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St.Christopher, Willingham, Cambridgeshire ( Ely) c.1380

Photo:T.Marshall St. Christopher, Willingham (106KB)

A fine fourteenth century example of the subject in which the peasant saint has an almost regal air, and not merely because of the rather crown-like hat or turban that he wears. He is very tall - some ten feet high - and he cradles the Christ Child in the crook of his left arm, rather than carrying him on his shoulder, as is more usual, but not invariable. The apparent presence of six fingers on Christopher’s hand is probably a simple mistake.

The saint’s cloak, in which the Christ Child is wrapped, is elegantly draped and arranged to show his knee-breeches, knotted and securely tied rather like the later example at Paston in Norfolk. In his right hand he holds a Tau-staff. Various fish and other sea-creatures congregate at his feet. As always the medieval painter tries valiantly to produce a convincing depiction of a figure standing in water, and as usual the problem of perspective defeats him as waves and fish pile up in an improbable heap.

For all that, this is one of the finest paintings of St. Christopher in England. Like all the paintings at Willingham it survived for centuries under limewash after the English Reformation and was expertly restored in the 1980s.

The paintings of St. Etheldreda and her probable companion saint, Sexburga have been on the site for some time, and I will try to include some of the other medieval paintings here, such as the very fine Visitation as soon as possible. Meanwhile, this and others can be seen on the church’s own website by following the link below.

Website of Willingham church, Cambridgeshire

More paintings of St. Christopher. Follow the links below for individual picture and text pages - in page heading = Diocese
Ashby St Ledgers, Northants Belton, Suffolk Burnham Overy, Norfolk Cottered, Hertfordshire East Wellow, Hants
Edingthorpe Norfolk Fritton, Norfolk Haddiscoe, Norfolk Hemblington, Norfolk Horley, Oxfordshire
Impington, Cambridgeshire Irstead, Norfolk Layer Marney, Essex Littlebourne, Kent Martlesham, Suffolk
Molesworth, Northants Oaksey, Wilts Paston, Norfolk Pickering, N. Yorks Raunds, Northants
Shorwell, Isle of Wight Slapton, Northants Stoke Dry, Rutland Thorpe Mandeville, Northants NEW Thurlton, Norfolk
Thurton, Norfolk NEW Wickhampton, Norfolk Willingham, Cambridgeshire Woodeaton, Oxon

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© Anne Marshall, 2009