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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire. C.14 (†Oxford)

Creation of the Animals(?), The Fall and Expulsion

Creation of the Animals(?)/Fall & Expulsion, Chalfont St Giles

It is impossible to identify the painting shown at the left with certainty, and it may or may not be the Creation of the Animals. If it is, it is very rare indeed. Birds and animals of a non-heraldic kind are certainly visible; at the bottom on the right is a large quadruped in a running posture, all its four legs and a tail visible. Its head seems to be turned to look directly outwards into the church. Above this is a stag, painted in a similar posture but with head in profile and a pair of antlers (not branching like those at Martley but impressive nonetheless).

Directly above again is a bird with outstretched wings and a tail that seems to be forked, perhaps a martin or a swallow. Above the bird, nearer the centre of the space, is a patch of reddish pigment suggesting another creature, but this could be almost anything.

Fall & Expulsion, Chalfont St Giles (83KB)

There is now no sign of any divine or human figure in the space to the right of the animal details, but it is nevertheless possible that God himself, shown in the act of creation, was once painted here. An alternative possibility, and perhaps a slightly more likely one, is that this is Adam naming the Beasts – the figure of Adam being now long gone. But in either case, this is a very rare example, and I do not know of another in England.

Adjacent on the wall is a painting of the Fall and Expulsion from Paradise, shown at the left here. The dark red vertical rectangular shape in the approximate centre is the Tree of Knowledge, and there are a few traces of the serpent which once coiled around it – although virtually nothing is left, unfortunately, of its once-visible female human face. At the far left, Eve holds out the now-invisible apple to Adam, who stands facing her, left hand extended and right raised in a gesture of consternation.

On the other side of the Tree, partly obscured by a later roof-beam, the pair make their way out of Eden. Little can now be seen of Adam at the far right, but at the left Eve bows her head and covers her nakedness with her hands.

The inscription in black on the Creation of the Animals painting, is, incidentally, a later superimposition. The final three words read ‘…and ever Amen’, making it the Lord’s prayer, ordered to be displayed in English churches at the Reformation.

Also at Chalfont St Giles are St Anne teaching the Virgin to read, with Miracles of the Virgin and Herod’s Feast, with Salome, both already on the site, and there are others to come.

Website for Chalfont St Giles church

† in page heading = Diocese