The success of decorative tapestry can be partially explained by its portability. Kings and noblemen could roll up and transport tapestries from one residence to another. In churches, they could be displayed on special occasions. Tapestries were also draped on the walls of castles for insulation during winter, as well as for decorative display.
The iconography of most Western tapestries goes back to written sources, the Bible and Ovid’s Metamorphoses being two popular choices. Apart from the religious and mythological images, hunting scenes are the subject of many tapestries produced for indoor decoration.
Tapestries have been used since at least Hellenistic times. Samples of Greek tapestry have been found preserved in the desert of Tarim Basin dating from the 3rd century BC.
Tapestry reached a new stage in Europe in the early fourteenth century AD. The first wave of production originated in Germany and Switzerland. Over time, the craft expanded to France and the Netherlands.
* The Sampul tapestry, woollen wall hanging, 3rd-2nd century BC, Sampul, Urumqi Xinjiang Museum.
* The Hestia Tapestry, 6th century, Egypt, Dumbarton Oaks Collection.
* The Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events surrounding the Battle of Hastings; note that this is not (strictly speaking) a tapestry, but is instead embroidery.
(Text from the Wikipedia article for Tapestry. Images made with the blockwave filter from Showfoto; a machine the old craftsmen probably dreamt of.)