No, this is not a reference to Russian “tourists” misbehaving in the city but to the fact that I have just caught up with a post from February on Andrew Cusack’s blog about the restoration of the Doom Painting in the church of St Thomas in Salisbury. I have copied and republished his post in extenso:
Among the many joys of Salisbury, the chief town of one of England’s finest counties, is the medieval painting of the Apocalypse in the Church of St Thomas of Canterbury. I love a good Doom, and the Salisbury Doom is one of the finest examples to have survived the Anglican Church’s iconoclasts. Painted sometime between 1470 and 1500, it is complete with jaws of Hell, alewives, angels, demons, Christ in Majesty, the lot.
Such paintings were widespread in Catholic England where they served as a vital reminder to the faithful worshipping below of not just the torments of Hell but also the joys of Heaven. In the aftermath of the Protestant revolt, however, such vivid imagery was frowned upon, and the Salisbury Doom was painted over with limewash in 1593. Christ in Majesty was replaced by the royal arms of the usurper queen, Elizabeth I.
It was then forgotten about till its rediscovery in 1819 when hints of colour were discovered behind the royal arms. The limewash was removed, the remnants of the painting were revealed, recorded by a local artist, and then covered over yet again in white. Finally in 1881 the Doom was revealed to the world and subject to a Victorian attempt at restoration with mixed results.
Work on the church’s ceiling in the 1990s allowed experts to better examine the Doom which determined that, while there was a bit of fading, dirt was hanging loosely to the painting and it would be ripe for restoration. It has only been more recently, however, that money has been raised to restore the Doom.
There are other glories in this church yet to be restored, about which more information can be found on the parish’s website.The Clever Boy would add that it is indeed good to see the painting cleaned and restored. He is also tempted to suggest that a policy of reintroducing such art works into churches might not be such a bad idea - it might concentrate the minds of the not so faithful.
The Salisbury Doom before restoration (above) and after (below).Elsewhere: Future looks bright for Salisbury’s doom-laden church masterpiece (The Times)