Monday, 23 January 2012

The Chaldon wall painting

If you are ever in the Caterham area, it's worth visiting the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Church Lane, Chaldon which has one of the earliest known English wall paintings dating from about 1200 and said to be without equal in any other part of Europe.

My photo above doesn't do justice to this extraordinary work - it is 17ft x 11ft and I'd have needed a stepladder to take a better view. It is thought to have been painted by a travelling artist-monk and depicts the Ladder of Salvation of the Human Soul together with Purgatory and Hell. As I gazed at it, I couldn't help feeling I'd like to have known that travelling monk. A robust character I suspect.  

The whole picture is in the form of a cross, formed by the Ladder and the horizontal division between Heaven and Hell. Starting at the lower right, we have the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, loaded with fruit, with Satan as a serpent in the branches.

Two devils hold up a bridge of spikes which dishonest tradesmen have to cross. First, the blacksmith making a horseshoe without his anvil, then a mason without a chisel, the spinners without a distaff, and a potter without a wheel. Below the bridge, the usurer is sitting in flames. He is blind, money pours from his mouth, and he has to count it all (avarice). On his right two figures represent envy, while on the left, two figures embrace - lust. The remaining deadly sins are scattered around in small scenes to the left of the ladder.

The church itself is very attractive too - here it is in the snow:-

If you are interested, then the mural is a rare and remarkable sight and well worth a bit of a detour.


James Higham said...

Oh yes, it's the most remarkable piece.

Demetrius said...

There is a church by the Golden Valley in Herefordshire, name forgotten with some striking ancient wall paintings. It is difficult to imagine a world without images beyond those in the local church.

A K Haart said...

JH - yes, the photo doesn't do it justice.

D - I'll make a note of that and yes - it is difficult to imagine such a world.