Bawdeswell Booton Heydon
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St Peter and St Paul, Heydon
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and St Paul, Heydon
Heydon is remarkable for its wall paintings. They are relatively late, coming after the Black Death had instilled a new urgency in the late medieval church, but before the increasing rationalism of the 15th century replaced devotional tools with congregational ones. Thus, they probably had a life of less than a century, and by the time the Reformation came along had been forgotten by all but the very oldest parishioners. By the late 15th century they were busy erecting the tower and replacing the roof. They didn't rebuild the aisles, but they did punch them through with vast Perpendicular windows. When the wall paintings came to light in the 1970s, thanks to the energy of Eve Baker who we have already met at Little Witchingham, it was found that, although from barely a century later, the windows had been cut through the wall paintings, so we can assume their redundancy by then. Some possible reasons for this are explored in the introduction to this piece.
The most impressive of the paintings is in the north aisle. This depicts the Three Living and the Three Dead, a meditation on the fleeting nature of mortality. Two of the three Princes survive; one of the corpses pokes his skull eerily above an 18th century memorial. As you are so once were we, the three hunting princes are told. As we are so you shall be. At the east end of the aisle is a sequence of the life of St John the Baptist. This includes two scenes of Salome dancing before Herod from different dates, suggesting that the entire sequence was repainted at some point, giving strong credence to the idea that this was the location of a chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist.
A lovely painting in the south aisle is part of a devotional sequence; it depicts the magi approaching with their gifts; the lovely modern window to the right of it takes up the theme and shows the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Presentation in the Temple. You may be distracted by it from a curious arrangement in the north arcade , where the rood loft connected with the roodstair. There is a second doorway, just to the west of the stairway doorway. Probably, it turned back to the loft of a parclose screen around the St John the Baptist chapel. The parclose and all the lofts are long gone, but the rood screen survives in restored form, and you step through into a simple, airy chancel.
This is a lovely building, still resonant with the echoes of the long generations that had it at the heart of their community.
Simon Knott, June 2004
You can also read: an introduction to the churches of Bawdeswell, Booton and Heydon
an introduction to the churches of Bawdeswell, Booton and Heydon
Bawdeswell Booton Heydon
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