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the wall above the grievously-shattered west arch of the nave. This arch and wall had to be entirely rebuilt, in order to save portions of the Norman tower, at the base of which was revealed a stone apparently belonging to a portal of indisputable Saxon date. With the destruction of the west wall, a representation of St. Michael unfortunately perished, and some slight paintings on the splays of the 13th-century windows in the south transept were also destroyed at another time.
It is also on record that there was a painting of the Last Judgment in the north transept, and very early remains of paintings on the soffit of the arches on the north side of the
I may now proceed to describe as best I can what remains. The whole space above the arches on the north and south sides of the nave, as well as that between the clerestory windows, was decorated with paintings in distemper on a thin coat of plaster laid over the ashlar walls, and in some instances covering earlier paintings, of execution superior to those remaining. The date of the paintings is made singularly clear by independent testimony.
Mr. Dykes spoke of them as coeval with the clerestory, probably about the year 1450, and Mr. J. G. Waller, the eminent antiquary, when shown a tracing of the picture of the four knights about to murder Sir Thomas à Becket, without any previous knowledge of the church or the paintings, at once fixed the date of the arms which they carried as from 1450 to 1460.
The date being thus approximately established, I cannot think it necessary at the present day, when books are so plentiful and easy of access, to attempt more than an outline of the history of the Saints occurring in the paintings.
As is customary, sacred subjects are more generally found on the south side of the church than elsewhere, but very little regularity of arrangement occurs in more than a serial degree. I shall, therefore, begin to describe the paintings which first meet our eyes as we enter the church. words will express all that it seems necessary to say about the picture of St. George, which stands out with a prominence only exceeded by that of St. Christopher, and is the first subject for our consideration. It comes before the painting of St. Christopher, and occupies the whole space
above the arch, and is drawn with some power. St. George is clad in full armour, and is in the act of killing the dragon by thrusting his spear through its mouth. The tail of the dragon is twisted round the off hind leg of the horse. As I said before in the "Antiquary," "Portion of the body of St. George had apparently disappeared from the picture, but sufficient traces remained to justify the entire restoration." We next reach the most prominent feature in all the paintings, viz., the colossal figure of St. Christopher, which meets the eye immediately on entering the church, a position which it generally occupies, inasmuch as he was always the patron saint of travellers. And here I may remark that Edw. G. Wilson, Esq., F.S.A., has called attention to the striking similarity of this painting to the design of that of the woodcut formerly in Althorp Library, and of which a copy appears on page 76 of "Forest Trees." Forest Trees." This figure fills the whole height of the wall, and is "almost MichaelAngelesque in its proportions," and true in intention to the tradition which speaks of the Saint as standing twelve cubits high.
The figure of the Holy Child was re-discovered when almost all hope of doing so had been relinquished; for when Mr. Jewitt was working one night by gaslight, the gas from the opposite side of the church, and at a much lower level, threw out in clear outline what had before been unseen by daylight.
What we see at present is a faithful reproduction of the original painting, and is worked entirely on the old lines; this is just as true of the hermit's figure on the west side of the picture; the hermit stands at his cell door holding aloft his lighted lantern, as if to guide the travellers over the stormy waters. The figure of the child Christ is seated on the Saint's left shoulder, holding the Orb in the left hand, while His right hand is raised in benediction. St. Christopher uses a tree as his staff, and according to legend, as soon as he put his staff on land it burst into leaf. A serpent is curled half round the Saint's foot, and thus whilst St. Christopher bears on his shoulder the Saviour, he also treads under foot the emblem of the Evil One.
Before leaving this subject, I cannot avoid recounting what it was that brought the Saint to lodge by the waterside, and to win for himself the title of "The Layman's
Saint." I venture to take the story as it is told by the late Mr. Dykes, who himself takes it from "De Natalibus." He was a Pagan, and having determined to serve the greatest prince in the world, he entered the Court of King Maximus. But on a certain day, the king's minstrel recited a lay in which the devil was oft-times mentioned, and the king, who was a Christian, made each time the sign of the Cross on his forehead. St. Christopher seeing this, inquired of the king why he did so, and the king answered that it was for fear of the devil whose name was so often mentioned. Christopher therefore argued that the devil must be greater than the king, seeing that the king feared him. Therefore, bidding farewell to Maximus, he set out in search of the devil, and meeting with a multitude of warriors, one of them pre-eminently terrible, rode up to him and asked him whither he was going, to which he replied that he was seeking the devil; and so Christopher engaged himself to him. And as they journeyed together, they came to a cross erected by the wayside, and the devil, leaving the path, made a circuit through the forest, and re-entered the road again beyond the cross; at which, greatly marvelling, Christopher inquired of him why he had done so; he at first refused to tell, but at length, being constrained thereto, confessed that a certain man named Christ had hung upon that cross whom he feared greatly, and that on that account he had turned out of the way. Whereupon Christopher concluded that Christ was yet a greater potentate than the devil, and so immediately departed to seek out Christ. And after long seeking, he fell in with a hermit, who preached Christ to him and baptised him. And when the hermit enjoined prayer and frequent fasting as the service which he should render to Christ, Christopher represented that he was capable of none of these things, and asked for some easier service. The hermit therefore appointed him to dwell beside a certain river, that he, being so tall of stature, might carry across such as wished to pass over, and told him that this would be acceptable service, and that without doubt Christ would reveal himself to him. Christopher accordingly came to the river and built a hut there, and carrying the trunk of a palm-tree in his hand, carried passengers across continually.
