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The Tapestries at the Cloisters


The Nine Heroes Tapestries


Sarah J. Albertini Danielle M. Pastor

() ([email protected])

Upon entering the Nine Heroes Tapestry Room at |the Cloisters, one immediately notices its positioning within the museum. To the north of the room are two chapels: both in Gothic style, one in an earlier style than the other. This is a symbolic link to the six religious heroes represented in the tapestries -three Hebrew, three Christian. To the Heroes Tapestry are the famed Unicorn tapestries, highlighting the three pagan heroes.

The Nine Heroes Tapestries, representing the Hebrew heroes: Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus, the Christian heroes: Charlemagne, Arthur, and Godfrey of Boullion, and the pagan heroes: Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, are thought to be made around 1385 by Nicolas Bataille. It is not positive that Bataille is the artist; however, another set of tapestries, the Apocalypse Tapestries in Angers, France, made by Bataille shares the same characteristics as the Nine Heroes.

The inspiration for the Nine Heroes Tapestries came from a poem written by Jacques de Longuyon in 1310. The poem's protagonist, Porus, is described as being more courageous than the nine great heroes of history. Eventually, the representation of these men soon appeared everywhere as the poem's story grew in popularity.

One contrary image stands out in the tapestries. No matter what era the hero represents, he is dressed in clothing reminiscent of the fourteenth century. This was a common artistic style used during the time that the tapestries were created.

Although the original owner of the tapestries is unknown, there are clues to his identity in the tapestries themselves. Ten of the fourteen banners flying from the turrets in the Hebrew Heroes tapestry display the golden fleur-de-lis of France on an azure ground within a red indentured border. Since this is the coat of arms of Jean, Duke of Berry, third son of King John II of France, it is assumed that these tapestries once belonged to him.

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Site Author: Sarah Albertine and Danielle pastor, Project for "Introduction to Medieval History", Fordham University, Spring 1997

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 7 February 2023 [CV]