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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Broughton, Buckinghamshire (CCT*) C.15


Doom, Broughton, Buckinghamshire

A Doom unusual not only for its location on the north wall of the nave (above a blocked north door now filled with the ‘Table of Benefactions’ visible at the bottom of the picture), but also for its treatment. At the top, just right of centre, is the lower leg and foot of a figure described by Roy Tricker in the CCF booklet in the church as probably Christ ‘coming in the clouds’.

To the right of this is an angel holding a large sword and wearing what is probably the feathered costume familiar in the 15th century from the Mystery Plays and represented in these pages by St Michael Weighing Souls at South Leigh. This may be Michael or perhaps Raphael, guarding the precincts of Heaven. Below him are the head and wings of another angel, probably with the rest of the figure implied as hidden. Alternatively, this may be a Seraph or Cherub, traditionally shown as a head and wings only, but this seems to me less likely. Another possibility, given the rather blunt, bat-like wings, is that this is a devil, but there are no other devils here to compare it with and the head does not look devilish. Below this figure is the Mouth of Hell, gaping wide and with barbed teeth. Some small figures are visible within.

Moving left, two more angels are shown, the upper one in the act of blowing a large trumpet, decorated with white bands, and below this the Archangel Michael weighing souls and holding a staff or down-turned spear in his left hand. Little is left of Michael’s balance; the scroll-shaped object placed centrally between him and the Virgin further left is out of scale and may not be intended as part of it. The cross-bar of the balance is implied rather than clearly visible now, but the intervening Virgin places her left hand on it to weight it in favour of the soul being judged. At the same time she holds out her mantle, inviting penitent souls to shelter under it. Other examples of this detail (e.g. that at Corby Glen, Lincolnshire) sometimes show actual souls inside, on the lining of the mantle, but I cannot see any here.

Further left beyond the Virgin are two small towers with lancet windows and circular, orb-like tops (domes? cupolas? – the architecture is interesting). Beyond (above) these are two tall towers with a battlemented parapet on which stands a figure with a halo. He is probably St Peter waiting to receive souls into Heaven.

The other major figure in the painting is seated just above the small towers. In all probability this is the Judging Christ, now

presiding over the Weighing of Souls. This ‘episodic’ treatment of events in a narrative, with the same personality appearing twice or even three times is quite common in medieval church painting, especially later.

A fascinating painting, one of several in the church – including a Warning to Swearers and a St George and the Dragon now included in these pages.

* CCT=The Churches Conservation Trust, successor to the Redundant Churches Fund