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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Faversham, Kent (†Canterbury) early C.14

The Annunciation/Visitation (on painted pillar)

Annunciation, Faversham

At Faversham is a remarkable painted pillar, octagonal in shape, on which scenes narrating the Christian story from the Annunciation through to the Passion are painted. There may once have been painting on other pillars in the church – traces of colour are left here and there, but only this one survives.

The individual scenes are arranged in tiers on the various faces of the pillar, and, as here, the painter does not necessarily contain each scene within one face. But this, the Annunciation, is where the story begins in the lowest tier.

Visitation, Faversham

Gabriel is at the left, holding a scroll which loops upwards around his halo. He salutes Mary, who is to his right on a different face of the pillar, differently lit and rather less well-preserved than Gabriel himself. In fact this is one of the least well preserved scenes on the entire pillar – the Visitation (below) is much clearer, although this too wraps around two adjoining faces. Gabriel’s robe was once green and Mary’s robe and mantle were originally white and pink respectively. Mary raises her right hand to acknowledge Gabriel’s salutation – the beginning of the ‘Angelic Colloquy’ discussed in more detail here on the page for the Annunciation at Barnby.

Gabriel’s head and face, fortunately clear, are painted in a delicate and and expressive manner typical of the best fourteenth century painting, and many of the other scenes on the pillar show a similar loving attention to detail.

This is true of the Visitation (right), where a faintly apprehensive-looking Mary is embraced by her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth, painted as always as an older, more matronly figure, has her hair suitably bound in a barbette and pillbox-style hat very typical of women’s headgear of this period. Mary wears a face-framing headress and veil, and her mantle was once green. The tender encounter is painted with great sensitivity, as this subject almost always is.

Next in chronological order comes the Christmas story, with some very fine scenes of the Nativity/Annunciation to the Shepherds, and the Presentation in the Temple/Adoration of the Magi, which includes a rare glimpse of Simeon. These scenes complete the Infancy Cycle, and the Passion Cycle, in the upper tier of the pillar, will be here in due course.

Website for St Mary of Charity, Faversham