Foremost among Bayeux’s gorgeous architecture is the cathedral, which dates mostly from the 15th century.
It is rare that the word “Bayeux” is said without being immediately followed by “Tapestry”, but in fact there is a lot more to this intriguing Norman town than just its magnificent embroidered cloth. It was founded as a Gallo-Roman settlement in the 1st century BC, but it would be over 1,000 years before it was thrust into the limelight as a symbol of the Norman Invasion of 1066.
The World’s Most Famous Cloth
After William the Conqueror’s successful campaign, the beautiful Bayeux tapestry was commissioned to commemorate the course of events. Legend has it that it was woven by William’s wife Queen Matilde, although modern scholarship has all but disproved this as a folk tale. Regardless of its origins, it is hard not to be impressed by the sheer scale and detail of the piece, whose extraordinary detail and lively use of colour and motion belie its age. It is nearly 70m long, and depicts some 50 scenes from the Conquest, including the bloody climax of the Battle of Hastings.
Once More Unto The Beach
Almost 900 years later, Bayeux was once again on the front line of a war that would change the world. On the 6th of June 1944, 160,000 Allied troops made landfall on the beaches just north of Bayeux at the beginning of the Normandy Campaign. Commemorating them is the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in Normandy, an immaculate 4848-grave site which serves as a sobering reminder of the horrors of war. If you want to learn more, head to the Musée Mémorial de la Bataille de Normandie, which houses photos and first-hand accounts from the campaign, as well as an excellent 25-minute film.
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