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A Front Too Far: Normandy Free Download
It is not an easy matter to provide an outline of an essentially pictoriallecture, so I'll simply offer you some background and suggest some sitesthat provide an opportunity of viewing the tapesty itself. There is an extraordinarily fine site, the Bayeux Tapestry virtual tour, which shows the tapestry in Quick Time. You will need QT software to view these pages, but you can download this free of charge from [www.apple.com/fr/quicktime/download/]. The site allows youto view the tapestry as a continuous roll, the way you would viewed it ifyou were to visit the Museum where it is now displayed. By contrast, TheHastings 1066site provides several thumb-nail images as an index of the tapestry so that you can quickly accesswhichever panel you want to examine more closely. Another good site is the Victorian copy of the Bayeux Tapestry at the Museum of Reading, England.The Bayeux Tapestry is one of the most important pictorial works survivingfrom the middle ages, and certainly the most important from the eleventhcentury. It is not really a tapestry, but an embroidery of colored wool onan unbleached linen background. It comprises a series of connected panelstwo hundred and three feet in length, with each of the panels abouteighteen inches high. Much of what we know about its origins is a matterof guesswork. It was almost certainly the work of English embroiderers,and was most probably produced in the famous embroidery works ofWinchester. The best guess is that it was commissioned by Odo, bishop ofBayeux, William the Conqueror's half-brother, and one of the leadingfigures in the invasion of England. It was perhaps completed on 1077 intime for the consecration of the new cathedral at Bayeux. Or perhaps itwas finished in 1083. Historians can argue endlessly about such things.Some have suggested that it was hung around the nave of Bayeux cathedralon feast days, but it doesn't seem to have made for that specific purposesince it is not long enough to reach completely around the nave.During the French Revolution, it was hauled out to cover a wagon-load ofammunition being sent to the northern front where the Republican Frenchwere being attacked by Monarchist enemies. A young lawyer of Bayeux pulledthe tapestry from the wagon and replaced it with a oiled and waterproofcloth much better suited for the purpose. He carried the tapestry home,and hid it in his attic, where it remained for the next thirty years. Whenit as brought out, it was turned over to the bishop of Bayeux, who placedit in the bishop's palace. It has remained there, except for a short timewhen the Nazis took it to Paris for scientific examination. The bishop'spalace is now a museum in which the tapestry is on permanent display andviewed by thousands of visitors a year. Americans form a large portion ofthe crowds, since the beaches on which US troops landed on 6 June 1944 tobegin the Allied invasion of Europe lie only a couple of miles north ofBayeux and there is a large cemetery of American war dead not too far away. If you get toBayeux in late September, you'll be in time for the Calvados season.Calvados is Norman cider. Go at it easy; it'll tear your throat out andleave you with a headache that you'll never forget, if you somehow manageto live through it.The first half of the Tapestry depict the adventures of Harold Godwinson,who was wrecked in Ponthieu in 1064 and was ransomed from the count ofPonthieu by William, duke of Normandy (1046-1087). Its portrayal of theseevents is entirely from the Norman point of view and serves as ajustification of William's invasion and conquest of England in the Autumnof 1066. Harold is portrayed as a usurper who foreswore his sacred oath tosupport William as the successor to Edward the Confessor, king ofEngland.The second half shows William's preparations for the invasion of England,the decisive battle of Hastings -- in which Harold was killed -- and endswith the retreat of the defeated English. The last part, perhaps sometwenty-five feet, of the Tapestry is incomplete, and its account may havecontinued to the point at which William was crowed king at WestminsterAbbey, near London. Since this was apparently the place pictured in thefirst panel, such a conclusion would had a significant symmetry. Theentire work would then have commenced with old King Edward seated in stateat Westminister and would have concluded with the new King William seatedin state at the same place. This is entirely guesswork, however. One ofthe advantages of missing or incomplete documents is that they offer somescope for the exercise of one's imagination.One cannot use the Tapestry as a source for political history, since it isbiased, and also because it is a very complex "document." The upper andlower borders are mostly simply decoration, but sometimes show scenes thatmay be comments upon or clarifications of the story unfolding in themiddle section. Some of these scenes can be identified as being from theBible or Aesop's Fables, but the sources of others are unknown and thesignificance of the scenes obscure at best. One might use as an example,the panel that portrays Harold and his men eating and drinking in an upper room while waitingfor a fair wind to the Continent. The Norman account of these eventsclaims that King Edward had told Harold to go to Norman and announce toDuke William that the childless Edward wish William to succeed him as kingof England. Harold, however was not only the greatest noble on England butwas also ambitious. It was not difficult for his followers to convince himnot to reveal King Edward's will to Duke William, to bide his time, and -as soon as Edward was dead - to seize the royal treasury at Winchester andhave himself crowned king.There is nothing in the human figures or in the text to suggest that thiswas what was going on, but a small picture in the lower border clearlysuggests that this was the case. The picture is that of an ungainly birdsitting in a tree under which an animal (a leopard judging by its spots)is lying. They are looking at each other with their mouths open, and thereis some object in the air between them. It doesn't take a genius torecognize the scene. The Fox and the CrowA Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak andsettle on a branch of a tree. "That's for me, as I am a Fox," said MasterReynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree. "Good-day, MistressCrow," he cried. "How well you are looking to-day: how glossy yourfeathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass thatof other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song fromyou that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds." The Crow lifted up herhead and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth thepiece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox."That will do," said he. "That was all I wanted. In exchange for yourcheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future."Do not trust flatterers."Although the tapestry portrays a leopard in place of a fox, the moral isthe same and the reason for pointing to this particular fable at thisparticular place is quite clear. Harold's vanity would lead him to try tobe what he was not and, as a consequence, to lose everything he helddear.The Tapestry is most revealing in its details. One can see how a castle wasbuilt and discover that they were originally wooden stockadesconstructed on artificial mounds, trace the process of building warshipsfrom the felling of the trees to the launching of the vessels, view Edward, king ofEngland, sitting in state at Westminster long before there was aParliament sitting there, watch the death of a king and the coronation of ausurper, see a abunch of soldiers pillaging the countryside, and many other things.Even better, many of the places pictured in the tapestry still exist andcan be compared with their depiction in the Tapestry. A comparison of thethe tapestry'sdepiction of the famous monastery of Mt.-St.-Michel with 041b061a72