Dr Ellie Pridgeon promoting the study of medieval wall paintings

St Christopher Wall Painting in Gloucestershire

I am currently researching St Christopher paintings in Gloucestershire – the county of my birth – for a forthcoming publication.  There are a number of extant and lost examples, some of which are described here.  It it likely that the majority of churches possessed a St Christopher painting in the medieval period.  Most were whitewashed, defaced or destroyed at the Reformation.

The fifteenth-century St Christopher painting at Baunton is one of the most celebrated murals in the country.  Research in the Gloucestershire Archives, as well as a recent site visit to the church, have drawn my attention to a number of interesting features.


Baunton, Gloucestershire.

This is clearly a high-status painting.  Conservation reports record remnants of gold leaf found on St Christopher’s cape.  The palette is rich and varied, and includes greens, purples, oranges and blues.  The red area on the saint’s cloak is high-quality vermilion.


St Christopher, Baunton, Gloucestershire.

Baunton was originally a chapelry dependent on Cirencester, and was previously owned by Cirencester Abbey.  This connection may explain the material wealth of this church.  The rebus which forms part of the Baunton medieval altar frontal suggests the item may have been a gift from an abbot.

The inscription running along the top of the painting is illegible.


The medieval St Christopher painting at Ampney Crucis was obliterated soon after discovery in the nineteenth-century.  It is well-known for supposedly including the inscription: ‘Thomas ye paynter of Malmesberie’, recorded by antiquarians.  Could this inscription actually be the remnants of a later post-Reformation paint layer?   Such murals commonly included the names of painters, whereas medieval paintings did not.


Ampney Crucis, Gloucestershire.  Once my ‘home tower’.


Ampney St Mary, Gloucestershire.


St Christopher, Ampney St Mary, Gloucestershire.

There is little left to see of the St Christopher wall painting at Ampney St Mary.  However, it is possible to discern the outline of both the saint’s and the Christ Child’s nimbed heads, and the saint’s billowing cloak.  Closer examination reveals a number of background features, including the lower half of a figure standing on the left bank.

Ampney Crucis

Figure, Ampney St Mary, Gloucestershire.


Turkdean, Gloucestershire.


Porch, Turkdean, Gloucestershire

Turkdean is an interesting example of a reversed alignment St Christopher painting.  Unusually, the north door was the principal entrance to the building, shown here and demarcated by the elaborate porch and doorway.  Accordingly, the St Christopher painting is located on the south wall of the nave arcade, rather than in its more usual place on the north wall.  The painting would have been visible to the laity as they entered and left the building.


St Christopher, Turkdean, Gloucestershire

A closer examination of the Turkdean painting reveals the saint’s tilted head.  Both the saint and the Christ Child wear halos composed of red radiating linear rays.  The saint holds a long yellow staff, and the background is powdered with stars.  The painting has stylistic and typological similarities with murals elsewhere in England dating from the early fifteenth century.

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Medieval Wall Paintings: Research Update

Sue Sharp (Birkbeck) and I will be publishing our article on the medieval wall paintings at Lacock Abbey in the Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies.

I am currently researching the history of two late-medieval paintings on wood from Grafton Flyford church (Worcestershire).  Watch this space for news on this exciting project.

I am also researching the St Christopher painting at Hemblington (Norfolk) for a talk to be delivered at the Hemblington Study Day in September (see flyer below).

Hemblington Study Day Flyer

Hemblington St Christopher

St Christopher, Hemblington, Norfolk

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New Wall Painting Article: The Local Historian 2015

The Local Historian

This article provides a framework which can be used by historians and art historians for researching medieval wall paintings.  The focus in on archival material, including churchwardens’ accounts, patent rolls and chantry foundation licences.  The article also considers post-medieval sources such as drawings, paintings and photographs held in both national collections (the British Library, English Heritage) and local and regional archive repositories and libraries.

The final section recommends sources such as faculty records, church records, newspapers, private correspondence and conservation reports.

Pridgeon, E., ‘Researching Medieval Wall Paintings: A Guide to Archival Sources in England and Wales’, The Local Historian, Vol. 45, No. 1 (2015).

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Post-Reformation Wall Painting Project

We have news of an exciting new project and website!

The Post-Reformation Wall Painting Project was launched by C.B Newham and myself earlier this year.  The project, which focuses on surviving murals in English churches between c.1559 and c.1836, is crucial because of the lack of academic research on this extensive painting corpus.

We are using C.B Newham’s extensive photographic collection collated for The Digital Atlas of England.

Kingham, Oxfordshire

Kingham, Oxfordshire. Text recording changes to the building fabric.  1774.










The Post-Reformation Wall Painting Project is divided into three main stages: stage one involves cataloging the wall paintings, delivering academic talks and promoting the project on Twitter and social media.  Stage two involves researching the subject-matter using archival resources, and stage three producing an academic book on the subject.

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Medieval Research on Cirencester: Wall Paintings and Beyond

Cirencester parish church is currently attracting the attention of academics, researchers and medievalists from far and wide.


Cirencester Parish Church









The successful Monumental Brass Society Study Day, which took place in Cirencester last month, included a range of papers on the medieval brasses of St John’s church and their context.  Dr Miriam Gill (University of Leicester) spoke about the medieval wall paintings in the Catherine chapel, which formerly functioned as the chantry of John Chedworth, Bishop of Lincoln (founded in the 1450s).  She drew attention to the high-quality wall paintings, some of which are still visible in the chapel today.

