Saving the Doom Painting
Note to visitors: The doom painting and the roof are temporarily not visible because of scaffolding needed for restorers to clean and stabilise the painting and to clean two of the angel ceiling panels. We expect the scaffolding to come down by the end of October 2019. We apologise for the inconvenience, but we must do this work to preserve the fabric of St Thomas's. As a temporary replacement, there is a large display about the painting in the rear left corner of the church, including a high-definition photo of the painting.
A uniquely valuable survivor from the 15th century, the St Thomas’s Doom Painting dates from 1470 and dominates the chancel arch. Painted over in 1593 and uncovered in 1881 its Victorian restoration has not disguised its historic origins, nor distorted its medieval appearance. A vivid description of the medieval concept of ‘Heaven and Hell’, this image was intended as a graphic warning of the fate of those who transgressed. The message is timeless and still has the power to focus our thoughts in this less than innocent age.
Now undergoing urgently needed renovation, The Doom Painting represents a church treasure of international importance.
|Christ in Majesty
Seated on a rainbow Jesus, with the apostles seated below, oversees the judgement of who is saved and who is damned.
An Angel escorts a fortunate saved person on their journey upward to the heavenly city.
|The Devil and Ale Wife
Cheerful in his work the devil is assisted by copious amounts of beer served up by a willing ale wife.
|The Jaws of Hell
The unfortunate begin their fateful journey to the lower regions. As St Thomas’s is a city church it is notable that some of the clergy, not the merchant class, are amongst those on the way down!
|Why was it in danger?|
Over time the plaster supporting the painting has, in places, become separated from the wall.
There are a number of cracks in the plaster and painting that through time have appeared through movement in the church building. These are of no real concern structurally but need to be addressed to achieve a good overall surface. They are being filled and the surface retouched and made good as required.
Due to aging some of the painted surface has become brittle and lost surface adhesion. The areas of lost surface sometimes reveal traces of the medieval original.
Well over a century’s worth of grime and accumulated dirt impair the surface quality and our ability to fully appreciate the painting.
|How it is being restored|
To fix the plaster mortar is injected behind the loose layer. A sprung loaded press then pushes the plaster against the wall and mortar so that it sets to provide a secure bonding.
Cracks are being filled with mortar and the surface retouched and made good as required.
|Cleaning the surface
A combination of surface wiping and brushing will remove most of the grime affecting the surface. The ripples in the painting surface have attracted dust and dirt that can be brushed and gently removed. More stubborn and ingrained dirt will require various grades of surface wiping, using approved solvents as necessary.
Where paint has fallen off and been lost careful painting and retouching will be skilfully applied. This will precisely match the colour and form of the existing painting to retain the integrity and continuity of the image. After all work the whole surface will be stabilised and fixed as appropriate.
The Renewal of St Thomas’s
Help us save the Church of Angels