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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire (†Oxford) C.13


Crucifixion, painted on pillar, Little Missenden

There are a number of paintings at Little Missenden, but this is the only one painted on a pillar in the nave. According to Tristram¹ there was once a Betrayal painted on one of the nave walls, suggesting that this Crucifixion may have been intended to be read in conjunction with a Passion Cycle, but there are no other Passion scenes visible now.

It is quite badly damaged, but enough is left to show that it was a good example of the subject – as indeed are all the paintings in the church. Christ’s head is inclined sharply to the left, and his bunched-up loincloth is exceptionally well painted. The position of his feet, whether crossed and pinned with one nail, or separated and pinned with two, is unfortunately missing. The treatment of the feet in Crucifixions is a generally reliable indicator of date, but even with nothing visible, this can safely be regarded as a 13th century painting.

Christ was once flanked by the Virgin and St John. Tristram could see traces of the Virgin’s mantle at the left, and part of St John’s halo at the right. There are still a few traces of paint on either side of the painting, but that is all that is visible now.

The chancel of Little Missenden church is believed to have been rebuilt in the 13th century, although the nave, which is where the paintings are, is thought to be much earlier in structure. All the paintings though, including a good Life of St Catherine, which will be here in due course, were made in around 1250.

¹ Tristram 2, p.581