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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Broughton, Oxfordshire (†Oxford) C.14/15


Crucifixion, painted on pillar, Broughton, Oxfordshire

This is Broughton near Banbury in Oxfordshire, and thus not to be confused with the Broughtons in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire, since both of these are represented on the site. The Oxfordshire church has many 14th century paintings, including a very interesting Life of the Virgin (which in fact deals with her death) in the chancel. This single and isolated painting of the crucified Christ is on a round pillar at the west end of the nave, and it may be slightly later than the rest of the painted subjects.

The faint figure of Christ, wearing only a short loincloth, is painted against a red ochre background, and it is impossible to be sure whether there were any other figures beside him. On the whole, I think this is unlikely, given the shape of the pillar – the visible scrape marks and striations on the surface may be simply a result of the removal of a covering layer of plaster rather than deliberate defacing.

An isolated Christ Crucified in this position inevitably raises questions about function. There may have been a stoup for holy water mounted underneath, making this a ‘devotional’ image as discussed in the Introduction, but the proximity of the font suggests to me that this was, rather, a reminder to the families of baptised infants of the larger rationale and purpose of which the Sacrament of Baptism is part. So far as ‘superstitious’ practices are concerned, there are certainly stories of simple folk bowing and genuflecting before stained glass windows, for example, and one of the things that drew the wrath of iconoclasts was the widespread devotion paid to statues. Whether similar things went on in front of paintings must remain in doubt, but I think it is unlikely that they were encouraged.