Skip to Content

Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Pickering, N Yorkshire (†York) C.15

St Christopher

St Christopher, Pickering

One of the finest St Christophers in England, although like all the paintings at Pickering, it has been much restored. Christopher’s great bulk fills all the available space, and he is painted as relatively young. The tiny Christ Child has the orb of the world and the same lobed halo that he has as an adult in other paintings at Pickering. Detailed, flourishing trees and flowers grow on both banks of the river, and benign-looking eels or sea-serpents coil around the saint’s feet.

The Hermit stands on a rocky outcrop on the left bank, his hermitage behind him and a dark wood beyond in the background. Great rays of light, literal and metaphorical, shine from his lantern. At some point though, the position of his left arm and hand has been altered. It looks as though the painter, despite his obvious talent, has had difficulty in articulating this arm and hand in relation to the rest of the body and the position of the lantern.

St Christopher, Pickering, detail, hermit

If this is essentially how he left the figure, he cannot have been happy with the odd-looking result in an otherwise finely painted detail – the forearm and hand (a right hand, not a left) project from the side of the chest, and the line delineating the shoulder and upper arm simply stops. Conversely, this clumsiness might be a product of restoration, but I doubt it.

But this does not really detract from the overall quality of this painting. Some details (e.g. the hermit’s clothes) in it resemble the John Rylands woodcut of 1423, others (the hermit’s standing position) do not. Like most St Christophers it is a blend of prescribed elements and painterly imagination.

Also on the site is the huge Life of St Catherine at Pickering, and the photograph on the page for the Martyrdom of St Edmund has been replaced. The reorganised Seven Works of Mercy and the new Passion Cycle are also here.

Website for SS Peter & Paul, Pickering

† in page heading = Diocese