Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Doom Paintings

A close family friend with terminal cancer has two wishes before she dies: to visit Coney Island in New York and see the Doom paintings of England. Not many still exist but the one nearest me, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, is the largest remaining one in England.

Doom paintings are depictions of the Last Judgement, painted directly on church walls between the 12th and 16th centuries as a stern reminder to church-goers of where they'd be going in the afterlife if they sinned (Hell, on the bottom right hand side; Heaven is on the left).

The one in the Church of St Thomas, Salisbury, covers the Chancel Arch. It was painted around 1475 but white-washed over during the Reformation, and restored in the 19th century. It's a stunningly vivid and macabre painting; not exactly the Sistine Chapel ceiling (painted less than forty years later) but still pretty awe-inspiring.

The Church of St Thomas is where Sue and Phillotson were married in Thomas Hardy's tragic novel Jude the Obscure. Jude himself worked for a while at Salisbury cathedral, which has the tallest spire in England.

Photos by Sheepdog Rex on Flickr; used with kind permission.

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