The Tapestry shows a series of civilian, religious and military monuments. Some of these representations have a purely symbolic role, and others, much more rare, are quite realistic.
The castle of Winchester in England is the palace of King Edward.
Winchester, in the south of England, is the capital of the county of Hampshire. It is also the capital of the kingdom of Wessex then of England until the Norman Conquest. The Great Hall, dating back to the 13th century, is the only vestige of this royal castle, as most of the town was burnt down in the civil war in the 12th century.
It can be seen in scene 1.
Harold Godwinson’s manor house at Bosham, in which he was feasting merrily while waiting to set off for the continent.
This manor, like the church, was built in the heart of Bosham, but unfortunately no longer exists. It was typical of the buildings often mentioned in texts from the early Middle Ages, with the ‘laubia’, or loggia, on the ground floor open to the outside, topped by the piano nobile or solarium.
It can be seen in scene 4.
Beaurain castle belonged to Count Guy de Ponthieu.
Located on the river Somme near Abbeville, this castle was, at the time of Duke William, called Belrem. The wooden castle raised its high round tower close to the village (not far from the present railway of Beaurainville). Moats and a high palisade protected it from enemy attacks. It is almost certainly there that Harold Godwinson was held captive.
It can be seen in scene 9.
Rouen castle was one of the residences of the dukes of Normandy. Situated on the banks of the Seine in Rouen, capital of the region of Haute-Normandie, it has unfortunately disappeared. Built in the 11th century by Duke Richard II, grandfather of William the Conqueror, it was a ducal residence, a military and administrative centre and a state prison. It had one of the first stone keeps known in the western world. The old tower of Rouen was razed after the French conquest in 1204.
It can be seen in scenes 12, 14 and 35.
Brionne castle was another of William of Normandy’s residences.
Halfway between Lisieux and Rouen, the town of Brionne has a rich heritage. But its castle was destroyed by fire in around 1080.
It can be seen in scene 14.
The palace of Westminster in London is supposedly where King Edward met Harold on his return from Normandy.
In the middle of the 11th century, the Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor had his palace built on the Isle of Thorney on the banks of the Thames. Because of its privileged position, Westminster Palace held great strategic importance and was the principle residence of the Kings of England throughout the Middle Ages. After the Norman invasion in 1066, William the Conqueror took up residence in the Tower of London, but he soon preferred Westminster Palace. Today nothing remains of the buildings which existed in the Anglo-Saxon times of William. The oldest remaining sections of the Palace, Westminster Hall and the Great Hall, date from the reign of William the Conqueror’s successor, William Rufus.
It can be seen in scenes 25, 27, 28 and 33.
The church of the town of Bosham where Harold stopped with his squire to pray for a “good sea and favourable wind”.
Built in Bosham, a small town on the south coast of England, between Chichester and Portsmouth, this church can still be seen today. The outside has been considerably altered. Inside, there are some parts which Harold probably knew.
It can be seen in scene 3.
The Mont Saint Michel already stood in the heart of its immense bay in 1065, flooded by the highest tides in Europe.
A Marvel of the West, it is situated at the frontier of Basse-Normandie and Brittany. At the request of Archangel Michael, Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, had a first church built and consecrated on 16 October 709 on the mount. In 966, at the request of the Duke of Normandy, a community of Benedictines settled on the rock. Thus began the long history of this abbey, which is still greatly admired today.
It can be seen in scene 16.
Westminster Abbey, newly built, is the burial place of King Edward.
In the middle of the 11th century, the Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor had his palace built on the Isle of Thorney on the banks of the Thames to the west of the city of London. Near the palace was a Benedictine monastery founded in the 10th century. Soon afterwards, King Edward decided to build a bigger abbey consecrated to the apostle Saint Peter. The Abbey was completed between 1045 and 1050, and was consecrated on 28 December, not long before the death of the sovereign. The Isle of Thorney, on which the abbey stands, and its surrounding area also took the name of Westminster as a contraction of the words West and Monastery (Minster). It is in this abbey that King Edward the Confessor rests, along with many other monarchs of the Middle Ages. Similarly, since William the Conqueror, all English kings have been crowned in the Abbey Church, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII.
It can be seen in Scene 26.
The fortresses of Dol and Rennes in which the Earl of Brittany, Conan II, took refuge when chased by the army of Duke William.
These are both in Brittany. Dol de Bretagne near Saint-Malo and Rennes which is today the capital of the Ile et Vilaine department and of Brittany. It is also one of the historical capitals of the Duchy of Brittany.
They can be seen in scene 18.
The fortress of Dinan was besieged by William. Conan handed over the keys of the town, on the end of his lance, to his conqueror.
In the department of Côtes d’Armor, to the north west of Rennes, the town of Dinan is fortified by a magnificent ring of ramparts. Its fortress appears in the heart of the Tapestry as a feudal motte surrounded by a wooden palisade, which might be the site of the current county hall.
It can be seen in scene 19.
The town of Bayeux where William and Harold go so that Harold can take the oath on the relics of the cathedral.
Cited under the name of Bagias, the town of Bayeux is represented by its castle and by the two eagles which later became the arms of the cathedral chapter house: the two-headed eagle. This castle was located in the southwest corner of the town and built under Duke Richard I of Normandy.
It can be seen in scene 22.
The town of Hastings, in the county of Sussex is a town in southeast England. It is the most famous of the towns named in the Norman conquest of England.
It was also at Hastings that William and his army raised a castral (camp) motte to protect themselves in case of attack.
Made of earth and sand, this motte, 6m high and 24m in circumference, was surrounded by a deep moat to the east. A prefabricated fort was built on the top, surrounded by a closed courtyard, called a bailey. Remains of these motte and bailey castles can still be seen today.
William and his army left from here to meet King Harold.
Finally, one of the first decisions of William as King of England was to have Hastings Castle rebuilt in stone, which shows the importance of the town as a commercial port and a rapid means of communication with Normandy.
It can be seen in scenes 40 and 45.