600-year-old Apocalypse Tapestry to get welcome restoration

07th October, 2016
An irreplaceable 14th century tapestry is to get a welcome clean-up and restoration after more than 60 years on display at the Chateau d’Angers in central France.

Made from once-vivid red, blue, green and yellow threads of wool and silk, the Apocalypse Tapestry depicts the Apocalypse according to the Revelation of St John. The tapestry dates back to 1373, when it was commissioned by Louis I, the Duke of Anjou. It comes some three centuries later than the Norman-era Bayeux Tapestry, but is significantly larger. Many believe the tapestry is the longest in the world, or was at one time, since it has lost some of its panels over time. Currently 104m long and 4.6m high, it was once 1.2m taller and some 40m longer.

The Apocalypse Tapestry has belonged to the state since 1905, with its condition having deteriorated since due not only to wear and tear but also the effects of more than 60 years of being displayed under gallery lights.

After such a long time remaining untouched, the French culture ministry has said that it is time “to see what state this old lady of upwards of 600 years of age is in”. They have since been collecting data in order to decide how best to restore the tapestry so that it can continue to be shown to the public in the long term, analysing the work “square centimetre by square centimetre”. Several factors needed to be taken into account, from temperature and humidity to warping and the tension that arises from the tapestry being hung.

A few sections of the tapestry were taken out at a time, with the remaining pieces staying on display. Once they have undergone rigorous examination, the pieces are subjected to deep cleaning with some parts also rewoven to ensure the tapestry remains intact.

Despite the work dating back to the 13th century, little is known about the Apocalypse tapestry even today. What we do know is that after it was made, it remained in the possession of the Dukes of Anjou for a century, before it was bequeathed to Angers Cathedral in the late 15th century to Rene of Anjou.

Following the French Revolution around 200 years later, many pieces of church art were destroyed, with the tapestry cut up and used for a variety of purposes, acting as floor mats, food covers and even stable insulation. The tapestry pieces were rescued in 1850 when a church canon first attempted to restore the work, which by then had fallen “into a thousand fragments”.

Administrator of Chateau d’Angers Herve Yannou hopes that this new restoration project will hopefully shed more light on how this vast and artistic masterpiece was made. He said: "We hope to unearth the secrets of this artistic and historic masterpiece from the Hundred Years War (between England and France, 1337 to 1453), created in just seven years.


"Where was it woven and in how many workshops? How many people were involved? It's a mystery..."

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