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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Marston Magna, Somerset (†Bath and Wells) C.14/15

The Murder of Thomas Becket

Murder of Thos.Becket, Marston Magna, Somerset

A patient eye is needed to isolate the figure of St Thomas himself in this painting. He is placed just left of centre, kneeling before an altar placed diagonally across the picture space. The folds of his white alb are highlighted in blue-grey. His fallen mitre is at the bottom left-hand corner of the painting and helps to lead the eye to his figure (the details in reddish-brown at the lower edge of the painting belong to another subject).

Behind the altar, holding a processional cross, stands his chaplain Edward Grim, and in a tight cluster to the right are the four knights. Two, painted in red ochre, stand out fairly clearly; a third, painted in off-white, is behind them, wearing a helmet with its visor raised. Somewhere in the melée, probably implicitly behind the knight furthest to the right, must be a fourth assassin, but the outlines of the individual figures are blurred now. But the close grouping of the figures is imaginative, conveying very effectively the idea of a rapid and brutal attack on a defenceless figure, and there are illuminating comparisons to be made with the examples of the subject at South Burlingham in Suffolk and South Newington in Oxfordshire.