At one stage, many years ago, tapestries were Flanders’ main export product. Cities such as Oudenaarde and Brussels were important suppliers of the courts and the wealthy bourgeoisie, who used these expensive tapestries as a sign of their wealth and status. In Oudenaarde, you can view some of these magnificent works of art in the MOU, a five-minute walk from Leopold Hotel Oudenaarde. They also have a conservation and restoration studio available to the public on certain days of the month. While you’re enjoying your time in Oudenaarde, take some time to visit and admire these wonderful parts of our history and heritage.
What is Tapestry?
Tapestry is an ancient form of textile art which has been practised all over the world for thousands of years. A tapestry is made by repeatedly weaving horizontal threads over and under vertical threads, then squishing or ‘tamping’ the horizontal threads down so they are very close together, completely hiding the vertical threads from view. It’s a painstaking and time-consuming process that takes skill & patience and they often take years to complete. Tapestries were popular among the wealthy and bourgeoisie as they displayed the wealth and power of the owner. In Europe, the most popular and fruitful time for producing tapestries was the second half of the 14th century to the end of the 18th century, after which production slowed down as it was replaced with more automated processes.
Tapestries Around the World
Ancient Egyptians and the Incas used woven tapestries as shrouds in which to bury their dead. The Greeks and Romans used them as wall coverings for public buildings and temples like the Parthenon. In medieval times, they were used as a way to decorate the interior walls of grandiose buildings like castles. One of the most famous tapestries in the world is the Bayeux Tapestry, a very unique artifact created in the 11th century. It tells a detailed and engrossing story of the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy in 1066, on a truly impressive 70-meter-long embroidery. The piece was likely commissioned by Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror’s half-brother, to decorate his newly built cathedral in Bayeux in 1077. It’s now on display in the Bayeux Museum in France.
Tapestries in Oudenaarde
Tapestries were once Flanders’ main export product and an important part of employment, history and economy here. At times, about half of the population of Oudenaarde relied on the thriving textile industry. These magnificent wall hangings were a testament to the perseverance, creativity and craftsmanship of our local people. Compared to other tapestry centres such as Brussels, Antwerp and Enghien, Oudenaarde had the largest production in terms of quantity and quality.
Today, Oudenaarde tapestries hang all over the world, but the Museum of Oudenaarde holds an impressive collection of 37 tapestries, of which 18 are on display to the public.
Museum of Oudenaarde
The museum is an introduction to the history of the city and its bygone industries with much of Oudenaarde’s rich history on display. Follow the museum trail through the heyday of the weaving crafts and beyond. The quality of Oudenaarde tapestries is the absolute highest in Flanders. The notorious product is recognisable by its unique style, and the ‘verdures’ tapestries are known around the world. The museum is housed in a superb example of a town hall, typical of town hall buildings throughout Flanders from several centuries ago. The city is steadily expanding its collection of tapestries. In 2019, the city council brought home a lost treasure, a rare and historical tapestry from the series ‘The History of Alexander’ dating back to 1582. The work was auctioned off in New York and can now be seen in the MOU city museum. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, you can follow the restoration process of the tapestries, from start to finish, through demonstrations in the conservation and restoration studio on the second floor.
Book a stay in Leopold Hotel Oudenaarde and explore these wonderful pieces of our city’s history for yourself. Our best available rates and access to our special offers are exclusively available when you book with our team or on our website.