Just like today, textiles were a constant presence in medieval life through clothing, soft furnishings and containers. Textiles could range from rough, every-day materials to extremely valuable, labour-intensive items beautifully decorated with precious materials like silk and gold thread. Unfortunately, as the climate in western Europe is quite damp, not many items from the tenth or eleventh centuries survive down to us today; in contrast, we have far more textiles from dryer regions like Egypt and Asia.

The textiles that do survive from this period in Western Europe are usually ones that have been preserved through being used to wrap relics or bodies, and placed into tombs or reliquaries. Often they are damaged through decay, and we now only have small fragments of the original item. Some of the materials particularly favoured for wrapping relics were the most precious ones: intricately decorated silks imported from the Byzantine Empire or from the Islamic Middle East. We also have a number of liturgical garments that survive, including cloaks and mantles. The most famous textile that survives from the eleventh century is the Bayeux Tapestry: embroidered scenes depicting the story of the Norman Conquest of England stitched onto over 70 metres of linen.

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