St Peter's and St Paul's Church, Pickering, North Yorkshire contains the most complete set of medieval wall paintings in Britain, remarkable for their artistry, detail and state of
Commissioned over 500 years ago, probably about 1450, they remained hidden under a thick coat of plaster until they were rediscovered during restoration work in 1852.
Virtually all churches in the Middle Ages had paintings on their walls, for both devotional and teaching purposes.
Up until the the late 15th century there were no printed books, and religious texts were few and far between. Coupled with this, most people were illiterate, and also unable to comprehend the language of religious services, which were mostly in Latin.
Paintings such as the ones at Pickering were referred to as 'Biblia Pauperum' - the poor man's Bible, and the parish priest would use them to teach his congregation about morality, the Bible and stories of the saints.
The North wall includes scenes of St George slaying a dragon, St Christopher carrying a Christ child, St John the Baptist being beheaded, the coronation of the Virgin Mary, the matyrdom of St Edmund, and the death of St Thomas Becket.
On the South wall: scenes from the life of St Catherine of Alexandria, The Seven Acts of Mercy, several depictions of the Virgin Mary, the Passion and Crucifixion, the Descent into Hell and the Resurrection.
As far as the general history of the Church goes, there was probably originally a Saxon church on the site - the bowl of the font is probably Saxon and their is the fragment of a Saxon cross at the back of the church. There are also stones from earlier phases incorporated into the walls of the church.
The main church website speculates that the original church may well have been wasted during William's comprehensive 'Harrying of the North' as it was replaced by a Norman Church.
Pickering is a beautiful North Yorkshire market town and is well known as one of the main stations on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. If you ever come to visit, don't forget to pop into the parish church, located on a rise at the top end of the High Street, quite near to the splendid Pickering Castle.
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