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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Martley, Worcestershire (†Worcester) Mid C.14

Running Stag/‘Stoning & Roses’ pattern

Running stag, Martley

This fine running stag is one of several animals, real and fabulous, painted decoratively in the chancel at Martley and part of a general decorative scheme covering, unusually, most of the walls in the chancel. Quite possibly many chancels once had painting of a decorative, rather than a figurative kind, but chancel painting in general has an even lower survival rate than that painted elsewhere in the medieval church. The hanging swag below the animal is part of an illusionistic curtain painted across the whole width of the east wall of the chancel, at a height approximately where the top of the high altar now is. This kind of trompe l’oeil painting was common enough in later periods, especially in Renaissance Italy, but it is very unusual to find it in an ordinary parish church of this period. This was made by a very highly-skilled painter indeed.

stoning & roses decoration, Martley

Below is more of the painting in the Martley chancel – a ‘Stoning and Roses’ pattern of unusual delicacy, with a stemmed flower in each illusionistic brick. The stems, an uncommon detail, show best at the top left-hand corner of the photograph, and the grasp of the principles of recession shown in the painting of the window splays, especially in the area above the glazing, is remarkable for its date.

The Stoning and Roses above is on the North Wall of the chancel at Martley and opposite it on the South Wall is a very interesting 14th century Annunciation showing the Virgin Mary with bare feet, another seldom-found detail. There are paintings in the nave as well, including one of St Martin Dividing His Cloak, and I will include these as soon as I can. And the new Millenium Window at the west end of the church is an intriguing example of good modern church art.

Website for St Peter’s, Martley