The Bayeux Tapestry: Stitching Together History, Art and Narrative

Possibly the most famous work of textile art in the western world, the Bayeux Tapestry documents the Battle of Hastings in 1066, which instigated the conquest of England by William of Normandy. Beyond violent battle scenes, the text and imagery of this extraordinary embroidery offer insights into 11th-century political and social life. While no one disputes its subject, the tapestry’s ambiguous viewpoint has caused endless scholarly debate and speculation. Is it a work of Norman propaganda, Anglo-Saxon subversion or something in between? We’ll take a deep dive into this intriguing work of art, exploring its technical, design and narrative aspects—and its controversies.

A $50 discount will be applied automatically for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Online - Jean Kares $170.00 0 Join Waitlist

Schedule clarification: This is a four-week online course. The October section runs from Monday, October 11 to Friday, November 5; the November section runs from Monday, November 8 to Friday, December 3. Each week, all week, you can study that week’s material, post and respond to discussion board topics, and engage in course activities.

  • October section students will participate in Zoom Meetings sessions each Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time.
  • November section students will participate in Zoom Meetings sessions each Monday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time.

Learning objectives

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Describe the medium, materials and physical characteristics of the Bayeux Tapestry
  • Summarize the subject of the Bayeux Tapestry and outline the main episodes depicted in the artwork
  • Identify design strategies that are employed to advance the narrative of the Tapestry
  • Explain why scholars propose varying interpretations of the point of view and specific aspects of the Bayeux Tapestry
  • Give examples of artwork, reproductions and parodies that have been inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry

Learning methods

Your online learning will include the following methods:

  • Reading academic and non-academic articles
  • Participation in written discussions with other students
  • Participation in videoconference seminars
  • Optionally, creating scenes using a digital tool or hand-embroidering motifs based on the Bayeux Tapestry

For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.


Week 1: Setting the scene and introducing the players

We begin by reviewing the medium, materials and physical characteristics of the Bayeux Tapestry and consider who designed, embroidered and commissioned this artwork. Contemporary medieval book illustrations and literature offer possible stylistic and narrative precedents. We meet the main cast of characters and learn the backstory to the events depicted in the Tapestry.

Week 2: Act 1: Harold goes to Normandy

The first part of the Tapestry opens with Earl Harold’s enigmatic trip to Normandy and his adventures as a “guest” of Duke William, and ends with Harold’s accession to the English throne. We delve into the mysterious figure of Æfgyva and discuss design strategies, including how the narrative moves forward and what’s going on in the borders.

Week 3: Act 2: William invades England

In the second half, William receives word that Harold has been crowned king, prompting preparations for invasion. Thereafter, the narrative speeds up, showing William’s fleet, local pillaging and a long section of chaotic battle scenes culminating in the death of Harold and defeat of the English. We also take note of key events that aren’t depicted.

Week 4: Coda: the adventures of the Bayeux Tapestry

Remarkably, the Bayeux Tapestry has endured for nearly 1,000 years. After disappearing for four centuries, it managed to avoid destruction by fire, escape heedless damage and survive various wars since its creation. We conclude by looking at some of the reproductions, artworks and parodies inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry since the 19th century.

Books, materials and resources

You will access course resources using SFU’s online course management system, Canvas.

Technical requirements

This course is delivered using SFU's online learning system, Canvas. You can check if your browser is compatible with Canvas here.  

To get the most out of this online course, you should be comfortable doing the following:

  • Using everyday software such as browsers, email and social media
  • Navigating a website by clicking on links and finding pages in a menu
  • Downloading and opening PDF documents
  • Posting, replying and uploading images to a discussion board
  • Participating in videoconferencing sessions

You will be participating in videoconferencing using Zoom Meetings. For this, your computer needs to have a camera, microphone and speakers or headphones. Your computer software should be up to date with the latest available operating system and browser versions.

Accessing your course

  • A few days before the course starts, we will email you more information about the course and how you'll access it. You will also receive an email inviting you to access the Canvas learning platform (click on the link in the invitation to join the course). Once you’ve accessed Canvas, you can begin exploring the platform on your own. The full course will be accessible on its start date.
  • We’ll also host a virtual drop-in time on Zoom Meetings a few days before the course starts. This will give you a chance to check that you can access Zoom Meetings, and that your computer’s camera and microphone and speakers are working properly.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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