Last week, my sister took me to visit the parish church of St Mary Magdalene at Ickleton in Cambridgeshire. From the outside, it looks like a beautiful medieval church with an unusual bell (Tudor) – but the inside is even more interesting.
One night in 1979, the church caught fire, or rather, was set on fire, for it was an arson attack. The fire cost the church its roof and a Norman arch – but the clean-up effort revealed spectacular twelfth-century wall paintings: a Passion cycle dating from 1150-1200, and a fourteenth-century Doom painting, which shows Mary bearing her breasts in supplication.
There are plenty of excellent resources on the wall paintings in Ickleton. Those online I have linked to at the bottom of this post, but in the church itself you can also buy a small book on the church’s history, in which the paintings are comprehensively mapped out. I’d like to share some pictures I took while visiting the church, and to encourage you to visit too.
This picture is unfortunately a little blurry, but it gives an impression of the sheer scale of the twelfth-century paintings:
The Last Supper is fairly easy to make out:
It’s followed by the Betrayal:
Here we can see the scourging. My doctoral research was on pilgrimage accounts, and pieces of the post at which Christ was scourged are noted by various pilgrims as appearing all over the place:
The painting in the nooks (originally windows) has been even better preserved. These are separate from the Passion cycle, and show images of saints:
Poking out above this memorial, you can just make out the feet of St Peter (in gravity-defying robes), who is being crucified upside-down.
If you do visit, make sure that you also look out for the small number of medieval poppyheads:
Thank you very much to my sister, for showing me this beautiful church, and telling me about the paintings. For further information, you can visit these sites or, indeed, the church itself: