Bishop Odo established that precedent, all others but followed without thought. Since 1724 the world outside of Bayeux has never forgotten this panorama of a past age, and its history is known from that time on. The Revolution of France had its effect even on this treasure; or would have had if the clergy had not been sufficiently capable to defend it. It was hidden in the depositories of the cathedral until the storm was over. It seems there was no treasure in Europe unknown to Napoleon. He commanded in 1803 that the Bayeux tapestry, of which he had heard so much, be brought to the National Museum for his inspection. The playwrights of Paris seized on the pictured cloth as material for their imagination, and, refusing to take seriously the crude figures, wrote humorously of Matilda eternally at work over her ridiculous task, surrounded with simple ladies equally blind to art and nature. It is only too easy to let humour play about the ill-drawn figures. They must be taken grandly serious, or ridicule will thrust tongue in cheek. It is to these French plays of 1804 that we owe the firmness of the tradition that Queen Matilda in 1066 worked the embroidery. See larger image BAYEUX TAPESTRY (DETAIL), 1066

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