Panel 12 of the Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidery (not actually a tapestry), completed circa 1077, that chronicles the fall of the Saxon King Harold to the forces of William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It is often cited as an early work of sequential art and a forerunner of comics. As only women were trained in embroidery, it was most certainly created by women. Although the creators were once thought to be William's wife and the ladies of her court, current speculation says it was French nuns who did the work.[1]

Artistic ContextEdit

Tapestry fragments have been found in Scandinavia dating from the ninth century and it is thought that Norman and Anglo-Saxon embroidery developed from this sort of work. Examples are to be found in the grave goods of the Oseberg ship and the Överhogdal tapestries.

An monastic text from Ely, the Liber Eliensis, mentions a woven narrative wall-hanging commemorating the deeds of Byrhtnoth, killed in 991. Wall-hangings were common by the tenth century with English and Norman texts particularly commending the skill of Anglo-Saxon seamstresses. Mural paintings imitating draperies still exist in France and Italy and there are twelfth century mentions of other wall-hangings in Normandy and France. A poem by Baldric of Dol might even be describing the Bayeux Tapestry itself. So, the Bayeux Tapestry was not unique at the time it was created—rather it is remarkable for being the sole surviving example of Middle Ages narrative needlework.

As ComicsEdit

The tapestry was cited by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics as an example of early narrative art[2] and British comic book artist Bryan Talbot has called it "the first known British comic strip."[3]

External LinksEdit


  1. Badertscher, Vera Marie, "The World's First Comic Strip",
  2. McCloud 1993. Understanding Comics pp.11-14
  3. The History of the British Comic, Bryan Talbot, The Guardian Guide, September 8, 2007, page 5
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