Illustrated Dictionary of British Churches

History and Architecture

Wall Painting

Medieval churches in Britain were commonly decorated with murals, or wall paintings. In an age when very few people could read, such wall paintings served both as a decorative element, but also to instruct and convey religious messages in a way that worshippers could understand. Thus, wall paintings often showed scenes from Biblical stories or from the lives of saints.

Some common wall paintings themes include St Christopher, patron saint of travelers, whose likeness is often painted on the north wall of the nave, facing the main south door, where people coming into or leaving the church could see him.

Most wall paintings were destroyed or painted over during the Reformation. Some of those lost paintings that were plastered or whitewashed over have since been rediscovered and at least partially restored.

Among the most memorable medieval wall paintings in my memory are those at Lower Oddington (Gloucestershire), Pickering (Yorkshire), Stoke Dry (Rutland), and Duxford (Cambridgeshire).

During the post-medieval period it was fashionable to paint Biblical inscriptions on church walls, and these later wall paintings sometimes overlay and interlap with earlier medieval paintings. Perhaps the most fascinating post-medieval wall paintings are those at Garton-on-the-Wolds, Yorkshire, where it seems that every surface is covered in exquisitely detailed paintings of a cartoon-like quality.

Related: Nave  

Attraction search
in



English Heritage

National Trust membership

English Heritage membership

Free entry to English Heritage properties throughout England, plus discounted admission to Historic Scotand and Cadw properties in Scotland and Wales

Membership details

About English Heritage


HISTORY CORNER

Name the Historic attraction

Name the mystery historic attraction
See larger image



British History Quiz

Known as the mistress of Edward III



 Clue

This Day in British History

15 December, 1711

Occassional Conformity Act

Dissenters are prohibited from holding military or civil office

Monarch Mayhem

Whose coronation took place on Christmas Day?



 Clue

Passionate about British Heritage!