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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Slapton, Northamptonshire (†Peterborough) C.14

The Warning Against Idle Gossip

Warning against Idle Gossip, Slapton

This is one of the few examples of this subject still remaining in the English church and although its main lines and areas are clear, much detail has been lost.

Two women sit on a bench just below the centre of the picture, heads turned towards each other and clearly in the middle of an absorbed and intimate conversation. A few rudimentary facial features can still be made out. Both women have plain headdresses and neckcloths in a style typical of the period, and are clearly respectable village matrons.

Behind the women looms an enormous devil with great horns. His face, some of his chest and any legs he may have had are gone, but his arms are flexed at the elbows so as to cram the two heads of the women together. At the centre of the group, something strap-like and yellow dangles from the bench on which the women sit. It has now revealed itself in the colour picture as almost certainly one of the legs of the bench – another yellow-pigmented leg is visible at the left.

It seems likely that other details at the bottom of the painting, between the lower legs and feet of the two women, have been lost There may have been subsidiary devils here, perhaps Titivillus, whose role is described in the Introduction to this subject.

Slapton is very fully painted and many of its paintings are now on the site. They are the Weighing of Souls, St Christopher, the Suicide of Judas, St Francis Receiving the Stigmata, the Annunciation, St Eloi shoeing the possessed horse, and a rare Mass of St Gregory.

Website for Slapton church

† in page heading = Diocese