The Doom Painting

St Andrew’s has an unusually well preserved medieval wall painting of the Last Judgement. If you had visited St Andrew’s 500 years ago you would not have found it the calm and peaceful white lime wash that we now associate with ancient churches. It would have been brightly painted, much of it with a decorative brick pattern, and some of it with spectacular pictures.

At some point in the mid to late 1400s an older painting over the chancel arch was replaced with a very fine picture of the Last Judgement. So called “Doom Paintings” were quite common at the time, but almost none of them survive, and St Andrew’s is one of the best.

On the left of the arch there is a picture of the new Jerusalem, with its towers and walls, and the souls of the righteous are rising to everlasting heaven. On the right of the arch a number of devils are pulling people from their graves (including kings, popes and monks) and dragging them off to punishment. There is even a picture of a devil wearing reading glasses and ticking off names on his list.

The original painting was of a very high standard, using expensive pigments and very expressive flowing lines. It is all, of course, somewhat faded, but when you know what to look for a great deal of the detail can be made out.

The painting was covered over at the Reformation, and there are traces of lettering (possibly the 10 commandments) and of a thistle and rose (royal symbols), and all these were eventually covered with a layer of lime wash.