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Bayeux Tapestry Activities

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Bayeux Tapestry is an important work of art and historical document. These activities will help students to learn more about this object and its historical significance.

The Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is an 11th-century Norman masterpiece of textile art, depicting the Norman Conquest of England in 230 feet of embroidered detail. It is a fascinating work of art and remains one of the most important sources of information on this major event in English history. The following activities can help your students to engage with this tapestry, its contents, and the history surrounding it. These activities are intended for high school students, but are also designed to be easily adaptable for younger classrooms as well.

Bayeux Tapestry Activities

Interpret the Bayeux Tapestry

This activity can be completed by students independently or in groups. Start by giving students a photograph of one section of the Bayeux Tapestry (each should be different) and a description sheet that explains it. Ask students to keep the description sheet facing down for the time being, and not to look at it. Students will examine their section of the Bayeux Tapestry and will attempt to interpret it on their own, determining the rough events that are taking place.

Once students have had a chance to do this, display on the board images of some of the key figures who appear multiple times throughout the tapestry. Ask students to look over their image again, determining whether or not any of these figures are in their section of the tapestry and then discussing how this changes the way they interpret it. Finally, let students turn over the description sheet and read about what's actually happening in this section, comparing that to their original theories.

If you wish to expand upon this further, ask students to select one of the figures in their section of the tapestry. This could be a named figure, or an unnamed soldier/person. Students will write a historical fiction short story from the perspective of that person, culminating in this moment of the tapestry.

  • Materials: Images of scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry, description sheets, images of important individuals from the Bayeux Tapestry, writing materials

Fold the Tapestry

This activity can be completed by students in groups or independently. Start by giving students vey long, narrow printouts of large sections of the Bayeux Tapestry. Explain to students that this tapestry was meant to be read like a book, showing scene after scene of major events. Give them an example of this on the board. Next, ask students to look over their printout and try to determine where each scene begins and ends, drawing vertical lines to mark these spots. Students will fold their printout, accordion style, at each of these lines. Once students have had a chance to complete their scene divisions, go through this section on the board and explain each scene, comparing this to students' theories about how these images are organized.

  • Materials: Printouts of long sections of the Bayeux tapestry, images of the Bayeux tapestry to project on the screen, writing supplies

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