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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

West Chiltington, Sussex (†Chichester) C.15

The Warning to Sabbath Breakers

Warning to Sabbath Breakers, West Chiltington

The painting, a very competent example showing the concern for realistic human physiognomy and musculature typical of good 15th century work, is in a window-splay, and easy to overlook or mistake for a standing figure of a saint. But Christ stands on a cart-wheel, wearing a short loincloth and displaying the wounds in the palms of his hands. Apart from the wheel, few of the implements surrounding him are identifiable now, although the general shapes of blades of various kinds, a scythe handle or reaping hook (top left), and part of the squarish harrow or seed-drill found in almost all paintings of this subject are still detectable.

There is often a wheel in wall paintings of this subject – Ampney St Mary and Duxford are examples – but the most unusual feature here is the placing of Christ on the wheel, feet actually braced across the spokes in a visual metaphor no doubt intended to drive home the message that keeping his Sabbath must take precedence over the daily round of agricultural labour.

There are several other paintings at West Chiltington, including a vivid 13th century Passion Cycle and some interesting fragments of very early painting. Others will be here soon.

† in page heading = Diocese