North Stoke, Oxfordshire (†Oxford) c.1300
The Murder of Thomas Becket
North Stoke church had a very full scheme of paintings once, and some of the subjects remain, albeit mostly in a patchy and fragmented state. The murder of Thomas Becket shown at the left is one of the clearest Of Becket himself there is now no sign, apart from a patch of dark pigment at the lower right-hand edge of the painting, but all four of the murdering knights are present, tightly grouped as usual with this subject, as they burst in upon the archbishop. Several blows have been struck, apparently, bringing Thomas to his knees.
The knight in the foreground, his right arm extended diagonally across the picture space to strike, may once have been identifiable from the device on his small lozenge-shaped shield, but this is unreadable now. According to a supposedly eyewitness account¹ by Edward Grim, Becket’s chaplain, it was Reginald Fitzurse, whose punning heraldic emblem was a bear, who attacked first, and this can be made out, admittedly with difficulty, on Fitzsurse’s surcoat in the painting of this subject not far away at South Newington. Two further North Stoke, paintings, of the Martyrdom of St Stephen and, newly added, the Passion Cycle, are now also here.
Website for St Mary the Virgin, North Stoke
¹ The best source for Edward Grim’s account is the Internet Medieval Sourcebook