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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Black Bourton, Oxfordshire (†Oxford) Late C.13

The Adoration of the Magi

Adoration of the Magi, Black Bourton

The apparent presence of four Magi is accounted for by the fact that their story unfolds in scenes which run into one another without a break. At the right is the leading Magus on horseback, on his way to Bethlehem, his arm extended to point out the stable or the guiding star. The rest of this scene including the other two Magi to the right has been lost In the main scene of the Adoration, Mary sits at centre left, crowned as Queen of Heaven and holding the Christ Child on her lap. There are traces of a structure behind her, perhaps an elaborate canopy, perhaps simply the doorway of the stable. The Child raises his right hand to bless the senior, kneeling, Magus, who is crowned as a king like his companions. They stand to the right, one young and beardless, one in middle age. Nothing is left of their gifts, which would probably have been visible once.

At the far left beyond Mary is a confused scene. Even on the actual wall, very little can now be made out, although there is a suggestion of limbs and swords. This is the Massacre of the Innocents, often shown like this beside the Adoration of the Magi.

The long necks and sloping shoulders of the figures, particularly the Virgin, are typical of their date (about 1290), and are very similar in style to those at Kelmscott, only a few miles away. On the page for the Baptism of Christ/SSt Peter & Paul at Black Bourton are more details about the very interesting paintings here, particularly their adventures in the later 19th century.

Sacred Destinations has contact information for St Mary’s church