Doom painting

UNDOUBTEDLY THE CATHEDRAL in Salisbury (Wiltshire) is the city’s ‘star’ attraction and is worthy of many visits. However, the city has other things that should not be missed. One of these is the Parish Church of St Thomas (and St Edmund), about 370 yards north of the cathedral.

The Doom Painting

The present church was built from the 15th century onwards. Its detailed history can be found on the church’s website (https://stthomassalisbury.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/BriefHistory.pdf). On entering the church from its western end, one cannot avoid seeing the colourful wall painting above the chancel arch. This is the Doom Painting, which depicts The Last Judgement. Images such as these used to be common in Christian Europe but are rare today. ‘Doom’ means ‘judgement’ in Anglo-Saxon. The painting in St Thomas is thought to have been created in about 1470 in the Flemish style by an English painter.

During the Reformation, the painting was covered over with whitewash in 1593. It remained hidden until 1819 when faint traces of colour began to appear when the wall was being cleaned. The painting was carefully uncovered in 1881, and then it was restored. In 1953, the image was cleaned again and retouched. Since then, it has remained untouched. Although it has been restored, it gives a good idea of how this superb fresco looked when it was first created.

While looking up at the Doom Painting, you should also examine the decorated timber ceilings above the nave and other parts of the church. These contain almost 100 wood carvings of angels. Also of interest, is a wooden panel on the wall of the south aisle. This bas-relief wood carving depicts Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac and Jacob’s Dream. It was created in about 1660 by the master Joiner Humphry Beckham (1589-1671).

There are plenty of other interesting items to see in the church, which deserves a visit. Had there not been a famous cathedral in Salisbury, this smaller church would have become one of the place’s main attractions.

A French artist in London

Cocteau

 

The entrance to the Roman Catholic church of Notre Dame de France (‘NDF’) is on Leicester Place, a very shiort walk from London’s Leicester Square. Consecrated in 1868, the church occupied a circular building. After WW”, it iwas rebuilt retaining its ciricular plan. Today, when there are not services, amny of the pews in this lovely building are occupied by sleeping homeless people and a few other folk seeking a peaceful refuge in this busy part of central London.

The Lady Chapel on the north ‘side’ of NDF is closed off by transparent thick glass panels. This is no doubt to protect the frescos lining its walls and the mosaic by the Russian-born Boris Anrep (1883-1969) on the altar. The frescos were created by the French writer/artist Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) in 1960. These beautiful pictures represent the Annunciation, Crucifixion, and Assumption. At the feet of one of the Roman centurions depicted in the central fresco, which illustrates the Crucifixion, there is a self-portrait of the artist. Cocteau drew this three years before his death.

Many people visit Leicester Square every day, but few of them visit NDF. For anyone interested in twentieth century art, seeing this church, which is open daily from 9 am to 9pm,  is a worthwhile thing to do.

 

Address: 5 Leicester Pl, London WC2H 7BX