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PHOTO/ Oldest medieval tapestry tells the story of the end of time

June Wed 13, 2012

Part of the Apocalypse Tapestry  Part of the Apocalypse Tapestry

The Apocalypse Tapestry dates back to 1377-1382. It is the oldest surviving French tapestry and it stretches over 100 meters. It depicts the story of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation in six sections, each 78 feet wide and 20 feet high. The story is told in bright colors, on red and blue backgrounds.

This extraordinary piece was commissioned by Louis I, the Duke of Anjou, it was lost in the late 18th century, recovered and restored in the 19th and is currently on display in the Chateau in Angers, France. The Apocalypse was a popular theme in the 14th century, since it depicted the final battle between good and evil, and the final triumph of good. This tapestry was probably also commission to boost the status of the Valois dynasty, which was fighting the Hundred Years’ War at the time of the tapestry’s creation. Jean Bondol, a Flemish artist, drew the sketches for the tapestry, which was then woven by Nicholas Bataille.

During the French Revolution, the tapestry was cut up and used for various purposes, including as a floor mat and as insulation. Only 71 of the original 90 scenes survive today, and the colors are faded, but the masterpiece is still extremely striking, as much for its beauty as for its incredible size.

The figures depicted are quite detailed and expressive. One of the most interesting things is the depiction of Saint John, the writer of the Book of Revelation. He appears in every scene. At the beginning of each of the six sections, he is shown in a large piece, seated at a desk writing the contents of his visions. The visions then follow in two registers. In every scene, John is shown either in his house looking out or outside, or even participating in the scene, such as when he speaks with an Elder or when he is carried by an angel. He is shown weeping and terrified, as well as awestruck.

The tapestry is considered one of the greatest representations of the Book of Revelation, and one of the masterpieces of French cultural heritage.


See photos of the tapestry starting on the next page.

“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”



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