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Little Witchingham :Entombment to Deposition

Below: Entombment/Harrowing of Hell/Mary Magdalene          Incredulity of Thomas

Entombment, Little Witchingham [119KB] At the left is the Entombment of Christ, a rare survival in the English church. This example is obviously very obscure, but just enough restoration has been done to make the painting intelligible. The stooped figure with long red hair and beard is either Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus - I think probably the former - in the act of lowering Christ’s body into the tomb. Two corners of the rectangular classical sarcophagus, outlined in red, show the shape of this. At the left Christ’s head and upper body, raised on an incline as his feet are lowered, is faint but visible. This scene ends immediately to the right of the figure lowering Christ into the tomb, and a plain vertical border can be seen dividing it from the next to the right, the Resurrection. This has now disappeared almost completely, but the roughly rectangular left-leaning shape immediately to the right of the vertical border is the slab covering the sarcophagus, now pushed away. It is very difficult to see on the photograph, and only a little more so in reality, but Christ’s right hand, extended and palm upwards, is held out across this slab. The rest of the Resurrection, apart from three stylised tree-branches at the upper right, is obscured, but part of something that looks like an angel’s wing and probably belonging to an angel standing behind the propped-up tomb slab can be seen crossing the vertical border obliquely to hover above Joseph of Arimathea/Nicodemus’s head. The remaining scenes are shown below.

At the right is the Harrowing of Hell, a very fine example of the subject, damaged as it is. Christ stands at the left, holding the banner-stave of the Vexillum or Banner of the Resurrection with the cross at the top of it showing to the left above his head. On the right, the great Mouth of Hell, with three huge teeth showing at the top, gapes open, spanning the entire length of the painting. The haloes of two figures about to emerge from Hell are visible; they may be Adam and Eve. Harrowing of Hell, Little Witchingham [86KB]
There were once probably more figures, or at least their heads, painted here, and enough of one of them, a bearded man looking out from the bottom right, was clear enough to be restored. He may be John the Baptist, but there are other candidates too among the righteous who died before the Atonement - Piers Plowman’s “Patriarkes and prophetes that in peyne liggen”.

The remaining scenes, the Appearance to Mary Magdalene and the Incredulity of Thomas, are below. I am not certain, but I think the scene at the left must be the remains of an Appearance to Mary Magdalene, now very seldom found in the English church. Christ stands at the right, again with the Banner of the Resurrection. His right arm and hand, only faintly visible, are extended above the now very vague shape of another figure (probably) kneeling, below. This must be Mary Magdalene, reaching out to touch her Master but being dissuaded - a very faded yellowish patch in the centre of the painting looks like her extended arm. The only other detectable detail is the at the left - the ghost of another of the stylised trees, with graceful S-curved trunks, which feature elsewhere in the Cycle. The remaining scene, the Incredulity of Thomas, is the best preserved and so rare a survival that it has its own page. Follow the link below to go it.Appearance to Mary Magdalene, Little Witchingham [108KB]

Incredulity of Thomas

Little Witchingham First Page

Website for St Faith’s church

Photos:T.Marshall

6/12/2000

Anne Marshall 2000