Bayeux : Part 1

LINKS to other pages in the FRANCE PART ONE site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

NORMANDY (Honfleur and Deauville)
NORMANDY (D Day Beaches and Bayeux)
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At the entrance to Bayeux is situated a large cemetery containing the remains of allied forces (mainly British) killed during the days following the military assault on the Normandy coast on 6 June 1944. (Left and below)

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BAYEUX is a town on the Aure River, in the Departement of Calvados, not far from the English Channel. It is located 166 miles northwest of Paris and 16 miles west-northwest of Caen. The site was first known to the Gauls as Baiocasses. To the Romans it was first known as Augustodurum. Subsequently it became an important Roman city, and renamed Civitas Baiocassium.

Rollo the Viking captured the town in 880. Later it became a Norman stronghold. In 1106, Henry I of England pillaged the town. During the Hundred Years’ War, from 1337 to 1453, and during the Wars of Religion, from 1562 to 1598, the town was besieged and taken on a number of occasions.

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The Germans occupied Bayeux in 1940. The Allies took the town on the day after D-Day and was the first major town to be liberated. On 14 June 1944 it was the first to greet General de Gaulle on his return to France.

Although Bayeux is only a short distance behind the D-Day invasion beaches of Omaha and Gold (see pages five onwards in this site) it was not severly damage. Today, it is a sleepy, small town with cobblestone streets lined with small shops and Normandy style timbered houses dating from the 17th century.
(Right and below)

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Many restaurants, each employing original and gaily painted signs to advertise their presence, are to be found throughout the small town.

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An old building in the centre of Bayeux
(Above and left)

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The first Bishop of Bayeux was Odon, half-brother of William the Conqueror. It was he who is now considered to have commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry. It was created in England, either in Kent or in Winchester. It is, in fact, not a tapestry but an embroidered cartoon.

The 'tapestry' is constructed of eight separate pieces of linen about 0.5 metre (1.6 feet) wide which were joined to make up a length of about 70m (230ft). Once, it was even longer – as much as 7-8m (23-26ft) are missing. It is believed that the missing part could have shown the subsequent career of William the Conqueror. Its fifty-eight scenes depict the Norman version of what happened from the time that Edward the Confessor reputedly promised the throne of England to William to the moment of Harold's death on the battlefield at Senlac Hill outside Hastings.

The tapestry is one of the most important pictorial works surviving from the middle ages. Some have suggested that it was hung around the nave of Bayeux cathedral on feast days, but it doesn't seem to have made for that specific purpose since it is not long enough to reach completely around the nave.

During the French Revolution, it was taken from the cathedral to cover a wagon-load of ammunition being sent to the northern front where the Republican French were being attacked by Monarchist enemies. A young lawyer of Bayeux pulled the tapestry from the wagon and replaced it with a and waterproof oilcloth better suited for the purpose. He carried the tapestry home and hid it in his attic. It remained there for the next thirty years.

When it was brought out it was turned over to the bishop of Bayeux, who placed it in the bishop's palace. It has remained there, except for a short time when the Nazis took it to Paris for scientific examination. The bishop's palace is now a museum in which the tapestry is on permanent display.

(Acknowledgement: Much of the information on these pages was obtained from 'Wikipedia' - the free internet encyclopaedia - as well as other sources including the Catholic Church in France website)

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