HAHG Lecture: Chalgrove Church and Its Paintings

At their last meeting before the summer break, the  Henley Archaeological and Historical Group enjoyed a talk on 4 June given by Robert Heath-Whyte on Chalgrove church and its paintings.

These paintings cover much of the north, east and south walls of the church of St Mary the Virgin. The main themes of those on the north wall are the birth and crucifixion of Christ, while the south wall shows the death of Mary; these two series are continued on the east wall, with the ascension and assumption. Some of the scenes are taken from the Bible, but additional features are from Jacobus de Voragine’s book of the lives of saints, the Golden Legend.

The work was created in the early 14th century under the patronage of the Barentin family, who occupied one of the manors of the village. The content of the paintings was influenced by continental European ideas, and possibly directly by the Italian artist Bonacursus de Friscobaldi. The images were covered by whitewash during the Reformation and were revealed during restoration in 1858. Unfortunately, early attempts at conservation using beeswax led to further damage by damp, but further work using more developed techniques, most recently in 2015/16, will allow them to be appreciated by future generations.

The next talk will be in the autumn, on 1st October, when the historical writer Nicola Tallis will speak on Lettice Knollys of Greys Court, the subject of her book on Elizabeth’s Rival.