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North Cove, Suffolk : Doom, detail - Woman Donor, resurrected C.14

woman donor, resurrected, North Cove [51KB] Photo: T.Marshall
This painting, like all those at North Cove, is in the chancel, and this particular scene is tucked into a corner of the chancel arch, high on the wall to the left of the Passion Cycle. It is easy to miss, especially in poor light.
A woman, rising from her coffin and still partly wrapped in her shroud, raises her hands in wonder. Opposite her, on the south wall of the chancel, is the Doom, with Christ in Judgement, Mary and John and the coffined dead below. We do not know for certain who the woman is, but she has been singled out and painted, quite alone, on the wall opposite the Doom proper, and there must be a reason for this. Moreover she holds, or indicates with her right hand, a scroll. It is unreadable now, but it might at one time have held an inscription identifying her. It seems probable, as has been suggested, that she is a lady of the Gerningham (or Jerningham) family, who were the local lords of the manor and probably built the church at North Cove very early in the 13th century. She may be in this special position as the donor - the person who paid for the extensive painting in the chancel.

This kind of active piety was common among medieval women of the lower aristocracy and gentry classes, and East Anglia had its fair share of them - Margery Kempe in King’s Lynn, the Lady Richeldis who founded Walsingham - even the redoubtable Paston women. Perhaps this anonymous lady is another.

The Passion Cycle at North Cove, completely reorganised with many new photographs, is now on these pages.

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Anne Marshall 2000