A stitch in time: Tapestry immortalizes “Game of Thrones”

In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, a woman takes a photo of the "Game of Thrones" tapestry in Bayeux, Normandy, France. The "Game of Thrones" tapestry depicts major scenes from all eight seasons of the hit TV series in 87 meters of embroidery. The artwork is temporarily on display in Bayeux, the Normandy town famous for the 11th century Bayeux tapestry chronicling the Norman conquest of England. (AP)

BAYEUX, France (AP) — Famously, Arya Stark always preferred her sword Needle to needlework. Still, even she would be impressed with the giant tapestry now on show in France that recounts the plot of “Game of Thrones” in glorious and, of course, gory and salacious detail.

With the award-winning saga about power struggles in mythical Westeros poised for more success at the Emmy Awards on Sunday, the tapestry’s unveiling this month in the Normandy town of Bayeux could hardly be better-timed. The show’s 32 nominations broke a single-year record.

Fans who have flocked in their thousands to see the embroidered artwork are giving it a thumbs-up.

“It’s fantastic. You can see kind of the story, how it all lays out,” Amanda Zides, visiting from a suburb of Boston, said as she pored over the tapestry this week. “They did a nice job — great color, great detail.”

At 87 meters (285 feet), the tapestry is longer than the width of a soccer pitch and longer than the famous 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry that recounts the Norman invasion of England in 1066. That tapestry served as an inspiration for the “Game of Thrones” lookalike.

The work was commissioned by the tourism office of Northern Ireland, where HBO filmed many of the scenes. Irish officials hope the Bayeux exhibit will boost tourism to Northern Ireland. Its “Game of Thrones” sites are already a big draw, attracting 350,000 visitors in 2018 alone.

“We consider the Bayeux Tapestry as the grandmother of our ‘Game of Thrones’ tapestry,” said Séverine Lecart, director of marketing in France for Tourism Ireland.

Obvious parallels between the two tapestries include the embroidery styles, colors and structures. Both are divided into three segments, with their central storylines running through the middle bordered by smaller panels displaying motifs like winged beasts or weaponry. The two works evoke similar themes of violent conquest and feudal loyalties.

The Bayeux Tapestry is thought to have been commissioned by William the Conqueror’s brother. It tells the story of William’s conquest of England with vivid scenes of battle and palace intrigue. It attracts nearly 400,000 visitors annually and Bayeux officials hope the “Game of Thrones” exhibit will grow that number.

The tapestry begins with fictional King Robert Baratheon visiting the Stark family in Winterfell and ends with the final scenes from the eighth and last season. It took a 30-strong team of volunteer embroiderers in Northern Ireland nearly four months to stitch the tapestry in 2017, adding final scenes after “Games of Thrones” finished airing in May.

Like the often-racy show, the tapestry includes several sex scenes. But among visitors on Wednesday, scenes depicting Daenerys Targaryen with her dragons and Jaime Lannister getting his hand chopped off proved particularly popular.

“Amazingly well-presented,” said Geoffrey Vasse, visiting from the Normandy city of Caen. “I’m a fan of the series of ‘Game of Thrones’ and if there is a tapestry just nearby, I wanted to come and see it.”