Magazine article The Spectator

'Medieval Wall Paintings', by Roger Rosewell - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Medieval Wall Paintings', by Roger Rosewell - Review

Article excerpt

Credit: Honor Clerk

Medieval Wall Paintings Roger Rosewell

Shire Publications, pp.96, £7.99, ISBN: 9780747812937

'Take away, utterly extinct and destroy all shrines ... pictures, paintings and all other monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry and superstition so that there remain no memory of the same in walls, glass windows...'. These were the instructions handed down to churches in the reign of Edward VI, the death-knell for medieval church wall paintings following the wholesale destruction of the monasteries in his father's time.

That any church art survived this state-sponsored barbarism some five centuries ago seems extraordinary, and its rarity makes it all the more precious. This is no more than a pocket guide to the shadowy and often elusive fragments of secular and scared art that we do still have, but if the doom paintings will be familiar to many, who other than the specialist knows about the 'three living and the three dead' and the 'warning to janglers', let alone the Bonnacon, a bestiary beast to be seen in Longthorpe Tower near Peterborough 'shown propelling the contents of its bowels horizontally at some pursuing hunters'? …

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