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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Heydon, Norfolk (†Norwich) after 1470

Female Saint (Catherine, Mary Magdalene?)

Female Saint (Catherine, Mary Magdalene?)

The identity of this female saint at Heydon seems likely to remain for ever in doubt. She is painted on the south wall of the south aisle, facing the painting of the Adoration of the Magi on the north wall across the aisle. The east wall, at right angles to both subjects, probably once had an altar, but there is nothing painted on the wall above it now.

This crowned Virgin saint may nevertheless be the Virgin Mary herself, with the Christ Child originally painted at the left beneath the replastered area. But this seems unlikely, mainly because the figure seems to be holding something in front of her with her right hand. Whatever this is, it is likely to be her attribute, and St Catherine (with the wheel) or Mary Magdalene (with her cruse of anointing oil) are possibilities.

The figure, obscured below by a memorial tablet, is painted on a large scale, far larger than any of the other painted figures at Heydon. It must date from after 1470, when the aisles were extended to their present length, and I suspect that there may have been a subsidiary altar below it.

As well as the Adoration of the Magi linked above, there are paintings of the Three Living & the Three Dead and Herod’s Feast, with Salome in the church.