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 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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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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Adam Easton and the Lutterworth Wall Paintings Revisited

Conference: Adam Easton: Monk, Scholar, Theologian, Diplomat and Cardinal

Dr Miriam Gill (University of Leicester) will be re-assessing the connection between Adam Easton, John Wyclif and the Lutterworth wall paintings (Leicestershire).

10th-11th April 2014, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

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Lacock Abbey: Wall Painting Conservation Archive

Sue Sharp (Birkbeck, University of London) and I recently examined the Lacock Abbey wall painting conservation archive, which is held by the National Trust.  The aim of our research is to establish the precise function of the space in the Abbey commonly (and erroneously) referred to as the ‘Chaplains’ Room’.  We are also considering the precise function of the wall paintings, and tracing the probable patrons.  The archive, which contains reports describing conservation and environmental monitoring by numerous firms and individuals over the last three decades, has been helpful in establishing the approximate dating of the paintings.  It is likely that our findings will be published in 2015.

Chaplains Room

‘Chaplains’ Room’, Lacock Abbey. What was the real function of this space?

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Project Update – St Cadoc’s Church, Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan

In recent months, there has been extensive coverage in both the national press and among medieval online communities concerning the discovery and conservation of the late-fifteenth-century wall paintings at St Cadoc’s church, Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan.  Over the last six years, renowned conservators Ann Ballantyne and Jane Rutherfoord have revealed a number of highly-significant schemes, including Death and the Gallant, St George and the Dragon, and the Seven Deadly Sins.

St Cadoc

St George and the Dragon, St Cadoc’s Church, Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan. Late Fifteenth Century.

In a recent video interview produced by the BBC, Jane Rutherfoord explains how back in 2007, she was invited by St Cadoc’s church architect to provide advice on the significance of a thin red line visible below the roof line, the only section of the wall paintings perceptible at the time.  The subsequent removal of overlying layers of limewash led to the discovery of two heads belonging to the princess and king, who feature commonly in St George scenes.  Also interviewed by the BBC was Dr Madeline Gray, Reader in History at the University of South Wales, who suggests that the image of St George – a figure who medieval parishioners strived to emulate – was deliberately juxtaposed with the Seven Deadly Sins – transgressions which conversely congregations endeavoured to avoid.  Dr Gray also sheds light on the Death and the Gallant mural, which depicts a fashionably-dressed young man (the Gallant) dragged into a graveyard by Death, who is portrayed as a rotting corpse wrapped in a shroud.

St Cadoc2

Gules 3 Swan Proper Bawdrip heraldic shield (top centre) and Seven Deadly Sins (detail, left), St Cadoc’s Church, Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan. Late Fifteenth Century.

The work is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, CADW, and local trusts.  The project website provides further information about the wall paintings, and includes a discussion of the Gules 3 Swan Proper heraldic shield located above the diminutive Virgin, whose key functions are to bless and highlight the figure of St George.  This device denotes the Bawdrip family who lived at nearby Penmark Place from the fourteenth century, and it was no-doubt strategically positioned to ensure enhanced invocation and intercession from the Virgin.  The Bawdrip shield also functioned as a symbol of familial status and piety, whose target audiences included earthly visitors to the church and God himself.  The insertion of the shield may also indicate that members of the family were responsible for providing funds towards the execution of the painting.

For further details about the iconography of the Seven Deadly Sins in medieval wall painting, readers should refer to the website of Dr Miriam Gill (University of Leicester).

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Medieval Wall Painting Research: Harlaxton Symposium 2013

A number of conference papers at the 2013 Harlaxton Medieval Symposium demonstrated how academics are currently using medieval wall paintings in their research.

Dr David Griffiths (University of Birmingham) discussed the multimedia appeal of short rhyming texts on buildings, such as the inscription from John Lydgate’s ‘A Balade at the Reverence of Our Lady’ displayed in the Clopton chantry at Long Melford (Suffolk).  David’s paper also included an examination of the lost Hungerford Chapel inscriptions and murals at Salisbury Cathedral – to be discussed in his forthcoming book (2014).

By examining images such as warning to gossips and warning to swearers, Dr Sarah MacMillan (University of Birmingham) explored differing ways in which women and men were depicted in the medieval parish church.

Another significant paper was presented by Dr Elizabeth New (Aberystwyth University), who introduced the recently-launched AHRC-funded Exploring Medieval Seals project based in the Department of History & Welsh History.  Following the success of Seals in Medieval Wales 1200-1550Exploring Medieval Seals aims both to develop outreach work in the wider community and to exchange knowledge with the archive sector.  Led by Professor Phillipp Schofield, with Dr Elizabeth New and Dr John McEwan, Exploring Medieval Seals runs until January 2014.

Martyrdom of St. Catherine, Castor [118KB]

Life of St Catherine, Castor.

The Harlaxton Medieval Symposium included a visit to Castor church (Cambridgeshire), best known for the fourteenth-century wall painting depicting the life of St Catherine.

Tweets from the 2013 Harlaxton Medieval Symposium can found at: #harlaxton13

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Leeds IMC 2013 Sessions

July 1st 2013 – Modern Medievalists and Avant- Archivists: The Role of Traditional Archival Skills in the 21st Century – A Round Table Discussion.  Leeds International Medieval Congress.  Participants include Dr Sean Cunningham (The National Archives) Jackie Depelle (Your Fair Ladies, Pudsey), Dr Paul Dryburgh (Borthwick Institute for Archives), Dr Charlotte Harrison (University of Liverpool), Dr Nick Kingsley (The National Archives), Dr Chris Lewis (University of London), and Dr Ellie Pridgeon (University of Leicester Science Museum).  7.30pm.

Sponsors: Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York / Centre for Archive Studies, University of Liverpool / Science Museum, London

July 4th 2013 – July 4th 2013 – St Eligius and the Miracle of the Horseshoe: A Fifteenth Century Wall Painting at Highworth Church, Wiltshire.  Paper to be delivered by Dr Ellie Pridgeon in the Hagiography Society session at Leeds International Medieval Congress 2013.

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Winchesterhistory: University of Winchester History Department Blog

For a review of the recent Death and Commemoration in Late Medieval Salisbury and Wessex Conference click here.


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