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A day trip to Bayeux, France turned out to be an emotional day for me, a combination of the beauty, history and memories we encountered.

The countryside around Bayeux is almost achingly beautiful with ancient stone buildings, verdant fields populated by fluffy sheep and the white Charolais cattle the region is famous for, tidy gardens and flowers everywhere, especially roses and hydrangea.

Bayeux is a small and charming, with some of the finest examples of a Norman-era architecture in existence. It owes this in part to some great good luck.

During World War II, the Gemans occupied Bayeux with only a small garrison. Shortly before D-Day, the German soldiers were moved up the road to Caen, where they had a large communications center. The French resistance was able to get word of this to the Allies and the scheduled bombing of Bayeux was cancelled. (Most of the other ancient towns in this part of Normandy were completely or mostly destroyed by Allied bombing; three villages ceased to exist). Bayeux was the first city liberated by the Allies on June 6, won without a shot being fired.

This is also the location of the Bayeux Tapestry which tells the story of the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings and William the Conquerors victory in cloth and embroidery. It is just over 70 meters (about 230 feet) long, linen embroidered with wool thread.

A lot of the Tapestry’s history is unknown, but it is believed to have been created in the 1070s, most likely in England and probably commissioned by the Bishop of Bayeux Catherdral who was a cousin of William.

It is a remarkable piece. At first glance the figures appear crude, but it soon becomes apparent that this piece was made by very skilled craftsmen/women. The feeling of movement, the depictions of the horrors of war, the details that have been included make for a compelling and fascinating story.

Sorry, no pictures from me of the Tapestry – photography is strictly forbidden. Check for pictures of it on the Internet; they will just a hint of the impact of the real thing, but it will have to do until you can get to Bayeux yourself.

The Bayeux Cathedral was also quite impressive. It reminded me just a bit of Notre Dame (although much smaller) with it gargoyles and flying buttresses. I was especially moved by the tributes to British soldiers who had died in France, one plaque from World War I and one from World War II as well as the wreaths of poppies.

Next up, the Beaches of Normandy.

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