Several times a day, on a cruise in Europe aboard the new Viking Star, I paused at one of the landings on the fore or aft stairwells to gaze at a scene from the famed Bayeux Tapestry.
Reproductions from this amazing work of art tell one of Europe’s great stories of conquest. It is no coincidence that a major Viking victory is represented as the core artwork on Viking Star, which is based in Bergen, Norway.
The original, a cloth about 230 feet long, 20 inches wide, was embroidered 945 years ago. Remarkably, it still exists, mostly intact, in Normandy, in the town of Bayeux, France.
The cloth explains a complex story about the Norman Conquest of England, the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the death of England’s king, Harold, and the victory by William the Conqueror, who was duke of Normandy, which in those days was part of England, not of France.
After all the earlier battles in the British Isles, in which Vikings of different heritage sought the crown, the Battle of Hastings was a great Viking victory for William. Normandy was settled by Vikings, and Normans now were in charge.
This battle resolved the dispute over who was heir to the king of England, at least from the Norman perspective.
William was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas day 1066.
The Bayeux tapestry is fascinating history, even if only from the Norman point of view. You can see gory battle scenes (which are not so gory in embroidery), ships and horses, processions and plenty of simple Latin words (such as Rex for king).
More than a dozen wide panels make the journey up and down the Viking Star stairs fully worth the effort.
If that choice seems daunting, you can seek out an animated version of the Bayeux Tapestry in the ship’s Living Room.
“A voyage on the Viking Star is a journey that will nourish and expand your mind,” says Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking Ocean Cruises.