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Bradwell Priory wall paintings

[ Priory ] - [ Niche ] - [ Chapel ] - [ Wall paintings ]

An annunciation painting

When the chapel was constructed (c1335) the walls were liberally stencilled with the letter M, standing for Mary, to whom the Chapel was dedicated. About 50 years later (c1385) wall paintings were added to the walls. Although these were covered with limewash during a purge on religious icons, the limewash has now been removed and although the paintings are in relatively poor condition, most of the scenes can now be seen again.

The paintings were uncovered and restored over a number of years, from the 1960's to the 1980's.

The one illustrated above shows an annunciation scene, where the Archangel Gabriel who is reading from a scroll tells Mary that she has been chosen to bear God's Son. Other scenes show Mary teaching her Son (as a child), Archangel Michael weighing a soul, the accusation of Christ, the visitation and a crucifixion scene.

This painting shows Pilgrims

An outline drawing of pilgrims carrying thank offerings

The most important scene shows pilgrims, their staffs placed before them, visiting the shrine carrying in one case an unwanted walking stick and in other cases wax or wooden models of the parts of their bodies (or a relative's body) which the Virgin Mary has cured. The latter scene is unique in England, it not being known that such thank offerings were made in this country during the middle ages until this painting was uncovered, although it was known that it occurred, and still occurs, in other European countries. Another painting shows three couples, but the subject has not been recognised.

Another wall painting shows St Michael

An outline drawing of St Michael weighing a soul

The painting of Archangel Michael weighing a soul is interesting, too. It was normal to show two of the Devil's minions hanging on to the pan which held the weight in an endeavour to stop the soul from entering Heaven, although this part of the painting is unfortunately damaged and unclear. However, the Virgin Mary is standing alongside and at the time the scene was painted she was shown with her hand on the beam of the scales to offset the effects of the two little devils. During the 1400's, it slowly came to be believed that even the Virgin Mary should not interfere with such an important event in this manner, and later paintings of this scene instead show her placing her rosary in the pan with the soul to offset the work of the devils. The painting was therefore altered, presumably by the monks, a crude band representing her rosary being drawn hanging from her hand as if it is about to be placed in the pan.

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