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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Faversham, Kent (†Canterbury) early C.14

Passion Cycle (on painted pillar)

Crucifixion, Faversham

At the right below is the first scene in this Passion series painted on a pillar in St Mary of Charity, Faversham. This very graphically realised Crucifixion is one of the clearest on the entire pillar. The thorns piercing Christ’s head show very well, as does the single nail through his crossed feet.

The Virgin Mary on the (onlooker’s) left below Christ’s extended right arm can be glimpsed here, and her figure is reproduced in full below left here, while John the Evangelist, in a sorrowful attitude and holding a book, is in his traditional position on the other side of the Cross, and is shown here at the right. John is beautifully painted, and his figure is virtually intact.

The first Marie at the empty tomb, Faversham

The remainder of the pillar at this topmost level is taken up with paintings of the scene at Christ’s sepulchre when the three Marys (more commonly referred to in the literature around this subject as the ‘three Maries’) went there to anoint his body.

Angel at the empty tomb, Faversham

The first of the Maries, shown below at the left, is also very well painted, and she holds some object, difficult to identify, but probably a container for ointment and raises her right hand towards her companions. Next comes the empty tomb, with the angel (another very well painted figure) sitting on it.

The second Marie, to the right of the angel in this photograph, is much less clear, but she too holds a container, and in this photograph the grave-clothes, draped over the edge of the tomb, show well.

2nd and 3rd Maries at the empty tomb, Faversham

Tristram made the point that the painting on the face of the sepulchre has been ‘marbled’ to resemble the Purbeck marble sometimes used for the tombs of the great in this part of south-eastern England, and this too shows well in the photographs. Finally, the empty space on the last face of the pillar has been filled by a flourishing stylised tree, and this shows in the last photograph here at the left. To the left of the tree, the first and third Maries meet and each hails the other with a raised hand.

Other paintings have been recorded in the chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury at Faversham, but they are said to be very dilapidated and impossible to see because of the position of an organ. Drawings are however said to exist and I will try to trace these if possible.

All the scenes on the pillar are now on the site, and here are links to the others – the Annunciation and Visitation, the Nativity and Anunciation to the Shepherds, and the Adoration of the Magi and Presentation in the Temple.

Website for St Mary of Charity, Faversham

Passion Cycles