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The Coventry Tapestry

Tapestry 3 page

Detail from the Coventry tapestry c.1500

The 'Coventry Tapestry' is the highlight of the historic collections at St. Mary's Guildhall, and is widely recognised as one of the rarest and most important examples of this art in the country

Manufactured in around 1500, its rarity lies not just in its age, uniqueness and remarkable state of preservation, but also in that it remains hanging on the very wall for which it was created more than five hundred years ago.

At more than nine metres wide and three metres high, this magnificent artwork dominates the north wall of the Great Hall, and displays both the skill of its Flemish weavers, and the wealth of the city of Coventry at the end of the fifteenth century.

The scene depicts the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and includes seventy five individual characters, including members of a Royal court, angels, saints and apostles, together with assorted dogs, mice, demons and dragons! There is evidence that it was altered in later years, with changes to the figure of Christ, and the removal of depictions of rosary beads, to make the scene more acceptable during the religious upheavals of the 1500s.

Thought to be a statement of power, faith and loyalty, the tapestry was most likely commissioned by the Guild of the Holy Trinity, and incorporates numerous hidden references to people and events of the time, although much of the symbolism remains unexplained to this day. It has even been observed that light from the west windows specifically illuminates the head of the Virgin Mary at certain times of the year, either a strange co-incidence or an inspired feature of the original design.

Visit us to see the tapestry in its full magnificence, and to discover more of its fascinating story.

View more images, and read about the recent discovery of connections to King Richard III