Study of the medieval Tapestry has demonstrated that the majority of it was created somewhere between 1505 and 1515, with the figure of Justice added in later. If you look very carefully you can see that the weaving making up the figure of Justice is of a finer quality, and you can see the last remnant of what was there before her. This specially commissioned work was woven in Flanders and is likely to have been incredibly expensive.
We know that the Tapestry was originally made for the Guildhall – the columns in the Tapestry line up perfectly with the columns dividing the window above it. There are six different scenes on the Tapestry, each woven in a beautifully intricate way. The central figure is the Virgin Mary, being taken to heaven to become a saint. The Guildhall is dedicated to her. The top row of figures are more than likely saints, each holding or pictured with an item that identifies them. The Tapestry is full of symbolism that was easily read 500 years ago, but that we might struggle with now.
Interestingly, in the top right-hand figure you might be able to spot St Margaret of Antioch, she is pictured with a dragon. Below them is a royally dressed couple, thought to be Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, who had a close relationship with the city of Coventry.
As part of the restoration of St Mary’s Guildhall, the medieval Tapestry underwent a large conservation project. The conservators removed the Tapestry from its case and the old lining. Many of the figures are now easier to see and far more recognisable than they were. It has now been restored to its original home, at the place of honour in the Great Hall.
The conservation and redisplay of the tapestry has been made possible as part of over £1.4m support towards the wider project from The National Lottery Heritage Fund thanks to National Lottery players.
The work on the Tapestry is part of a £5.6m redevelopment of St Mary’s Guildhall supported through the Cultural Capital Investment Fund, which is resourced from Coventry City Council, Arts Council England, and the Government’s Getting Building Fund – through Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership also supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.