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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Lenham, Kent (†Canterbury) Late C.14

Weighing of Souls

St Michel weighing souls, Lenham, Kent

This painting, on the south wall at Lenham, must have been a striking example of the subject when it was first painted, but it is a very dilapidated and faint state now. St Michael stands centrally, his folded wings extended to the left while he himself looks rightwards towards the intervening Virgin, who has now totally disappeared. Otherwise, only the balance-bar, slanting across his body along with faint traces of the two scale-pans, that on the right much lower than that on the left, and a loop of reddish beads, held out by the Virgin and draped over the balance-bar, remain. There are traces of a red devil trying to weigh down the left-hand scale-pan, but the figure of the Virgin herself has gone completely, apart from a few incoherent traces of pigment at the right.

Fortunately, JC Wall included his own drawing of this painting in his modest book of 1925¹, and this drawing is reproduced at the right here.

Comparison of the painting then, complete with three meddling devils, one blowing a horn, with its greatly reduced state now, should be instructive. As so often, a great pity, but the earlier 20th century was not a propitious time for English Wall Paintings.

Website and contact information for Lenham church

¹ JC Wall, Medieval Wall Paintings, (Talbot press) p.191