Bayeux is an ancient town well worth visiting for its beauty and atmosphere. There are many sights to see but, of course, we headed straight for the Bayeux Tapestry. We hope to return to see more of the town another time.

The Bayeux tapestry has to be seen to be believed. It is remarkable that an embroidered cloth over seventy metres long could survive intact for over nine hundred years. It tells the story of the Norman conquest of England in 1066 and events leading up to the invasion, from the point of view of the conquerors. Fifty eight scenes run along the cloth like a strip of film. A commentary is embroidered above the scenes, written in Latin. The tapestry is probably the work of Anglo-Saxon monks supervised by Odo, William the Conqueror's half brother and Bishop of Bayeux.

The tapestry is displayed in a long glass cabinet so that visitors can walk along its whole length. The Centre Guillaume-le-Conquérant, which has housed the tapestry since it was taken down from the cathedral walls, also has displays and exhibits to give visitors a taste of medieval life and an understanding of the historical background. English speaking visitors are very well catered for throughout, including in the gift shop. As visitors from Sussex, we were interested to see the little church of Bosham represented on the tapestry.

The cathedral at Bayeux was consecrated in the presence of William the Conqueror and his Queen Matilda in 1077. It is a beautiful building with many fascinating architectural features.

We found the tomb of Philip de Harcourt close to the west door of the cathedral. Sadly, there was no effigy but a plaque attached to the wall stated "ICI REPOSE PHILIPPE DE HARCOURT EVEQUE DE BAYEUX 1142-1163". The de Harcourts were close associates of the de Braose family through the marriage of William de Braose I to Eve de Boissey, the widow of Anchetil de Harcourt. Her grandson Philip rose to become Chancellor of England under King Stephen, and Bishop of Bayeux.

Some genealogists believe that William de Braose I's mother, Gonnor, was the daughter of another Bishop of Bayeux - Hugh, who died in 1049. He was a member of the d'Ivry family, which decended from Ralph, Count of Bayeaux (died 1011). Ralph was a half brother of Richard I, Duke of Normandy. The d'Ivry connection with Gunnor is supported by a record of lands which she gave to the L'Abbaye aux Dames in Caen. Her gifts are known to have been held previously by the d'Ivry family.

There were some remarkable ancient monuments in the cathedral crypt.

© Lynda Denyer, Steyning, 2000