Catherine Chapel

Chantry Chapel of John Chedworth (now the Catherine Chapel)













We also heard excellent papers on commemorative strategies in Cirencester from Sally Badham MBE, on piety and belief from Rupert Webber (RHUL), and on late-medieval gentry from Dr Peter Fleming (UWE).

Dr Miriam Gill and Dr Sally Badham will be publishing their papers in due course.   Similarly, I am currently writing an article on the Gloucestershire corpus of St Christopher wall paintings (c.1300-c.1540), which will include a section on the Cirencester mural.

Other research projects relating to medieval Cirencester include the latest volume of the Victoria County History for Gloucestershire.  Contributing Editor Dr Beth Hartland is currently researching this area, under the supervision of County Editor Dr John Chandler.

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Medieval Wall Painting: Travels in Bulgaria

Ivanovo Rock Monastery is located 20km south of Rousse in northern Bulgaria, and is set about 32 metres above the Rusenski Lom river.


Holy Virgin’s church, Ivanovo Rock Monastery









Rock-hewn monasteries were popular in medieval Bulgaria, and there is a long tradition of churches in caves.   Ivanovo was founded in the thirteenth century, and consists of cells, churches and chapels carved out of solid rock.  The monastery complex once consisted of c.40 churches, but most do not survive today.

Holy Virgin’s church, Ivanovo Rock Monastery

The Holy Virgin’s rock church, which consists of two cells and a small chapel, was constructed and painted with financial support of Tsar Ivan Alexander.  The murals are of exceptional quality for 14th century Bulgarian art, and are a blend of Bulgarian and Hellenistic styles.   Scenes include the Passion, the Life of St John the Baptist, and the lives of the early Syrian Christian hermits (in the chapel).  Images in the narthex include saints, as well as donors Tsar Ivan Alexander and Tsarina Theodora presenting a model cave.


Holy Virgin’s church, Ivanovo Rock Monastery











Ivanovo Rock Monastery is a UNESCO world heritage site.

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Monumental Brasses and Medieval Wall Painting – Cirencester 2014

Saturday September 27th 2014


The annual Monumental Brass Society Study Day will take place at Cirencester this year.   It will focus on the 16 pre-Reformation brasses in the church of St John the Baptist, the finest collection to be found in the Cotswolds.   These form an impressive series commemorating clergy and parishioners alike.

Robert Pagge, Cirencester











The Study Day will focus on these memorials together with the influence of Bishop Chedworth who was buried in Lincoln Cathedral, but commemorated at Cirencester.  Dr Miriam Gill (University of Leicester) will be talking about Chedworth’s chapel, and will discuss the medieval wall painting still extant today.

Cirencester, Gloucestershire2

St Christopher wall painting, Cirencester












Other speakers include Sally Badham, Rupert Webber, and Peter Fleming (UWE)

MBS and non-MBS members are both welcome to attend.  Click here for the booking form.

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Angela Smith, A Timelime of Art History

A Timeline of Art History (2013) is the latest contribution to historical studies from the innovative The Book Forge press.  The book is a chronological guide to the key examples of world art and architecture.  It is primarily a reference book for students of Art History, but also an essential read for anyone with an interest in cultural history.  As Smith points out, timelines are essential as they contribute to the understanding of change and development in visual history.  The book is illustrated with high-quality and informative colour plates.

A Timeline of Art History chronicles major works of art and architecture from 75,000 BC – with the Paleolithic cave people at Blombos in South Africa engraving ochre with abstract patterns – to Leo Villareal’s 2013 sculpture The Bay Lights on the San Francisco suspension bridge.  Smith also includes references to European fresco painters, such as Giotto’s involvement with the Upper Church of San Francesco, Assisi (1296), and Michelangelo’s creation of The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel (begun 1535).

Dr Angela Smith studied History of Art at the University of Leicester, and gained a PhD from the Warburg Institute, University of London.  She is a freelance scholar and lecturer who has taught for a number of organisations, including the University of Leicester, Bishop Grosseteste University, and NADFAS.

Timeline of Art History is available on The Book Forge website, or on Amazon.

Remember to follow The Book Forge on Twitter and Facebook.

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Rosewell, Medieval Wall Paintings, Shire 2014


Medieval Wall Paintings (2014) is the latest of Roger Rosewell’s Shire publications.  This excellent guide to mural painting in England, Wales and Scotland, examines imagery from the Romanesque period to the post-Reformation era.

Medieval Wall Paintings - Shire Library 767

Highlights include the high-quality and detailed photographs, largely taken by Rosewell himself, who is a member of the Royal Photographic Society.  This book is highly-recommended for wall painting novices and experts alike.

Rosewell has also written: Stained Glass (Shire 2012) and The Medieval Monastery (Shire 2012).

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Piccotts End Cottage Appeal

The Dacorum Heritage Trust Ltd (DHT) is the Accredited Museum for the area of Dacorum, and is based in a converted fire station in Berkhamsted.  They have recently launched an appeal to purchase the Grade I listed medieval cottage at Piccotts End in Hemel Hempstead.  The aim is to establish an interpretation centre in the cottage and open up the property to the public.

Piccotts End

Pieta, Christ in Majesty and Baptism of Christ, Piccotts End, Hemel Hempstead


The paintings were discovered during restoration work on the cottage in 1953.  The late-fifteenth-century panels include Christ in Majesty, the Baptism of Christ, a Pieta, St Peter, St Clement, St Catherine and St Margaret of Antioch.




Click on this link to find out more and donate to the appeal.

Thanks to Nicola Lowe for drawing my attention to this project.

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