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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Turvey, Bedfordshire (†St Albans) C.14

The Crucifixion

Crucifixion, Turvey

As can be seen, the painting is in a niche, on the south wall of the south aisle. It is a fine example, rather less accomplished than that at Brent Eleigh, but worthy to be compared with it. Certainly the two paintings must be very close in date, and the stylistic similarities between them are interesting.

The figure on the left is the Virgin, and the figure on the right, despite its rather feminine appearance, might be St John, his robe pulled up over his head in his mourning. There are other possibilities though – Mary Magdalene is an obvious one, and I would not rule her presence out altogether. In fact the possibility is strengthened by consideration of the Deposition at Bardwell in Suffolk, where, in all likelihood, Mary Magdalene is not simply present, but assisting in the work of freeing Christ from the Cross. Here, I now suspect, she is displaying her cruse of oil in her left hand, as well as holding her right up to her cheek.¹

It seems likely that devotional practices of some kind were associated with this painting. There may have been a subsidiary altar in front of it (although it is set rather low in the wall), perhaps used by a devotional guild.

Turvey also has some particularly interesting painted tomb-sculpture, including the tomb of Sir John Mordaunt (died 1506), who fought at Bosworth Field and went on to found a chantry in the church – the chaplains who served it were appointed to teach local boys, as well as singing soul-masses.

Website of All Saints, Turvey

¹ Sentence added May 27, 2001