For several years now, a restoration project for the Bayeux tapestry, a masterpiece of textile arts classified as a historical monument since 1840, has been on the agenda and must accompany the creation of a new setting for welcome it. The Norman city museum officially announced on Saturday February 27 that this restoration should begin ” by 2024, when the current museum will have to close its doors to the public ”, in the perspective of the work of the new museum, which is scheduled to open in 2026.
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“The aim of this operation will be to stabilize structural alterations such as tears, to carry out precise dusting of the work and above all to limit the tensions weighing today on medieval linen, caused in particular during old restorations”, said the museum.
A “condition report” showing many weaknesses
This tapestry from the end of the XIe century, which tells about 70 meters in length the conquest of England by William the Conqueror, has long shown weaknesses. A new “condition report” – the previous one was carried out in 1982 – was carried out in January 2020 by specialists. During this expertise, “The 68.38 meters in length of the tapestry have been the subject of careful examination. Every day, each conservator studied about one meter of the embroidery and its linen fabric backing to analyze the damage ”, explained the institution.
“Conservation recommendations were thus issued by the scientific council. Certain alterations bear witness to the history of the Bayeux tapestry, they will therefore be preserved, unless they constitute a risk of worsening its condition ”, she specifies. These include nail holes from previous hangings or wax stains caused by candle lighting in the cathedral.
A delayed schedule
The schedule for the entire project suffered a slight delay as it was initially due to be completed in 2024 by the 80e anniversary of the Landing of the allied forces in Normandy and be the subject of an institutional partnership with the British with a view to possible co-financing for the restoration. Indeed, Emmanuel Macron announced in 2018 at a Franco-British summit the possibility of a loan of the tapestry to England as part of a “work exchange program”. But this was suspended from the “stabilization” of the structure, which was considered too fragile at the time.
This embroidery comic which evokes a founding episode in English history, and which was undoubtedly produced in Canterbury in Kent, has never returned to England, despite repeated loan requests from the British government; in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and in 1966 for the 900e anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.
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The tapestry, which belongs to the French State, was entrusted to the city of Bayeux by Bonaparte in 1804. It is considered today as the most important monument of the textile arts of the Romanesque period, but also as a testimony capital on the conquest of England by Duke William of Normandy in 1066.