Touching Place

ST JOHN BAPTIST, CLAYTON, SUSSEX

Sussex seems full of little 11th c. churches. Like many others, Clayton is a small aisleless building; no tower either, just a turret covered in wooden shingles. A church at Clayton is mentioned in the Domesday Book, probably this one. You enter through an 11th c. north doorway, and there is long-and-short work in the walls too.

Turn to the left to see the simple 1 lth c. chancel arch, with none of the intricate carving you associate with later Romanesque. On either side are niches pointing to the presence of altars against the nave E wall; in the chancel is a brass for a vested 16th c. rector who would have said Mass at them ('Of ye charite pray for the soule of Mayst: Richard Idon, pson of Clayton and Pykecu').

Medieval church interiors were richly coloured, and pictures were used as teaching aids; Clayton has one of the finest surviving sets of mural painting in England, painted very soon after the construction of the church. High above the chancel arch is the figure of Christ in Glory, displaying his wounds, but not yet the suffering, dying Christ of the late Middle Ages. He is flanked by two angels, to their sides the dozen Apostles; beyond them processions of people of all stations in life continue along the nave walls. Fragments remain of a depiction of Hell. That figure of Christ in Glory is oddly familiar; did it inspire Graham Sutherland's tapestry in Coventry cathedral?

Reflect: "Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.'

Pray: spend some in thought and self-examination, then say a Te Deum, thanking God for the many things for which you are grateful.

Map ref. TQ 300139

Simon Cotton

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