Medieval Painting of the Passion Cycle, Amberley, Sussex

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Two scenes from a Passion Cycle, Ford, West Sussex (‡Chichester) C.14?

Photos:T.Marshall

‘...let this cup pass from me...’ ( Matthew 26:39)

Agony in the garden, Ford (277KB)

Not much is left of the Passion Cycle at Ford, but this scene of the Agony in the Garden is reasonably clear, and there are very few scenes of this Gospel incident left in English churches. Christ kneels, facing left, eyes imploringly upwards and hands extended in prayer. Although this is undeniably rustic work, his facial features betray his suffering, and the feeling that the painter has put all the sincerity and skill he can muster into his work is almost palpable.

As sometimes happens in medieval painting, metaphor is literalised and given visual form - in this case in the chalice with its rather ornate base on the ground in front of Christ. There are a few other fragmentary details in the scene - what looks like the scalloped edge of a cloud above Christ’s head, and, lower down near the right-hand edge, a hint of a small figure leaning backwards, one of the sleeping disciples, probably.

Ford, Road to Calvary (147KB)The only other remaining scene, here at the right, in the Cycle is the first of what was no doubt a series of paintings on an adjoining wall, showing Christ being urged along the Road to Calvary. It is rather a clumsy articulation of Christ’s barefoot figure, but a few traces remain of the facial features of a soldier urging him along, and some faint fragments at the far right suggest other details, now gone. Another Sussex painting of this scene, at West Chiltington, although it is earlier, will give some basis for comparison. Farther along this same wall are the remains of two devils, conceivably remnants of a Harrowing of Hell, or perhaps part of a vanished Doom, of which an example was once to be found here¹. Harrison’s entry for Ford makes it clear that there were once many paintings from various periods here, and I will try to include the remaining fragments - the devils already mentioned, and some rather accomplished decorative work - in future.

Amberley, Sussex Belchamp Walter, Essex Brook, Kent Chalgrove, Oxfordshire NEW Crostwight, Norfolk Croughton, Northamptonshire Fairstead, Essex
Flamstead, Herts Ford, Sussex NEW Great Tew, Oxon Gussage St. Andrew, Dorset Ickleton, Cambs Little Easton, Essex Little Tey, Essex
Little Witchingham, Norfolk North Cove, Suffolk North Stoke, Oxfordshire NEW Peakirk,Northants Pickering, N. Yorks Pinvin, Worcs Seething, Norfolk
South Newington, Oxfordshire West Chiltington, Sussex Wissington, Suffolk

F. Harrison, Notes on Sussex churches, page 114