Very obviously painted with “The Giant Jersey, 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic” from the outside, the most unique attraction in Geraldine looks like a normal wool shop when you walk in. It’s only when I looked past the woolen sweaters and scarves that I noticed the giant jumper — the eponymous Giant Jersey — hanging on the wall. At nearly 5m long and weighing 5.5kg, it holds the world record for being the largest jersey in the world and would engulf a small family.
I had a bit of a problem when I walked further into the shop and realised that I actually needed to pay $2 to get into the back room with the medieval mosaic…and I didn’t have any cash at all. While I asked the owner, Michael Linton, whether they accepted EFTPOS (yes, they do, but they don’t accept credit), a kind woman walked up and handed me a gold coin. When I protested that I could pay on card, she told me not to be silly and that it was only $2. How friendly is that?
That done, another visitor and I were let into the room holding the mosaic. The lights came on and illuminated a full recreation of the Bayeux Tapestry and its depiction of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. On closer inspection of one of the many panels encircling the room, I could see that it was made of tiny little steel squares, all painstakingly pieced together and painted.
It was fortunate that Michael came in with us and gave us a guided history of the mosaic, because otherwise I wouldn’t have realised quite how enormous a task its creation really was. He pulled out a small plate where we could touch a small section of finished mosaic and feel how tiny the steel pieces were. These steel pieces were the teeth from larger disks, and to make the mosaic, he used about 1.5 million of them!
Something I found very interesting was the fact that this isn’t just a recreation of the tapestry. Because a quarter of the tapestry is missing, Michael’s daughter studied the events of the Battle of Hastings and designed what it might have looked like. Michael then made it a steel and paint reality. This makes the mosaic a much more complete telling of the battle’s story than the original!
Michael has also put together a DVD of the mosaic with the help of his programmer son. This $50 DVD is a lot more than just a bit of information and pictures. It contains an almost comprehensive history of the Battle of Hastings, which I found very impressive. You can even scroll through the tapestry and click on people or objects to bring up full details about who that person was or why the object had enough importance to be included. It also includes texts, music, and even a program that lets you design your own Celtic knots!
I feel like Michael had only just scratched the surface when I looked at the time and realised that I wouldn’t make it to my Air Safaris flight in Tekapo if I stayed any longer. I hadn’t been sure what to expect from the medieval mosaic when I walked into the shop, but I left with a feeling of awe. Michael had shown how much he truly cared about the subject and had imparted some of that excitement to me. Plus, I would love to be able to dedicate myself to a task that I truly loved for 25 years and then be able to show it off to anyone that came by!