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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Duxford, Cambridgeshire: (†CCT) ?Late C.12

Agnus Dei, in an Ouroboros

Agnus Dei in a Ouroborous, Duxford St John's church

Undoubtedly the most intriguing of the many paintings at Duxford St John, this is on the soffit (underside) of an arch between the nave and chancel – you will have to look up, above your head, to see it. Until now, I had always taken the roundel framing the painting to be simply that – a roundel. But on closer inspection it is in fact the Ouroboros symbol – a snake swallowing its tail – one of the most ancient symbols anywhere, and long pre-dating Christianity or for that matter, Judaism. Try this Wikipedia entry for more information.

At the very least, this argues for a thoroughly scholarly incumbent in the High Middle Ages at Duxford, but given the town’s proximity to Cambridge that is not surprising.

More information will follow, as I find it, but Duxford St John is turning out to be one of the most deeply interesting medieval English churches – it was once, long ago, associated with ‘black magic’, and I wonder more and more about the origins of this tarring with the occultism brush. Attracting the wrong kind of attention by pursuing arcane studies – neoplatonism, hermeticism and the like – could be an occupational hazard for medieval clergy of a speculative inclination.

Other on-site paintings at Duxford are a possible Warning to Sabbath Breakers and a fine Martyrdom of St Margaret, both of which have been here for some time.