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Position of Hell


Christopher Crockett <[log in to unmask]>


Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>


Thu, 20 May 2004 13:19:24 -0500





text/plain (242 lines)

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

[log in to unmask] wrote:

> I have not been through this web site

> http://www.paintedchurch.org/conpage.htm

>thoroughly but it has some wall paintings of the Last Judgement as depicted
in English churches (all interior, I think, and none on the exterior walls.)

nice site --i wish there were one like it for France.

this one is of particular interest, re "exterior paintings" :


("Painted Rood : Breamore, Hampshire (Winchester) C.12?")

from the description it is appears that it is only partly "exterior", but we
needn't split that hair just at present i suppose.

reference is made to the carved Rood at Romsey


which is definitely on the outside (or at least it appears to be today, but
what is that opening in the wall on the right, if not one of those
whatchamacallits for disposing of consecrated wine?).

there is no reason to believe that either the Romsey rood or the one at
Breamore was not painted originally.

Breamore has only barely survived --and wouldn't have done so had it not been
for the accidents of history and the fact that it is made of stone (with no
help from the Roundheads with chisels).

i am of the opinion that the number of artifacts of this nature which were in
less durable media --stucco, wood, wax (mentioned in some sources), etc., to
say nothing of metal work and, of course, painting.

surely the unique (for its time), elaborate and quite extraordinarily high
quality stucco reliefs of Cividale



neither sucked themselves out of their own fingers as a genre nor were without
progeny --they are precious evidence of what must have been an *extensive*,
probably Europe-wide, tradition of working in this medium, virtually all
exemplars of which have been lost, 99.999% of all that once existed.

your reference to the newly discovered frescoes continues this point, and i'll
intersperce a few idle thoughts on things in the article:

> Scholars hail discovery of 11th-century paintings beneath layers of
plaster and ivy in ruined church

(i can't get that url to work, btw.)

> The images...are among paintings that were concealed for centuries beneath
medieval and 17th-century painted plaster and a wall of ivy that had engulfed
the roofless building.


talk about your "chance survival".

>They were painted in about 1090, three years after the death of William the

at this period --and much later-- there is simply no reason to believe that
virtually *every* church was not *covered* inside (at least) with fresco

every last one.

> The find is all the more important because Henry VIII, the damp British
climate and the Victorian penchant for stripping church interiors
ensured the obliteration of colourful early Romanesque wall paintings
that were once abundant in Britain.

don't forget the Roundheads and, before that, the near-universal
remodeling/repainting/rebuilding, which went on for centuries --the three or
four layers of paintings in this church are not unusual at all.

if we begin to think about what percentage of artifacts which once existed and
have been lost --frequently without either trace nor echo-- we arrive at 99+%
pretty quickly.

> "These are exceptionally early," said Mr Park

only among those which survive.

> Stephen Rickerby...said: "What marks it as special is that quite a lot of
Romanesque paintings survive in Britain.

not really.

certainly not compared to the number which once were.

>They generally date from 1130 to 1150."

one factor there might be the "revival" of painting in England generally, two
or three generations after the Conquest --the Normans, qua Normans, were not
noted for their proficiency in the figural arts (as opposed to, say,
architecture), and they interrupted the rich Anglo-Saxon painting tradition.
(Worth reading on this interesting question is chapter 7 of C.R. Dodwell's
_Anglo-Saxon Art: A New Perspective_ [Cornell U.P., 1982], "Anglo-Saxon Art
and the Norman Conquest", pp. 216-234.)

> The Anglo-Saxons were known to have painted their church walls, but the
only example to have survived­ in a small church at Nether Wallop

lovely name.

a far cry from the other Wallop, i'll bet.

> in Hampshire, dating from 1000

i haven't seen this one.


just a tantilizing tidbit, clearly A-S and of pretty high quality.

> Julian Hunt, of English Heritage, which is overseeing the project with
the council, said: "If it were in a cathedral, that would be
extraordinary enough. The fact that it's in a parish church in the
middle of such an isolated spot is quite mind-boggling."

i don't think so.

first of all, "parish churches" weren't independent operatons, but generally
belonged to larger, richer institutions which, in these "Boom Years" of the
late 11th-early 13th c. could well afford to "plow back" part of their take
from the estates and tithes associated with the parish, especially for such a
Good and Crucial Cause as the Indoctrination of the 1.5 Cameral minds of the
peasantry which sustained the whole society.

actually, it would be a bit more extraordinary to find an extensive cycle from
this date in a cathedral --not because such didn't exist, but because those
would have been much more likely to have been re-decorated (repeatedly), if
not totally rebuilt.

(the wonderful painting of St. Augustine in a chapel in Canterbury, so
spectacular in its quality, is a case in point, being an extraordinary
survival of what was surely a much more extensive program.)

i think of Cluny --the massive building used as a quarry after the Revolution,
only part of one (enormous) *transept* surviving, itself without a trace of
plaster inside, much less any painting. and yet, it was *surely* covered with
paintings of the first quality.

but, at the near-by farm/estate of Berze-la-Ville --apparently a vacation home
for the abbot of Cluny-- there survives in a tiny chapel (not even associated
with a "real" church) with some pretty spectacular paintings, surely
reflective, as a dim echo, of what we've lost at Cluny :


a somewhat similar situation applies to the relationship between Montecassino
and the pale (though spectacular) reflections of its frescos which happen to
survive at the much more modest Saint Angelo in Formis


> He added: "The sad thing is that almost every church in England had a
scheme like this. We've lost so much.


wish i'd thought of that.

>It is such a little church, yet it has an amazing scheme."

reflective, no doubt, of some larger, more significant place --probably the
"owner" institution.

> English Heritage and Norfolk County Council have shared the £40,000 cost

shucks, that's not much.

i'm sure that the British Expeditionary Force presently in EyeRack burns
through that every few minutes.

> Caroline Babington, the project's head of wall paintings conservation,
said: "To think that they have been tucked away in the middle of
nowhere ..."

that's the only reason why they survived at all.

>Although designated a ruin, it was never officially declared redundant

who would think that a church could be "declared redundant".

best from here,


Christopher Crockett

Christopher's Book Room
P.O. Box 1061
Bloomington, IN 47402

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