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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Thurlton, Norfolk (†Norwich) mid C.15

St Christopher

St Christopher, Thurlton

This mid-to-late 15th century painting is now very faint, but it is a good example of the latest development of the subject before the English Reformation. There is a great solidity about the central figure of Christopher, but at the same time a great freedom and fluency of line that looks forward to the Renaissance rather than backwards to the careful and sometimes rather stiff poses of earlier examples. For this reason I think is later than the early 15th century date assigned to it by HC Whaite.¹

St Christopher, Thurlton, detail, dolphins & fish

The adjacent window makes details difficult to see (and photograph), but the most interesting thing about this St Christopher is the group of swimming creatures around his feet. The sole or plaice (bottom, centre) is found quite frequently, and above that is a large fish with multiple fins or spines, of a general type also commonly found. Additionally, though, there are what seem to be three bottle-nosed dolphins, the clearest at the top, facing left, and two, others, one large and one small, at the right beyond Christopher’s leg. The clearest of them is shown again in enlarged detail below right here.

St Christopher, Thurlton, detail, dolphin

Dolphins may have appeared in medieval bestiaries, but these are so well and realistically drawn that they were quite possibly observed and drawn from life, since Thurlton is only a few miles from the east coast.

Website for All Saints, Thurlton

¹ HC Whaite, St Christopher (see Bibliography)
† in page heading = Diocese