The Rape of Helen (Rapto de Helena)

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The Rape of Helen (Rapto de Helena)

According to epic poems, the abduction of Helen by Paris, son of the Trojan King Priam, was the trigger of the Trojan War. This cloth, one of the most remarkable, is also the only one about this episode in all the series existing nowadays. Tens of characters, ships, buildings... cram the tapestry, in the aesthetics of the later 15th c.

Paris and Helen

The story develops chronologically in three scenes from left to right: The first one shows Priam in his palace. The King, willing to rescue his sister Hesione from Greek hold, sends Antenor to meet her. The central scene shows the Trojan expedition who pillages the island of Citera, including the temple, where Paris finds Helen and takes her with him. The right side shows the moment when Paris arrives in Troy with his beloved and a kneeling Helen receives Priam’s blessings.


The scenes are explained through four French inscriptions on the top side of the cloth, and just as many Latin ones on the bottom part, briefer. Still, there is remarkable difficulty in making out the different parts of the set, even when the names of the characters appear “roy Priant” (Priam), “Hector”, “Eneas”,“Cassandra”, “Paris”, “Helanes” (Helen)... and the city of Troy is identified by the inscription “troies la grant” on top of a door sided by towers.

Series 2nd cloth of The Trojan War

Cartoon Coëtivy Master (Henry or Conrard de Vulcop)

Manufacture Tournai workshops, c. 1470

Fabric Wool and silk, 6/7 warps per cm

Size 467 x 960 cm

Location Cathedral of Zamora (Cathedral Museum)

Origin A donation of Count Alba de Aliste, it arrived at the cathedral in 1608

Exhibition Due to its large size, it is currently shown in the cathedral’s Chapter House, opposite the cloth on The Destruction of Troy. It can only be visited through the Cathedral Museum, though.


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