Dr Ellie Pridgeon FSA promoting the study of medieval wall paintings

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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