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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Slapton, Northamptonshire(†Peterborough) C.14/15

Suicide of Judas

Suicide of Judas, Slapton

A faded and dilapidated but very rare example of this subject, which is discussed in more detail on the page dealing with one of the two other examples Suicide of Judas I know, at Breamore in Hampshire. (The third, newly on the site, is in the Passion Cycle at Gussage St Andrew in Dorset.) The Slapton painting is unlikely to have been made much earlier than the late 14th century, (which is one reason why I am doubtful about the date of the Breamore example).

The tree here is a stylised one, with three branches ending in discs of red pigment, but it is fairly easy to see that Judas is hanging from the left-hand branch. He seems to be wearing a long robe, also painted in red, and a patch of black pigment slightly more than halfway up the tree might be his bag of money, still in his hand. Other patches of pigment in yellow behind and around might be a hillside behind the tree.

The scene is one of several painted on the spandrels formed between the various arches at Slapton. Around the corner is St Francis Receiving the Stigmata with the Annunciation and the Mass of St Gregory/Image of Pity on other faces of the spandrels. There are many stylistic similarities between these paintings, not least in the use of colour, and I suspect that all were painted at around the same time in the late 14th or early 15th centuries. All seem to come out of the flowering of medieval lay piety at this period. If St Francis is the epitome of holiness among mortals, then Judas certainly occupies a position at the opposite pole of extreme evil. By hanging himself he has piled sin upon sin and ensured his eternal damnation.

In addition to the other Slapton paintings listed above, other subjects at Slapton already on site before the latest update are The Warning Against Idle Gossip, The Weighing of Souls, St Christopher and St Eloi shoeing the possessed horse.