Skip to Content

Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Rotherfield, E Sussex (†Chichester) C.15?

St Michael Weighing Souls

Rotherfield, St Michael Weighing Souls

The Weighing of Souls is integral with the Doom (above and to the right of this detail).

St Michael is fairly clear, although his facial features have gone, and so is the left-hand pan (i.e. the one on the right in the picture) of the balance. There are some faint confused details to the right of this pan – they may have shown devils trying to interfere with the balance. Michael wears a long robe and cloak here, but he is often found in armour, or/and with feathered legs signifying his angelic status, as at South Leigh (link in the table below).

The symbolic arrangement shown here, with the scalepan at Michael’s right weighing heavier to signify the soul’s salvation seems to be the natural one, given the traditional associations of dexter and sinister in medieval art. Many Weighings of Souls conform to it. One such is the finest example of the subject in England, at Wenhaston in Suffolk – not technically a wall painting but now included here (see table below). But the arrangement is not invariable – the painting at Pickworth, for example, reverses the positioning.

Also at Rotherfield is the very rare Incredulity of Thomas, possibly once part of a Passion Cycle, but equally possibly a detached and separate subject from the first.

Website for St Denys’, Rotherfield