Dr Ellie Pridgeon FSA 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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Summer 2013 – Three Medieval Wall Painting Talks by Roger Rosewell

Roger Rosewell will be delivering three talks on medieval wall paintings this summer:

Friday June 7th 2013 – Horton Church, Near Banbury (Oxfordshire).   7.30pm.   For more information visit the Hornton History Group website.

Sunday 16th June 2013 – Burton Dassett Church, Warwickshire.   Afternoon.

Tuesday 6th August 2013 – Raunds Church, Northamptonshire.  Details tbc.

St. George, standing, with Dragon, Hornton, Oxon (54KB)

St George, Hornton, Near Banbury, Oxfordshire. Image © Anne Marshall.

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Inside the Greyfriars by Dr Miriam Gill

Vaughan College Lecture Series

The University of Leicester Institute of Lifelong Learning presents a series of public lectures as part of the new Vaughan College Lecture Series, to be held at Vaughan College.

Next Lecture: “Inside the Greyfriars: what do we know about Franciscan Wall Painting in England?”

When: Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Lecturer: Dr Miriam Gill

Book your FREE place

All lectures start at 7pm and are 40 minutes in duration, with an opportunity afterwards to ask questions.   All lectures are FREE and open to all.



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Dr Katja Fält on Medieval Rakentajamaalaukset Paintings in Finland

This article discusses the Rakentajamaalaukset murals (translated as ‘construction worker painting’) which appear in fifteenth and early sixteenth century Finland.  Traditionally criticised as ‘primitive’ and ‘popular’, art historians have frequently perceived the subject-matter as anomalies beyond Christian iconography and outside the canon of western medieval art.  Researchers have ignored their religious context, connecting the subject-matter to ‘popular’ culture and beliefs such as medieval magical practices, paganism and folklore, and viewing the paintings as child-like imitations constructed by an untrained local hand.

Rakentajamaalaukset Wall Paintings, Maaria Church, Turku, Finland. 1440s-1450s. Figures Include a monk, a devil and a cross.

Rakentajamaalaukset Wall Paintings, Maaria Church, Turku, Finland. 1440s-1450s. Figures Include a monk, a devil and a cross.


Fält argues that the labels ‘primitive’ and ‘popular’ are false, modern divisions, and that there is no evidence to substantiate the painters as unskilled local people, nor the subject-matter with paganism.  She points to the discontinuity between the modern and medieval understanding of imagery such as the Rakentajamaalaukset, and suggests that the typology challenges twenty-first century viewers to step outside conventional art historical thinking.  As yet, the visual language of this extensive and diverse body of works is not fully legible and paintings cannot be accurately interpreted.



Dr Katja Fält is a Researcher at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Read the article online: Fält, K., ‘Attitudes and Discourses in the Historiography of Finnish Medieval Rakentajamaalaukset Paintings’St Andrews Journal of Art History and Museum Studies, Vol. 15, 2011, 31-39.

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The Wall Paintings of Longthorpe Tower – March 2013

This month Dr Miriam Gill will be talking about the rare domestic wall paintings at Longthorpe Tower, Peterborough.

Date: Wednesday March 13th 2013

Venue: Longthorpe Tower

Time: 7pm


Longthorpe Tower

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Some Cornish St Christophers

In December 2012 we visited historian Dr Jo Mattingly to examine some of the St Christopher imagery in Cornwall.

St Christopher, Breage

St Christopher, Breage, Cornwall.

The wall paintings at Breage and St Keverne are significant, not least because they are examples of very late medieval murals (possibly sixteenth century in date).  Church rebuilding in Cornwall and elsewhere occurred right up to the Reformation, and provides a terminus post quem for the execution of wall paintings.  The St Keverne St Christopher is particularly important because of the inclusion of rare scenes from the life of St Christopher, a feature found at Hemblington (Norfolk) and Shorwell (Isle of Wight).

Jo and I also visited the Cornwall Record Office to examine the sixteenth-century accounts for the (now ruinous) Berry Tower – or Holy Rood chapel – in Bodmin, which include unusual references to the funding of a St Christopher image in the church.  These are to be published in a forthcoming article on St Christopher wall painting patronage in England.

We also visited the largest (?) academic library in Cornwall and drank wine with renowned owner-historian-bibliophile-vet Dr Cockerham.

The Berry Tower, Bodmin.

The Berry Tower, Bodmin.

St Christopher, St Neot, Cornwall.

St Christopher, St Neot, Cornwall.

St Keverne, Cornwall

St Christopher, St Keverne, Cornwall

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Medieval Church Art Blog

For high-quality photographs of church art, fixtures, fittings and much more (including wall painting), see Dr Allan Barton’s Medieval Church Art Blog:

Allan also has a Flickr site:

Dr Allan Barton has a PhD in History of Art from the University of York, and is now an Anglican priest in Norfolk.

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Rosewell – New Medieval Wall Paintings Book in 2013

Roger Rosewell has recently completed his latest book: Medieval Wall Paintings.  It will be published by Shire in 2013, and will replace E. Clive Rouse’s book on the same subject.

The book has 100 new colour photographs taken by Roger Rosewell and C. B. Newham.  There is also additional material on post-Reformation wall paintings and murals in the domestic and secular setting.

The book follows Roger Rosewell’s successful 2012 publications for Shire: Stained Glass and The Medieval Monastery.

Rosewell, Stained Glass, Shire 2012.

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Medieval Wall Paintings at Honing and Crostwight (Norfolk)

Follow this link to read about the essential building repairs needed to preserve the medieval wall paintings at Honing and Crostwight:

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