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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Bapchild, Kent (†Canterbury) Late C.14

The Crucifixion, with Mary and John

Crucifixion, with Mary and John (retable), Bapchild

In 1936 Arthur Mee called this painting, on the east wall of the north chancel aisle, ‘a beautiful thing fading away’¹, and despite careful conservation since then it has continued to do so. It nevertheless deserves a better photograph than this rather unsatisfactory one and I will try to replace it.

Christ hangs on the Cross in the centre, with Mary at the left and John the Evangelist, gesturing towards the Cross and holding a book in his left hand, at the right. Beyond these two figures, on either side, is a larger-scale angel, each of which holds a rectangular object – these are perhaps also books, as Tristram thought, although I am uncertain about this.
The painting must once have served as an altarpiece, and it is probable, since the north chancel aisle is the earliest part of the church, that this was once the High Altar, below the then main east window. The quality of the work², which will bear comparison with that at Brent Eleigh in Suffolk, (although the Bapchild example is later), also suggests that.

There are one or two other fragments of painting, but apart from three consecration crosses, all are post-medieval.

¹ A.Mee, The King’s England: Kent, 2nd edn., 1969, p.24
² Tristram II, pp.503-4, plates 145a & b, where that quality is more evident than it is in this photograph