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Sunday, 28 July 2013

St Peter's and it's treasure...

   Sometimes when visiting churches I come across something remarkable which gives me goose bumps.That happened to me last week when I called in at St Peter's Church, Wenhaston in Suffolk.
                      
 What a joy this little church is. It wasn’t on my list of churches to research, but came upon it almost by accident on my way to visit another church. I’m so pleased I stopped to take a look inside it. It is full of interest, none more so than it’s wonderful Medieval Last Judgement OR Doom painting. It's colours are still so vibrant which is extraordinary.

It is ironic that it was the Victorians, who were sometimes careless in their restoration work, who saw and saved this remarkable medieval item of importance.
I was transfixed for ages looking at it. It is thought to have been painted between the years 1480 – 1520. On close inspection I wonder if this was done by more than one man (maybe Monks from the nearby Augustinian Priory) as the style of painting seems to differ slightly in some parts of it.
This enormous Doom Painting, painted on many timber planks joined together would have originally been placed over the whole width of the Chancel Archway and attached to the Rood Screen.
In the middle of the C16th, under orders from the Tudor King, iconic imagery was demolished in all churches, so the cross and the two images of the Virgin and St John the evangelist were removed from the painting and placed elsewhere (it's easy to see where they were situated on the painting). The Painting itself was then whitewashed over and remained like that until restoration of the church in 1892, when  this ‘whitewashed board’ was taken down and thrown into the churchyard ready for disposal. From research it seems it rained during the night and some of the whitewash was washed away revealing traces of the wonderful painting underneath…After nearly four hundred years of being hidden away the Doom painting was cleaned and again took it’s rightful place back in St Peter’s church
…. The new Victorian Chancel Arch was slightly narrower than the original and as the painting was too large to fit back into it’s original place, it was attached to the West wall of the church, and then later re-erected to it’s present position on the North wall of the Nave. It is the first thing that greets the eye when entering the church. So impressive.


Other things worthy of note in the church are the Norman slit windows in the Nave and the lancet windows in the Chancel and there's a wonderful medieval knocker plate attached to the main church door.

A Jacobean pulpit and a splendid Royal coat of arms of George 111 also grace the church.

An important local family during the C17th/C18th were the Lemans. There are two splendid memorials dedicated to them on the wall in the Chancel, one either side of the East window.

This really was a delightful church to visit. Other medieval churches would have had Doom paintings, but this one outshines them all.

2 comments:

  1. Lovely blog post and a lovely church. Thank goodness somebody had the good sense to restore the doom painting to its rightful place. I have the name Leman in my family tree but none from this area. xx

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  2. Thank you Debra, it was such a wonderful find

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