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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

South Newington, Oxfordshire (†Oxford) C.1330

Man Kneeling Before St Michael

Man (probably Thos. Giffard) kneeling before St Michael, South Newington

The man kneeling in prayer here is probably Thomas Giffard, husband of Margaret, whose arms appear elsewhere at South Newington. It looks as though Margaret and Thomas were major benefactors of the church at South Newington, and probably elsewhere as well, as was common enough in the 14th century. The standing figure is (again, probably) St Michael, given his garments and general appearance. What looks like a peaked cap on his head is probably the visor of a military helmet, and his folded wings (very hard to see) have some detectable feathers.

The painting is faded now, and the background is again confusingly ‘busy’, as with all the paintings in the church. But the shield-of-arms of Moretayne (Margaret’s family name) appears again at the top right. It seems likely that the Giffards were a considerable power in the land locally, and the marriage of Margaret and Thomas Giffard was a dynasty-cementing alliance, again a common phenomenon in this period.

Most appearances of St Michael in the English medieval church have him Weighing Souls, sometimes in association with a Doom painting, sometimes not. But in this example I think he is being invoked as an intercessor, as any saint might be, so he keeps company with other saints in the table below. The Passion Cycle at South Newington has also been on the site for some time, as have the paintings of the executions of Thomas Becket and Thomas of Lancaster, the Virgin & Child and St Margaret. With the exception of the 15th century Passion Cycle, all the paintings at South Newington probably owe their existence to the patronage of the Giffard/Moretayne family.

Website for St Peter ad Vincula, South Newington