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History 101: Bayeux Tapestry – The Ancient Artwork That The Nazi Wanted To Steal

Bayeux Tapestry Art France Norman

The Bayeux Tapestry is almost 945 years as it was said that it was created in the year 1077 after the Duke of Normandy who is known as William the Conquerer had successfully invaded and conquered England in the year 1066. Image source: Wikipedia.

The Bayeux Tapestry was one of the key art items that the Nazis during World War 2 eyed to be stolen and brought back to Germany to be displayed in their new Fuhrer Museum where artworks from all the Germany occupied countries would be displayed.

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The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidery of cloth measuring nearly 70 metres long that tells the story of the Norman conquest of England. By the way, Normans refer to men from the North which in turn refers mainly to the Vikings and the place where they landed and built their homes in France is known as the Land of the Normans or more famously known as Normandy.

This is the same place where the Allied forces on 6th June 1944 landed to capture back the continent from the Germans. The landing on D-Day saw more than 4,000 Allied soldiers die battling the entrenched, battle harden German soldiers.

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This is an interesting view of the Bayeux Tapestry from the BBC One documentary and below is another that explains the story of the Norman Conquest.

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The story actually starts in the year 1064 and the Bayeux Tapestry was said to be lying without any significant value in a small church for hundreds of years until the year 1700 when it was discovered and noted for its historical and artistic significant and protected as a national monument. Interestingly the tapestry is said to be woven in England by English embroiderers and not in France by French embroiderers.

Depicting 11th-century events during, and leading up to, the Norman Conquest of England and the Battle of Hastings, here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about its origins.

  • It was commissioned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux sometime before 1082
  • It wasn’t made in Bayeux, France
  • They are not actually tapestries
  • Laid flat, it measures the length of three swimming pools
  • The Bayeux Tapestry is in Latin, a prominent language during the Middle Ages
  • The first known depiction of Halley’s Comet appears on the tapestry
  • Parts of the tapestry were added much later on…
  • Britain requested to borrow it for the Queen’s coronation in 1953 (but was rejected)
  • There’s a British copy of the tapestry at Reading Museum
  • The tapestry’s original final piece is actually missing

(Source: The Cultural Trip)

Louvre Nazi Museum

Caption: Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt was seen with a plaster model of the Venus de Milo, while visiting the Louvre with the curator Alfred Merlin on 7 October 1940. Over the years of war, the artworks in Louvre remained in danger of theft, loot and damages. Image source: Wikipedia

During World War 2, the Bayeux Tapestry remained in the hands of the French authorities although the Nazi Germans kept a close eye on it and when they found out that the Allied soldiers had landed in Normandy, they started their plans to haul out the famous and significant priceless art work out from France to Germany.

However, the Germans faced stiff opposition from the French especially the French museum authorities and even one Nazi official, Count Franz von Wolff-Metternich who’s help managed to thwart the many attempts by the Nazi officials and German military to cart away thousands of priceless artwork from Paris.

In the end, the Louvre Museum where most of the artworks were kept was quickly taken over by the French Resistances thus causing the Germans to fail to pull out their theft. The Bayeux Tapestry had remained in France till now.

The amazing part of the Bayeux Tapestry is that it remained intact and preserved all these years and it tells a great story of a major conquest that rewrites the history and direction of England.

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