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St. Martin Dividing his Cloak : Wareham (St. Martin’s), Dorset (‡Salisbury [Sarum]) C.12

Photo:T.Marshall

The story of St. Martin and his charity towards the naked beggar he encountered is told in several scenes on the north wall of the chancel at Wareham. The saint is first pictured riding out with companions, one of them (not shown here) holding a lance , and the detail at the right shows the moment of the encounter. The vertical dark yellow lines St. Martin meeting the beggar, Wareham (73KB)to the left of centre are the front legs of St. Martin’s horse, and the dark red areas further to the left represent Martin’s own legs in their stirrups.

The beggar, seated on the ground, takes up the righthand side of the scene. His pink form is very indistinct, but his raised right arm, bent at the elbow as he extends his hand upwards for alms, and his legs, the right with knee raised, the left outstretched flat along the ground, will emerge with patient scrutiny. His right leg, at ankle height, actually crosses the red horizontal border of the scene, and there is a hint of ragged draperies. It is an oddly relaxed, even casual, pose, especially when contrasted with the rather stiff and conventional articulation of the other figures in the series.

The narrative continues in a lower tier, and the episode at the right below shows the central detail of Martin dividing his cloak to share with the beggar.St. Martin dividing his cloak, Wareham (78KB)

At the left, the mounted man with the lance referred to above appears again, along with a second man on a yellow horse beyond him and possibly a third behind them.
In the centre of the picture, very faint but painted on a larger scale than these attendant figures, is St. Martin himself, also riding a yellow ochre horse.

He is in the act of cutting the cloak in half, and this appears as a dull red irregular shape spread across his body at waist level. Spanning the horizontal border at the top of the scene, what appears to be his head is very faintly visible and may have a halo; the square shape of his saddle-cloth is clear, and the outline of his right leg extended downwards across it can be made out. Details at the righthand edge of the episode are very hard to see, but they may show Martin’s broad-bladed short sword (just above the patch of repaired plaster) held out at a downward angle as if completing the act of slicing the cloak. In front of the horse’s neck, very faint and partly obscured by the repaired area, is what appears to be a standing figure, very possibly the beggar now wrapped in his half of the cloak. Further east on the wall some scattered fragments - a disembodied left hand, a crown - may be the remains of the last episode in the narrative, in which Christ, wearing the cloak, appeared to Martin in a dream.

There is one other example on this site of St. Martin dividing his cloak, at Chalgrave in Bedfordshire, and one or two others will, I hope, be on the site eventually. The Wareham version, though, is the earliest by far. It is a great pity that the figure of the near-naked beggar is in such a dilapidated state, because I suspect it may originally have been quite a remarkable example of an unclothed figure; what is left hints at a rounded, sculptural articulation of the human form not normally found in painting before the Renaissance.

There are a few other painted fragments, none of them identifiable, in the chancel at Wareham. The chancel arch wall itself is a palimpsest, with the remains of layers of decorative painting and inscriptions from various dates. The earliest of these layers may be even earlier than the St. Martin painting, since the present church dates from around 1020, although the original foundation is generally credited to St. Aldhelm (639-709), a great builder of churches in this part of Dorset.

