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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

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

St Michael Weighing Souls

St Michael Weighing Souls, Wissington

This detail of a fragmentary Doom is rather better preserved than the Passion Cycle at Wissington. I would put the date at around 1290, making it contemporary with the Expulsion at Kelmscott, which is stylistically similar. There is not much left to suggest Michael’s angelic nature, but I think the trace of pigment to the left, between Michael and the spiral upright delineating the ‘compartment’ he stands in was probably once one of his wings. If he had a halo it has gone, but his crinkled, longish hair is still visible.

Not much is left of his balance either, but part of the cross-beam can be seen at the top. A sizeable area of painting to Michael’s right has been lost, but traces remain of what is probably a female head further right – probably that of the Virgin, intervening on behalf of the soul(s) once shown in the now obliterated scales between the two figures.

There are a few 12th century paintings of St Michael in the English church, but this example from the 13th seems to represent an intermediate stage in the development of the Weighing of Souls from simple, symbolic treatment to more dramatic, detailed and ‘naturalistic’ 15th century examples such as South Leigh and Wenhaston.

Of the other paintings at Wissington, St Francis Preaching to the Birds, unusual treatments of the Nativity/Annunciation to the Shepherds and Adoration/Dream of the Magi, Two Miracles of St Nicholas, and the remains of a Passion Cycle, are all on the site.