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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Wissington, Suffolk (†St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) C.13/14

St Francis Preaching to the Birds

St Francis preaching to the birds, Wissington

It is very faint now, but this is probably the earliest depiction of St Francis of Assisi in the English church, quite possibly made at a date within fifty years of the saint’s death and canonization in the late 1220s. Francis is the standing figure furthest right, holding a staff – the seated figure reading a book beside him is probably Brother Leo. On the left is a tree with scrollwork-like branches and various birds perching in it, most of the them barely recognisable as birds now, although two on branches, one above the other on the left, can be made out. At the extreme left, a dog-like creature stands on its hind legs against the tree trunk.

I know of only two other paintings of St Francis in the English medieval church and both are now on this site. One, at Slapton in Northamptonshire shows him receiving the Stigmata; in the other, at Little Kimble in Buckinghamshire, he is preaching to the birds, as here, but both these examples are from a later date. There are many other paintings at Wissington; St Michael Weighing Souls, a very interesting Nativity/Annunciation to the Shepherds and Adoration/Dream of the Magi, Two Miracles of St Nicholas, and scenes from a very battered Passion Cycle are all now on the site.