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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Yelden (or Yielden), Bedfordshire (†St Albans) C.14

St James the Great

St James the Great, Yelden, Bedfordshire

I strongly suspect that this painting is by the same hand as those at Molesworth and Old Weston already on this site. All three churches are in the same general area of the English Midlands and all show the same concern for the small details of architecture. The painter was not hugely skilled, but the similarities, particularly with Old Weston, are very striking. The very similar roof details clinch it, I think.

In this case, the roof may be intended for the shrine at Compostela in Spain, site of one of the greatest pilgrimage centres in medieval Christendom. and long associated (though without much in the way of reliable historical evidence), with St James. Faint and damaged as the painting is, James seems to be dressed in pilgrim’s garb here, and he carries in his right hand a pilgrim’s staff. The painting is in a place of honour at the rear of a niche on the east wall of the nave at Yelden; in all likelihood an altar dedicated to James was once below it.

The only other painting now visible in the church is part of a St Christopher, and it will be on the site in due course.
Yelden is sometimes spelled ‘Yielden’, but most modern references use the more modern spelling.

More paintings of saints, including James, can be found from the table below.

Website for Yelden church