The friezes

The central panel of Bayeux Tapestry is framed by an upper and a lower frieze.


The central panel is framed by an upper and a lower frieze, each measuring 2,75 inches.

The borders contain iconographical motifs; their relation with the story told in the central panel is rarely obvious. The friezes mainly depic real animals;  (birds, lions, dogs, deer and camels) and imaginary creatures ( dragons breathing fire, griffins and centaurs). These animals are generally represented in pairs, often facing each other, sometimes separated by diagonal limes or floral motifs.




In certain parts of the upper frieze, the series of animals is interrupted, when the illustrations of the central panel take the whole space. This is the case with the ship's sails (scenes 5-6, 34-39) or the roof of certain buildings (scenes 27-35).

Similarly, the lower frieze is used to illustrate the dead on the battlefield in the final scenes of the Tapestry (scenes 51-58).

In the first part of the embroidery, several fables borrowed from the Roman poet Phaedrus (inspired by Aesop) were identified : the Fox and the Crow, the Wolf and the Lamb, the Wolf and the Crane. Scenes of everyday life are also found in the lower frieze (hunting and field work), and a few erotic illustrations of naked men and women, whose relation with the central story is unclear.


Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
International experts on the Bayeux tapestry


Further reading:

The Bayeux Tapestry by Pierre Bouet and François Neveux
Hardback due out in October 2013, éditions Ouest France