St John the Baptist church, Winchester, Hampshire (†Winchester) C.14
St Christopher, St Antony and a Devil
Winchester St John the Baptist is one of several churches in the centre of Winchester, not far from the Cathedral (and not to be confused with it).
This painting is one of several in the church, and some of the others will be here eventually. Many more, including some of those described by EW Tristram have apparently disappeared without trace. The Christ Child, clasped securely in Christopher’s arms, is little more than a baby, but he has the tripartite halo signifying the Trinity, while the saint’s own halo is of a looping, ovoid design typical of its date.
In the opposite splay of the niche is a figure of another saint thought to be St Antony Abbot, not a saint commonly found in England, but popular in some areas because of his reputation as a miracle worker and healer of the terrible skin disease known as St Antony’s fire. There is more on this on the page for the painting of St Antony at Barton in Cambridgeshire. There were several hospitals in Winchester during the Middle Ages (one was a leper hospital) but whether there was also a specialist centre for the treatment of St Antony’s fire I do not know. St Antony’s vestments are precisely correct for the period, and correspond quite closely with those worn by the saint at Barton. A large floral motif is painted above his mitre (a similar one, only partly visible in the photograph, is above St Christopher) and at the top centre of the niche, between the two saints, is a manically grinning devil.