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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Hardham, Sussex (†Chichester) C.12

The Adoration of the Magi, Joseph’s Dream, Dream of the Magi

Reading from the left, and after the painted border common to all the scenes in the nave at Hardham, two Magi, wearing the tall hats common to other early scenes on this site, stand waiting to pay homage to the Christ Child and his mother. A third Magus, very faint and difficult to see, is kneeling on one knee, his inclined head just below a window. At the right of the painting, the Virgin Mary sits below an illusionistic pointed canopy, holding the rather large Christ Child on her knee, his feet dangling. Both Mary and the Child have haloes, which should help to locate them. The Christ Child may be extending a hand in blessing.

Adoration of the Magi, Hardham

Massacre of the Innocents, Hardham

Further right along this wall (above) is a painting demonstrating this painter’s ability to organise space and themes economically. Here are two dreams – in the upper section of the photograph at the right is Joseph’s Dream, the incident narrated in Matthew 2:13 in which Joseph is warned to flee to Egypt with his family. The angel, a human shape until waist level, but dissolving into waving clouds thereafter, hovers over the sleeping Joseph, extending a long, thin index finger. Below is the Dream of the Magi very faint indeed now, but once showing a similar angel (just detectable under the left-hand arch) and all three Magi sharing a bed, as at Wissington in Sufffolk.

As in virtually every remaining medieval painting of the subject, the unspeakably horrible Massacre of the Innocents (right) is not backed away from, and the Hardham rendering of it is actually a rather fine example. At the left, beyond a painted arch, a figure in a short whitish tunic holds up by one leg a very young child, despite the entreaties of a woman in a red robe who kneels at his feet. Further right, a similarly dressed man drags either a child or its distraught mother by the hair.

The next scene in narrative order is the Flight into Egypt. Links to other Infancy scenes are in the table at the bottom of this page.

You can see a 360° panoramic tour of the interior of the church here.

Website for St Botolph’s, Hardham

Photos © Roy Reed 2019