"On a certain night, as he slept in his hut, he heard the
voice of a little boy calling him, and beseeching him that he should carry him across; and going out the first and second time he heard no one, but on the third, finding the child, he set him on his shoulder, and taking his staff he entered the river to cross it, and behold the water of the river began to swell by little and little, and the boy he carried weighed heavy like lead, and the further he went in the waters increased the more, and the boy pressed heavier and heavier on his shoulder, and at length with great difficulty he got to the other side. Setting down the child, he complained of his weight, that it had been as if the whole world rested on his shoulder. To whom the boy answered, that he had no cause to marvel, for that he had carried not the world. merely, but Him who had created the whole world, and He told him that He was Christ the Lord, and ordered him to plant his staff in the earth; and immediately He vanished from his eyes, and Christopher planted his staff in the earth, and in the morning he found it bearing leaves and dates; and thus he knew for a certainty that Christ had appeared to him."
Before concluding this account of St. Christopher, I wish to add a fact which Mr. Tomlinson, F.S.A., has kindly brought to my notice: viz., that the mere sight of this Saint's image was considered enough to secure for the beholder a happy day.
"Christopheri sancti speciam quicunque tuetur,
To ensure his effigy being seen by all, it was the custom to paint it of colossal height.
The moral which, I apprehend was intended to be conveyed by the repetition of his history, was this" That it is not only to those who lead ascetic lives that Christ will reveal Himself, but to those also, equally, who are content faithfully to discharge the humbler duties of their daily callings."
I trust that by quoting his words at such length, I am showing our deep appreciation of the value of the words of Mr. Dykes.
Proceeding next further to the east, we find the one strictly scriptural subject of the north side of the nave, but Herod's Feast was treated originally with some considerable
freedom. This, and the fact that monumental tablets had greatly damaged the picture, made the details very difficult to understand, Here as elsewhere, we give our best thanks to Mr. Jewitt, of the firm of Messrs. Shrigley & Hunt, for so carefully tracing out what was only faintly depicted in places.
Beginning our study at the east end of the picture, we find Herod the King (over whom is written " Herodi"), with Herodias and two courtiers sitting at a table which rests on trestles. In the front of the table an attendant is kneeling, and seems to be offering the cup to Herod. Not far distant from him stands St. John the Baptist, whose hand is raised in rebuke as he addresses the royal party, whilst at his feet lies Salome: who I cannot much doubt, after seeing the bas-relief in the Nôtre Dame Cathedral in Rouen, was occupying herself with the art of "tumbling," for the amusement of Herod. I fail to see any other explanation of the bas-relief, and if so, why should not the same be true at Pickering? And now, in order the better to understand the painting, we proceed next to the west third of it. Here the entrance to the prison in which St. John the Baptist was imprisoned is represented by what is most like a sentry-box. The jailor, dressed in parti-coloured uniform stands, sword in hand, whilst the daughter of Herodias stands face to face with him, holding the "charger" to her breast, and ready to receive the head of St. John. The head itself lies on the pavement at her feet, whilst the body of the Baptist still remains in a kneeling posture.
There remains now the central third of the picture. The royal party, in the costume of the 15th century, is sitting at the table, on which we notice little but three salts, and some empty dishes, but Salome appears carrying St. John's head on a charger, which she gives to Herod (and not to her mother), whilst the king stretches out his hand in remonstrance, and appears as if reluctant to receive the head of the Baptist, and the others seem to be struck with wonder and surprise.
In the next place we find a graphic picture of the death of St. Edmund (A.D. 870, Nov. 20th). The Saint is bound with cords to a tree. On each side of him are two archers. One on either side is not in the act of shooting, but is in one case stringing his bow, and in the other apparently