Skip to Content

Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Bardwell, Suffolk (†St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) C.14


Deposition, Bardwell

In the photograph, the painting on the upper part of the wall shows a basket or cradle-like object near the window, with some patches of pigment around it. I do not know what this is – various subjects, now gone, are recorded at Bardwell, but this enigmatic detail does not fit any of them.

But the subject below, although it seems to have gone completely unrecorded, is a Deposition, and it may once have been part of a Passion Cycle. At the far right is the top part of a ladder, with the left arm of the dead Christ slanting across it. Part of the Cross-beam is visible, as are the claws of a pair of pincers at the right. Further left, in the centre of the painting, two people are taking Christ down; a male figure in a short red tunic supports his body around the waist, and a figure with long yellow hair, on the face of it certainly female, supports his arm at the left.

Christ has a short loincloth, his feet are crossed and, implicitly, pierced with a single nail, and his haloed head is slumped on his shoulder.

The two flanking figures are probably Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene. If they are, then it is unusual, but not unprecedented, to see Mary in this specific role rather than as weeping but otherwise passive onlooker. A contrasting case is the Crucifixion at Turvey.

The Deposition may once have been part of a fuller Passion Cycle, and Bardwell was once very extensively painted. When the medieval scheme was originally uncovered in 1853 a Life of St Catherine (some fragments of this remain on the south wall), a Seven Deadly Sins and a subject then called the King of Terrors but now identified as a very interesting Three Living & Three Dead were all recorded and copied. But all were quickly whitewashed over again and later attempts to uncover them had to be abandoned because of the instability of the underlying plaster layer. The black bar visible across the lower part of the Deposition is a candle-holder set up at around the time of these Victorian alterations to the church. Medieval Bardwell also had a flourishing and long-lived Guild dedicated to St Peter, to which most of the population of the village seemed to belong. Its Guild Hall, now a private house, is still there.

Website for SS Peter and Paul, Bardwell