Earlier this year the wall painting above the chancel arch in St Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze, was revealed and restored for the third time in more than one hundred and seventy years.
In August 1837 a certain Henry Gibbs painted a picture he described as "A Drawing From An Ancient Painting Found in Fine Liddiard Church, Wilts."
Sometime after Mr Gibbs executed this drawing the painting was covered in lime wash and hidden from view until it was rediscovered during restoration work undertaken in 1901.
So who are the people represented in the wall painting. Two theories exist, one that the figures represent those redeemed by Christ's sacrifice such as bishops, merchants, lawyers etc. The second, apparently more convincing interpretation is that those gathered beneath the cross are Christ's tormentors, the high priests and Pharisees, possibly even Pilate himself. The message being that we should not crucify Christ again by either word or deed.
The costumes date the painting to the early 16th century, sometime between 1520-1540. The symbols of the sun and moon are regular features on medieval representations of the crucifixion but seldom appear after the 15th century, adding yet another puzzle to this painting.
Conservationist Ruth McNeilage spent most of May working on the wall painting and admits that the eight figures around a central cross are something of a mystery.
With the first phase in the ambitious £1 million project complete, the church is now wind and watertight. A second phase of conservation and restoration work now begins, focusing on the 18th century boxed pews and other historic monuments, including the medieval wall paintings.
|2011 photograph published courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball|
|Friends of Lydiard Tregoz Report No. 18 published May 11, 1985.|