Website for St Martin on the walls, Wareham

Very Early Painting : Before 1200

Purgatorial Ladder, with the Seven Deadly Sins, Chaldon, Surrey NEW

St. Andrew Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Anne teaching the Virgin to read-Corby Glen, Lincolnshire St. Antony and the Pig, Barton, Cambridgeshire St. Barbara : Hessett, Suffolk St. Bartholomew : Selling, Kent St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Castor, Cambs St Catherine of Alexandria, Cold Overton, Leicestershire NEW St.Catherine of Alexandria : Hardley Street, Norfolk
St.Catherine of Alexandria : Old Weston, Northants St.Catherine of Alexandria : Pickering, N. Yorks St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Sporle, Norfolk St. Catherine of Alexandria, Martyrdom of: Burton Latimer, Northants NEW St. Catherine of Alexandria or another female saint : Ashley, Hampshire NEW St. Clement : South Leigh, Oxon. Scenes from the life of St. Cuthbert : Pittington, Co. Durham NEW St. Dunstan holding the Devil by the nose : Barton, Cambs
St.Edmund : Boxford, Suffolk St. Edmund : Lakenheath, Suffolk St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Bishopsbourne, Kent St.Edmund, Martyrdom of : Fritton, Norfolk St. Edmund (or St. Walstan) : Gisleham, Norfolk St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N.Yorks St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Troston, Suffolk
St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Weare Giffard, Devon St.Eloi, Broughton, Bucks St. Eloi and the possessed horse, Slapton, Northants St. Eloi, as bishop & blacksmith, Wensley, N.Yorks St.Erasmus, Martyrdom of : Chippenham, Cambs St. Etheldreda : Willingham, Cambs St. Francis Preaching to the Birds : Little Kimble, Bucks St.Francis Preaching to the Birds : Wissington, Suffolk
St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, Slapton, Northants St. George & Dragon : Banningham, Norfolk St. George & Dragon : Broughton, Bucks St. George & Dragon : Earl Stonham, Suffolk St. George & Dragon : Fritton, Norfolk St. George & Dragon : Hornton, Oxon St. George dedicating himself to the Virgin : Astbury, Cheshire St. George, with the princess : Little Kimble, Bucks
St. George & the Dragon : Kirtlington, Oxon NEW St.Helena, Broughton, Bucks St.James the Great : Hales, Norfolk Life of St. James, Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire St. James the Great, meeting pilgrims : Wisborough Green, Sussex St. James the Great, Yelden (or Yielden), Beds NEW St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Heydon, Norfolk
St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Idsworth, Hampshire St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Old Weston, Northants St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N. Yorks Life of St. John the Baptist : Cerne Abbas, Dorset St. John the Evangelist, Selling, Kent St. John the Evangelist, Weston Longville, Norfolk St. Margaret of Antioch : Old Weston, Northants St. Margaret and the dragon : South Newington, Oxfordshire
St. Margaret of Antioch Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Margaret of Antioch, Life of : Charlwood, Surrey Life of St. Margaret, Wendens Ambo, Essex Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Duxford, Cambridgeshire Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Ashby St Ledgers, Northamptonshire NEW St. Martin dividing his cloak, Chalgrave, Beds St. Martin dividing his cloak, Wareham, Dorset St Michael, with kneeling donor, South Newington, Oxfordshire
St.Nicholas of Myra, life of : Little Horwood, Bucks
St. Nicholas of Myra, two miracles of : Wissington, Suffolk St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the Barrel, Padworth, Berkshire St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the barrel, Bishopsbourne, Kent NEW St.Paul : Black Bourton, Oxon St. Paul : Beckley, Oxon St. Paul : Selling, Kent St. Peter : Beckley, Oxon
St.Peter : Black Bourton, Oxon St. Peter, Martyrdom of : Chacombe, Northants St. Peter : Selling, Kent SS. Peter & Paul, Old Idsworth, Hampshire NEW St. Roch : Pinvin, Worcs St. Sexburga? : Willingham, Cambs S. Stephen, Martyrdom of, North Stoke, Oxon St. Stephen, Stoning of: Black Bourton, Oxon
St. Stephen, Stoning of: Catfield, Norfolk St.Swithun (?) enthroned : Old Weston, Northants Scenes from the life of St. Swithun : Corhampton, Hampshire St. Thomas Becket, blessing, Hauxton, Cambs. Archbishop, possibly Thomas Becket, blessing, Shorthampton, Oxfordshire NEW St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, Marston Magna, Somerset St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, North Stoke, Oxfordshire St.Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Burlingham, Norfolk
St. Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Newington, Oxfordshire St. Walstan of Bawburgh? or St. Edmund : Gisleham, Norfolk St. Zita : Horley, Oxon St. Zita : Shorthampton, Oxon Unidentified female saint : Heydon

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2/12/2004

Anne Marshall 2004