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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Padbury, Buckinghamshire (†Oxford) C.14

Wolf finding St Edmund’s Head

Wolf finding St Edmund's head, Padbury (126KB)

St Edmund, king and martyr, to give him his full title, died in Suffolk, (or perhaps Norfolk) in 869CE, and one of the more persistent legends about him was that his severed head was found and guarded by a wolf until searchers found it. Edmund was immensely popular, and it is not really surprising to find paintings alluding to his martyrdom outside East Anglia.

At the left the crouching wolf has its jaws (there is a hint of some very sharp teeth) locked firmly around the lower part of the head while a rescuer at the upper right is probing it (gingerly, presumably) with what might be a long metal instrument or perhaps a pair of tongs.

There are other paintings at Padbury, including a badly damaged Wheel of the Seven Deadly Sins, which I will include on the site at a future update. Various paintings of the Martyrdom of Edmund are also on the site, and can be found in the table below. But only one other painting telling the post-mortem story of St Edmund’s head, at Thornham Parva in Norfolk, is known to me, and this too will be on the site as soon as possible. Meanwhile, you can read Edmund’s story from the Golden Legend by following this link.