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In fact the whole background, including the righthand soffit of the arch, is painted to give the appearance of a church. At the apex of the arch and visible in the photograph below right is an illusionistic (interior) church roof. The dark area at the top represents the roof itself, with some ribbed vaulting. Below this are two ranges of windows and below them a group of pilgrims (originally three, now reduced effectively to two) being greeted by St. James. The first of the three has a plain staff and a satchel ornamented with a scallop-shell over his arm. The second, holding a staff in front of him, wears a pilgrims hat. The Churchs approval and encouragement of pilgrimage could hardly be more clearly expressed.
Below the feet of St. James and the pilgrim is a band of wavy ornament, and below that some illusionistic architecture making a background to the paintings below. Three triangular gables are visible, all with windows - on the left quatrefoils, in the centre narrow lancets, and on the right, mainly obscured, round (photo, left). Below these, a very unusual Cross in grey is painted on a whitish ground.
Christ, wearing a knee-length red loincloth is fastened to the Cross at the left in the standard manner, but the transverse bar of his Cross extends to the right, and one of the Thieves hangs on it, arms pinioned behind his back (or possibly fastened in front of him - it is difficult to be sure). EW Tristram¹ assumed that this must be the Penitent Thief, who was assured of his place in Paradise [Luke 23:39-43], and the sharing of the Cross-bar seems to confirm this - the Thiefs placing at Christs left, rather than the more honourable right was probably dictated by considerations of space. A youthful St. John stands beside the Thief, next to Stephaton with a sponge and a large red ewer (his face according to Tristram was originally a hideous caricature), and at the extreme left, Longinus gives Christ the death-blow with his lance, and raises his hand to his newly-sighted eye.
This Crucifixion also has another very unusual feature in that the crucified Christ is wearing a crown. This, I suspect, was intended to give an extra, and specific, moral dimension - the man crucified in Jerusalem may have been just another itinerant prophet - an inglorious man, as John Donne has it (see the Warning to Swearers/Sabbath Breakers, Introduction), but humankinds daily persistence in sin repeatedly re-enacts the Crucifixion of the revealed King of Glory. There might once have been a subsidiary altar below this painting, but in any event it faces the assembled worshippers in the nave directly, and that is probably deliberate.
Other early and remarkable paintings in Sussex, such as those at Hardham, have received a good deal of attention from modern writers, thus overshadowing these at Wisborough Green. But this very idiosyncratic and quite possibly unique treatment of the Crucifixion ought to be better known.
¹ Tristram 11, p. 625
Website for St Peter ad Vincula, Wisborough Green
|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|
© Anne Marshall 2001