Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In Bayeux - art, architecture, history and embroidery


We had very limited time during our road trip to Northern France and Belgium so we had to really whittle down our list of must-sees from a long list of towns, museums, sights and churches we wanted to see. What made it easy was the decision to concentrate on UNESCO World Heritage sites and allowing each of the four of us traveling together to make a choice of the one place they wanted to visit.  So on our list of must-sees were the abbey of Mont Saint Michel, Vieux Bassin in Honfleur, the old walled town of Dinan and the Bayeux Tapestry in Bayeux in France, For Belgium, we chose the Van Eyck Altarpiece in Ghent, the Grand Place in Brussels, the old town of Brugges and the Butte du Lion in Waterloo. Along the way for rest and lunch stops, we chose places that had UNESCO world heritage belfries and St. Therese's pilgrimage sites in Liseux. Our original list also included the World War 1 and 2 battle sites but these were scratched due to time constraints....maybe next time.

The Bayeux Tapestry, listed as a "Memory of the World" by UNESCO was my choice. This combines my interest in history, embroidery and art since it tells the story, in embroidered scenes, of the events leading up to and including the Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066 told from the Norman conquerors point of view. The work was commissioned in honor of William's victory in the battle by King William's half brother Odo, who is also featured in the tapestry, There is also a tradition that connects the tapestry as being worked on by William's wife, Queen Matilda and her ladies, although there is nothing else that connects the work to her. The tapestry, approximately made in 1092, is about 20" tall and 231 feet long is the longest piece of embroidery in the world.

The Musee Tapisserie de Bayeux
We viewed the tapestry at a former seminary, now the Musee Tapisserie de Bayeux, where it is on permanent display. Tickets for the viewing include an audio guide, which tells the story of the Battle of Hastings, as you follow along looking at the various scenes on the tapestry. We were lucky that it was not crowded which allowed us time to pause and inspect the scenes more closely. It was amazing to find the  historical context of the places we visited during this trip, such as Boulogne-sur-mer, Mont Saint Michel and Dinan, depicted in the tapestry.

Only 8 colors were used in the making of the tapestry. Mainly, blue-green, terra-cotta, light-green, buff and grey-blue with  some very dark blue, yellow and dark green. It seems that they would have had to dye the yarn in bulk even before they started with the embroidery in order to maintain consistent yarn colors. Most of the stitches were done in and outline stitch and a stitch now known as the Bayeux stitch,  an  Anglo Saxon variation of an ancient technique known as laid work. With this technique, threads are laid across the surface of the fabric and held down with another thread and a couching stitch. This is a most economical use of thread as very little thread is used on the reverse side.

I, particularly, liked the battle scenes and my husband was taken by the portrayal of the trees, Also, noteworthy are the depiction of the boats. For people who had no photographs to capture the moment, this tapestry was able to closely capture what was happening much like religious paintings and tapestries have been able to retell the story of the bible. The Bayeux Tapestry is unique in that it is actually embroidered and not woven like normal tapestries. I would assume that embroidery like this that commemorate important events was a common practice. Unfortunately,  none have survived intact like The Bayeux Tapestry.

Trees as depicted on The Bayeux Tapestry.
It seems the trees were used as a demarcation point for the start of a new scene.
The sailing vessels on The Bayeux Tapestry

For more information on The Bayeux Tapestry, please view the following sites:

http://www.essentialnormanconquest.com/story/who-created-it.htm Great historical resource about the Tapestry and The Battle of Hastings

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayeux_Tapestry  or http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fe/Tapisserie_de_Bayeux_31109.jpg
you can scroll through the entire Bayeux Tapestry.

There are some great books also, particularly David M. Wilson's The Bayeux Tapestry. The photography in the book is such that you feel can almost touch the stitches.

The Old Mill on a canal

After partaking of crepes and galettes for lunch at the nearby Le Moulin de la Galette and having pictures taken by the old mill on the canal,  we walked to the imposing Cathedrale Notre Dame de Bayeux. As we were walking we noticed  small bronze insets on the cobbled- stone streets  with a representation of the Bayeux Tapestry trees.

Bayeux Tapestry tree on bronze insets on the street

The Notre Dame Cathedral of Bayeux dominates the entire town by its massive scale. While it occupied a great deal of land, it was surprising that the cathedral only had a very small square in front. It was in the process of restoration so some areas of the outside were covered with  scaffolding. We were told that the cathedral was closed due to the repairs but when we got to the main doors, we tried to see if they would open and they did.

The dome and spires of the Cathedral dominates the Bayeux skyline

The Cathedrale Notre Dame de Bayeux

The front facade of the Cathedral with the red main doors. Notice how clean it is.

Once inside, we experienced the interior of the cathedral just as it would have looked in the 13th century. Most of the dust, grime and any damages had been cleaned and restored. The glorious stained glass windows captured the light magnificently. We spent a great amount of time exploring the cathedral. The Bayeux Tapestry was kept here through the 18th century, perhaps unveiled in part during the dedication of the Cathedral in 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror and his wife Matilde. The cathedral was originally built in a Norman-Romanesque style and rebuilt in the Romanesque style after it was badly damage in the war of 1105 but as the rebuilding continued through  the 13th century the style  turned to the Gothic.
Interior of the Cathedral looking towards the main altar. Again notice how bright the walls are.

Stained glass window
Beautiful tracery work

The Pulpit
One of the frescoes in the cathedral
The crypt with 15th century frescoes
I've kept a watercolor journal of this particular trip and here is one of my paintings and the picture I used as reference.

A view of the Cathedral dome and spires
My watercolor painting from my Travel Journal

It is great to see a Cathedral fully restored. I hope that these grand masters of architecture and art continue to be preserved for generations to come,  My friend Yogi and I decided that The Notre Dame of Bayeux would be a wonderful place for a wedding venue.... Perhaps, when my husband and I renew our vows on our 50th anniversary. But then again it is now a toss up between the Papal Basilica of St, Francis in Assisi. Fingers crossed.

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral. 
Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

No comments:

Post a Comment