Monday, 11 October 2010

Combe church wall paintings

I think it was in July that we were in the pretty West Oxfordshire village of Combe for a game of cricket. The grounds are set just to the village edge, overlooking the small but imposing church of St Laurence - originally built in the Norman era and rebuilt in the late 1300s. Inside, to my delight, my eyes first fell on this magnificent 'Doom' wall painting showing the Last Judgement.

Discovered in 1894 by the Rev. S.Pearce, it is thought that they were painted around 1440 by the monks of nearby Eynsham Abbey. In the centre, wounds showing, is Christ triumphant.

To his right, Apostles and the Saved, rising from their graves.

More ghoulishly (and perhaps more entertaining) - are the unsaved, suffering terrible agonies and being devoured by a Hellish demon monster. How rich the natural colours are, even after all the centuries.

Just beneath, a Crucifixion scene.

Over the South door, the commandments write large, flanked by Moses - only a faint tracery on the left - and Aaron with his mitre, to the right.

Dating from the seventeenth century, it covers an earlier mural of St Christopher - the most visible remains of which are a mermaid and fish.

The Annunciation - a partner to the Crucifixion on the other wall side - is badly decomposed, but the Angel Gabriel can be seen announcing 'Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum' (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee). And the hand of God reaching down from the Heavens. These two paintings, teamed with the Doom painting looming over them, would have shown the community the simple core of Christian thinking - Christ the son of God, born of Mary the Virgin, crucified that mankind might be saved to rise again on the final day of Judgement. Or not, as the case may be.

Higher up, angels glow jewel-like, preserved fragments of Medieval stained glass, dating to around 1450.

I returned thoughtfully to the cricket, pondering the paths of time; once the monks of Eynsham Abbey built and decorated the church at Combe. Today, our team - Eynsham - were playing the locals at cricket, in the shadow of St Laurence's, nestling in the surrounding trees, to the left.


  1. What fantastic paintings. i suppose they are frescoes.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing these paintings... so beautiful.

  3. Cricket on a village green, beautiful old churches, England at its best.

  4. PG, may I risk stating the obvious by saying there is nothing like Combe around here!

    The sky above your outdoor photos is enough to get a painter motivated, and the church interior photographs are really marvelous. I would not have expected so much light would be available.

    If I had been fortunate enought to see those paintings, and had wandered back to the cricket, I think that my head would definitely have been in the clouds.

    Thank you for another of your beautiful peeps.


  5. Amazing photos of an amazing place. I wonder if we share any of the same mind as the people who painted those images? Sometimes I feel very aware of how humans remain the same and then I look at something like this and it seems beautiful but profoundly strange.

  6. Ahhh Gretel.. So much more than awesome. Thanks once again for feeling my addiction for all-things-old-English.... love. xxxx

  7. I'm guessing you have been to Swinbrook, Gretel, and to Widford too?

    Anyhoo, great photos. Thank you for reminding me of the church there.


  8. What a treasure you have there!! Thanks so much for sharing it with all of us. How wonderful it must be to simply stand in that church and imagine all the life(and death) that has happened there. Your posts never disappoint.

    Janet xox

  9. Beautiful church and beautiful photos. I may not be there but your post makes me feel like I am! Thanks for sharing this wonderful place. Lisa

  10. I never ceased to be amazed at the wonderful history you can see any day on your side of the pond. Thank you for the little tour of this church.

  11. These are quite marvelous. It's a treasure.

  12. Ah,ancient churches, monks, Abbys, angels and doom paintings.... how utterly wonderful! To stand in these places where spirits still linger and the past is right before your eyes must be a marvelous thing.


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