The Bayeux Tapestry Gets Digitized: View the Medieval Tapestry in High Resolution, Down to the Individual Thread

The Bayeux Tapes­try, one of the most famous arti­facts of its kind, isn’t actu­al­ly a tapes­try. Tech­ni­cal­ly, because the images it bears are embroi­dered onto the cloth rather than woven into it, we should call it the Bayeux Embroi­dery. To quib­ble over a mat­ter like this rather miss­es the point — but then, so does tak­ing too lit­er­al­ly the sto­ry it tells in col­ored yarn over its 224-foot length. Com­mis­sioned, his­to­ri­ans believe, as an apolo­gia for the Nor­man con­quest of Eng­land in 1066, this elab­o­rate work of nar­ra­tive visu­al art con­veys events with a cer­tain slant. But in so doing, the Bayeux’s 75 dra­mat­ic, bloody, rib­ald, and some­times mys­te­ri­ous episodes also cap­ture how peo­ple and things (and even Hal­ley’s Comet) looked in medieval Europe.

It does this in great, if styl­ized detail, at which you can get a clos­er look than has ever before been avail­able to the pub­lic at the Bayeux Muse­um’s web site. The muse­um “worked with teams from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Caen Nor­mandie to dig­i­tize high-res­o­lu­tion images of the tapes­try, which were tak­en in 2017,” says

“A sim­ple inter­face was cre­at­ed to access the dig­i­tal ver­sion, which allows users to zoom in and explore it in great detail with access to Latin trans­la­tions in French and Eng­lish.” Made of 2.6 bil­lion pix­els (which brings it to eight giga­bytes in size), the online Bayeux Tapes­try lets us zoom in so far as to exam­ine its indi­vid­ual threads — the same lev­el at which it was inspect­ed in real life ear­li­er last year in antic­i­pa­tion of its next restora­tion.

“A team of eight restor­ers, all spe­cial­ists in antique tex­tiles, car­ried out the detailed inspec­tion in Jan­u­ary 2020, a peri­od when the muse­um was closed to vis­i­tors,” says “Among their find­ings were that the tapes­try has 24,204 stains, 16,445 wrin­kles, 9,646 gaps in the cloth or the embroi­dery, 30 non-sta­bi­lized tears, and sig­nif­i­cant weak­en­ing in the first few metres of the work.” (Notably, the col­ors applied in a 19th-cen­tu­ry restora­tion have fad­ed much more than the veg­etable dyes used in the orig­i­nal.) Though cur­rent­ly a bit rough around the edges, the Bayeux Tapes­try looks pret­ty good for its 950 or so years, as any of us can now look more than close­ly enough to see for our­selves. This is a cred­it to its mak­ers — whose iden­ti­ties, for all the scruti­ny per­formed on the work itself, may remain for­ev­er unknown. Explore the high-res­o­lu­tion scan of the Tapes­try here.

via Smith­son­ian Mag­a­zine and

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Ani­mat­ed Bayeux Tapes­try: A Nov­el Way of Recount­ing The Bat­tle of Hast­ings (1066)

Con­struct Your Own Bayeux Tapes­try with This Free Online App

How the Ornate Tapes­tries from the Age of Louis XIV Were Made (and Are Still Made Today)

160,000 Pages of Glo­ri­ous Medieval Man­u­scripts Dig­i­tized: Vis­it the Bib­lio­the­ca Philadel­phien­sis

Why Knights Fought Snails in Illu­mi­nat­ed Medieval Man­u­scripts

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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