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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Rotherfield, East Sussex (†Chichester) C.14


Doom, Rotherfield

Only the central part of this Doom over the chancel, painted about 1400 or slightly earlier, is really clear, although there are some vague patches of pigment at the left hand side. Christ sits on a rainbow, his feet resting on the lower bow. Blood flows dramatically from his wounds, particular those in his raised hands. On the left is the Virgin Mary, her hands raised in supplication, and on the left John, probably the Baptist in this case. Two trumpeting angels with feathery wings hover beside Christ

At the top of the painting are portions of two large orbs. They possibly represent the sun and moon, a detail occasionally found, as at Wenhaston, but I am uncertain about this, since there are faint hints of other similar shapes at the top of the painting – representing all the heavenly spheres, perhaps, which would be very unusual indeed.

Apart from the Weighing of Souls (link below) the only other visible detail is the head of one of the risen dead, a tonsured priest or monk shown in the photograph at the lower right. He was probably one of several such figures.

Tristram¹ assigns this painting to 1300 or thereabouts, which seems to me rather too early. The Weighing of Souls, lower down on the chancel arch wall at the left, must have been painted at some rather later date in the 14th century. In addition to that, I suspect that some, if not all, of the Doom proper has been repainted at a later date, probably in the 15th century, and some details, notably the heavily saturated colour in the robes and the blood from the wounds, may have been emphasised.

Also at Rotherfield are fragmentary details of two priests (?), one of whom may be holding something in a napkin, and in the Nevill chapel on the north side of the church is a window splay with a high quality contemporary painting of Gabriel in the Annunciation. The Weighing of Souls and the rare Incredulity of Thomas have been on the site for some time.

Website for St Denys’, Rotherfield

¹ Tristram II, p.243