Saint Michael

 

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On the eve of the Reformation, parishioners of the tiny Norfolk hamlet of Wellingham began to decorate their new roodscreen. In his will of 1529, Nicholas Leverich On the eve of the Reformation, parishioners of the tiny Norfolk hamlet of Wellingham began to decorate their new roodscreen. In his will of 1529, Nicholas Leverich left 1 mark (13s 4d) towards gilding it – ‘gilding’ could alternatively mean painting. The screen bears the date 1532, the inscription mentioning donors Robert Dorant, his wives Isabell and Beatrice, those who had it painted, and John Neell.ft 1 mark (13s 4d) towards gilding it – ‘gilding’ could alternatively mean painting. The screen bears the date 1532, the inscription mentioning donors Robert Dorant, his wives Isabell and Beatrice, those who had it painted, and John Neell.

Unlike earlier screens which tend to depict individual saints, this screen features scenes, and in one of these the Archangel Michael is shown weighing souls against demons (picture 1).

Look closer, and you can see the Virgin Mary interceding by placing a rosary on the scales (picture 2), causing them to tip, to the discomfiture of the demons, sending one tumbling into space (picture 3) St Michael was a popular medieval saint. Perhaps the finest depiction of him is at Ranworth, where the screenwaspainted around 1470, showing him vigorously decapitating a multi-headed dragon (picture 4).

After the  Reformation, some screens were whitewashed and painted with ‘godly texts’. At Binham, the covering is wearing thin, and St Michael is starting to emerge (picture 5), perhaps prompting thoughts about ‘entertaining angels unawares’.

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