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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Lakenheath, Suffolk (†St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) C.14

St Edmund, King and Martyr

St Edmund with arrows, Lakenheath

Edmund is on a massive stone pier in the south aisle. He is standing just to the right of a complicated pattern of squares forming a kind of open basketweave pattern, with a further pattern of crosses, each end terminating in a stylised leaf or flower, at the top and curling tendril-like details crowning the whole design. Most commentators believe the pattern to be earlier than St Edmund, who is partly superimposed on it. The pattern, which is certainly an unusual one, may have a relationship with the symbolic tree painted above the nave arches – the trunk of this can be seen apparently emerging from the patterned area at the top.

Edmund, crowned and with a halo, raises his hand in blessing, and to the left of his figure, in effect appearing on the lining of his cloak, are three arrows pointing downwards and painted in fairly bright red. It looks as though the (very narrow) shafts of these may come together to form a single arrow-head, but it is hard to be sure, just as it is hard to decide whether or not he is clutching the arrow-head in his right hand. The arrow is of course the most common of Edmund’s attributes, and there are several other examples of this symbolic use of them in the other paintings of the saint on this site.

There are other paintings at Lakenheath, including the intriguing tree already mentioned, the meaning of which I am still trying to puzzle out. But it will be here soon.

Website for St Mary’s, Lakenheath