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Prof. Christopher Norton publishes groundbreaking research on the Bayeux Tapestry

Posted on 30 October 2019

CMS Professor Emeritus makes headlines with conclusion that the Bayeux Tapestry was designed to fit perfectly the nave of the 11thC Bayeux Cathedral, shedding light on how contemporaries - including King William I himself - would have viewed the tapestry.

Prof. Christopher Norton (History of Art) has made headline news with his recent publication in the Journal of British Archaeological Association, "Viewing the Bayeux Tapestry, Now and Then."

Questions of the date, patronage, desinger, place of creation, and display of the world-famous Bayeux Tapestry have long plagued scholars, but Prof. Norton has produced the answer to one of them: the tapestry was designed to fit the nave of Bayeux Cathedral.

Prompted by news that the Bayeux Tapestry will be loaned for exhibition in Britain, Prof. Norton has analysed the visual narrative programme of the tapestry, its dimensions, and the architecture of the eleventh-century cathedral and concluded that the tapestry was made to fit the North, West, and South sides of the nave.

"It has always been the case that the simplest explanation is that it was designed for Bayeux Cathedral.

“This general proposition can now be corroborated by the specific evidence that the physical and narrative structure of the tapestry are perfectly adapted to fit the nave of the 11th Century cathedral.”

This deceptively simple conclusion has, however, critical implications: Bishop Odo of Bayeux (1049–97) remains the most likely patron of the work; the designer must have known the exact dimensions of the cathedral; and the viewers would have been predominantly inhabitants of Normandy.

And, of course, this paves the way for further research into the fuction of the tapestry and how it was viewed by its contemporaries, including Bishop Odo himself and King William I.

You can read the University's announcement here and read the article in full here.