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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Old Weston, Northamptonshire (†Ely) Early C.14

Enthronement of a Bishop (St Swithun?)

Old Weston, Bishop enthroned (St Swithun?)

The church at Old Weston is dedicated to St Swithun. He was Bishop of Winchester and died in 872. This painting is thought to show his enthronement as bishop. A bishop is certainly sitting at the left of the picture, on a throne with a footrest and large scrolled arms or cushions. Most of the upper part of his body has gone, but the lower part of his chasuble, with its tapering hem narrowing to a point as he sits on the throne, is clear. Much clearer is the figure standing at the right, consecrating and enthroning Swithun. He is clearly a bishop or an archbishop, with his mitre and pastoral staff, and he is blessing the seated Swithun. A fragmentary standing figure to the right, hands extended, may have a crown and be King Ethelwulf of Wessex, who chose Swithun for the diocese, or simply an ancillary priest officiating at the ceremony. A piece of patterned border shows at the right above the scene.

Swithun was famous for, among other things, building churches, which perhaps explains the painted buildings behind St Margaret, who is painted in a window-splay at Old Weston, along with St Catherine. There are other paintings too, including the Beheading of John the Baptist (links to all three below). All seem to be of the same date, and given the almond eyes and large, long-fingered hands of the figures, more obvious in this particular painting than any of the others, I suspect they date from very early in the fourteenth century, if not from the late thirteenth.

Website for St Swithun’s, Old Weston