The Medieval period is best remembered for Kings, queens and knights. It was an era of chivalry and war. Many great battles were fought in this period that resulted in some of the European nations we know today. Although the Medieval period gave us the monarchy and rich folklore, it is also the period within which great advances in art were made. Amongst these advances was the production of stunning Medieval European tapestry.
According to historians, the medieval period began in 500 A.D. This marked the fall of the Roman Empire and the rising of the Northern European tribes to form their own smaller societies which they called Kingdoms. These kingdoms were ruled over by the strongest warriors of each society who were referred to as kings. This period would last for thousands of years.
Although the Roman Empire had fallen, the Catholic Church still continued to be a great authority in these kingdoms. It served as the unifying factor amongst the kingdoms and was considered in many kingdoms to be a more powerful institution than the ruling government. The church was the center of learning during this period and through it many advances in medicine, science and the arts were made.
Medieval tapestry traces its origins to this period. They were produced across Europe throughout the medieval period. However, the tapestries only gained popularity towards the end of the period. In this time they were popularly hang on walls of castles and churches. They were a luxury only affordable to the wealthy families of the period who used them to decorate their walls and insulate the walls in cooler seasons.
The imagery used in medieval European tapestries was also used to spread propaganda and tell stories. Many a European castle wall tapestry designs from this age narrate stories of battles fought by brave knights as well as Christian teachings that were popular in that age. Churches and wealthy families used the tapestries as a show of strength and wealth. Some tapestries would be woven to include silk and metal threads to show the power and wealth of the owner.
The European tapestry industry rapidly developed in the 14th century resulting in the production of high quality tapestries. Tapestry production in this period increased rapidly owing to the abundance of skilled silk weavers and support garnered from the local guilds. Although many fine tapestries from this period were lost in the wars of the era, several significant pieces have been recovered and are the inspiration for contemporary medieval European tapestry today.