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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Paston, Norfolk (†Norwich) C.15

St Christopher

St Christopher, Paston

This is one of the largest St Christopher paintings in the English church, and no-one looking through the south door towards the north wall where it is painted could possibly miss it.

The giant saint dwarfs the Christ Child on his left shoulder; the Child raises his right hand to bless Christopher and carries the orb of the world in his left. A patch of pigment between the heads of the two figures may once have been a speech-scroll.

It was a patch of St Christopher’s impressive beard, showing through dilapidated plaster, that alerted people to the existence of the wall paintings at Paston, and the whole painting is very well-executed, not least Christopher’s elegantly draped cloak and elaborate knee-breeches, secured just below the knee and tied in bows. Fish swim around his legs, as usual.

Sometime shortly before August 25, 1478, Sir John Paston writes to his brother, also called John, and his sister-in-law Margery, thanking God for the safe arrival of “my ffayr nevywe Crystofore, whyche I undrestande ye have, wher off I am ryght gladde¹…” There would probably already have been a St Christopher in the church then – there is a hint of an earlier, smaller border below the present one. But this painting certainly dates from around 1478, and it is entirely possible that it was meant to commemorate Christopher’s birth into the famous family and ensure the patronage of his name-saint, although as things turned out, Christopher was a sickly child and seems to have died young.

Also at Paston is a painting of the Three Living & The Three Dead, and a few fragments of what might be a Doom. Other paintings are believed to exist under the plaster, and, finances permitting, these will be uncovered at a future date.

Website for St Margaret’s Church

¹Paston Letters, No. 936, ed. J. Gairdner, Vol.6. iii, St Martin’s Press Microprint Edition, 1983
† in page heading = Diocese