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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Corby Glen, Lincolnshire (†Lincoln) C.15

The Nativity

Nativity, Corby Glen

This painting of the Nativity combines the subject with another, the Virgin honoured as Queen of Heaven. She sits on a throne, crowned and holding a sceptre.

The Christ Child stands beside Mary, his right hand raised. This may be a conventional blessing, or he may have just healed/be about to heal the withered hand of the Unbelieving Midwife who was once visible but is now reduced to vague patches of pigment at the left beside the throne. The story of the midwife comes from the apocryphal Book of James, according to which one of the two midwives present at the birth, called Zalome, refused to believe that Mary’s virginity was still intact, and examined her for proof. Her hand withered, but the infant Christ healed it when she picked him up.

On the other side of the throne, at the right here, is Joseph, wearing a hat with a round crown and a narrow brim. He sits on a stool and to his left are the Ox, the Ass, and what is probably the Manger in front of them. The whole painting is a charming if unexpected blend of the Nativity as humble domestic scene and the veneration of Mary at its highest
On the opposite (south) wall are other figures in the Nativity story – a shepherd with several sheep, two remaining Magi, and an enthroned figure with a curved sword or falchion who is almost certainly Herod. There are many other subjects as well, most of them fourteenth century in date, and although some of them are now fragmentary and confused I will continue to try to do justice to the paintings at long-neglected Corby Glen. In fact the remaining figures from the Nativity sequence – King Herod, two Magi, and a shepherd with sheep, are newly on the site.

Website of St John the Evangelist, Corby Glen