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Bayeux Tapestry

11th-century “comic strip” recounts the 1066 taking of England by William the Conqueror

Rough Guide to Brittany & Normandy, 13th edition

TO BEGIN with, it’s an embroidery, not a tapestry, the former being sewn onto a backing, the latter created whole on a loom. Nonetheless, this 70-metre-long strip of linen created nine centuries ago has long been famous as the Bayeux Tapestry. Even now “the brilliance of its coloured wools has barely faded,” the story it tells still enlivened “with scenes of medieval life, popular fables and mythical beasts,” says the 13th edition of the Rough Guide to Brittany & Normandy.

The tale it relates is of William the Conqueror’s 1066 conquest of England. “The tapestry looks, and reads, much like a comic-strip,” says the guidebook. England’s King Harold is “every inch the villain, with his dastardly little moustache and shifty eyes.” Nevertheless, although meant as propaganda, “it’s considered to be historically accurate.”

Aside from its limning of William’s victory, “much of the pleasure of viewing it comes from its incidental vignettes of contemporary life.” They’re captioned in Latin on the cloth, but audio guides offer concise summaries.

The tapestry was commissioned for the inauguration of Bayeux Cathedral in 1077. It remains in Bayeux, but now in an 18th-century seminary a few hundred metres away that’s been converted into the Centre Guillaume le Conquérant ( “Unexpectedly, and unceremoniously, the first thing you see on entry is the tapestry itself… Only afterwards comes an exhibition and film show that tell you more about it.”

Bayeux, 23 kilometres west of Caen (itself 238 kilometres west of Paris), “was the first French city to be liberated in 1944, the day after the D-Day landings. It was occupied so quickly…that it escaped serious damage.”















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23 November 2020

Beethoven’s 250th Birthday


Many planned events delayed, cancelled; go visit his homes instead


LUDWIG VAN Beethoven was supposed to have quite the 250th birthday party in 2020. Internationally, major events were scheduled as far from his hometown as Japan. Marin Alsop, music director of the symphony orchestras in Baltimore and Sao Paulo, had intended to conduct his Ninth Symphony in New Zealand, the United States, Brazil, England, Austria, Australia and South Africa. In Bonn, Germany, where Beethoven was born (baptized 17 December 1770), a year-long programme of 300 concerts, exhibitions, dance and theatre performances was planned. Vienna, where the composer spent most of his career, had a similarly impressive calendar set, including three staged versions of his opera Fidelio and special shows at the National Library, Leopold Museum and House of Music.




16 November 2020

Machu Picchu Again Welcoming Visitors


Peru has reopened several Inca sites including its most popular, Machu Picchu


MACHU PICCHU, Peru’s most popular tourist destination, reopened 1 November 2020 after an eight-month shutdown due to covid-19. Used to receiving 1.5 million visitors a year, it has had its capacity reduced by 70 per cent to accommodate physical-distancing rules, limiting the number of daily sightseers to just 675, and no groups larger than eight. Everyone must have their temperature taken before entering and wear a mask throughout their visit.




15 November 2020

Secret Swiss Fortification Opens to the Public


Fort de Chillon, opposite 12th-century Château de Chillon, was part of WWII defences


FROM THE END of November 2020 the Swiss will open the defences carved into the rock opposite the 12th-century Château de Chillon during the Second World War. The tunnels and caverns were part of the “national redoubt,” a series of fortifications begun in the 1880s to defend Switzerland by denying an invader access to the country by controlling its mountain passes. The Fort de Chillon works were constructed in 1941-2, when the country was surrounded by Axis powers, as the system’s western gateway. It had a garrison of more than 100 soldiers.




23 October 2020

Praise for Artemisia Gentileschi Exhibition


National Gallery’s first major show since covid-19 struck gets rave reviews


THE FIRST MAJOR exhibition at London’s National Gallery since covid-19 struck in March 2020 has opened to five-star reviews from the Telegraph, the Times, the Guardian, the Evening Standard and the BBC.

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