Medieval reredos

Bampton, Oxfordshire, originally uploaded by Vitrearum.

Forgive my absence from the blogosphere over the last ten days. It has been a busy time. Among other things I spent a wonderful weekend showing a friend around some of Lincolnshire’s finest churches. More articles will appear over the course of the next few days. In the meantime, I return to my series on medieval stone reredos, with a the rather stunning example from Bampton in Oxfordshire. This stone panel, which still serves as the high altar reredos, dates from the very end of the fourteenth century. Christ in Majesty is flanked by figures of the twelve apostles, each one set under a separate canopy, each holding their attribute. Presumably this is a visualisation of the eschatological vision of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel: ‘Jesus said to them [the disciples], ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Matthew 19.28)

Dear old Nikolaus Pevsner is rather dismissive of the quality of this reredos, he describes it as ‘rustic’ and the figures as ‘stumpy’, I hope that Eric Hardy’s photo of it proves that Pevsner is a little unfair. Agreed it has rather a naive charm about it, but I think it a successful piece and has a degree of visual power. Among other things note the remains of polychromy, coloured backgrounds and coloured highlights on the figures. The figures seem to have had gilded hair and the backgrounds were alternately red and blue.

3 thoughts on “Medieval reredos

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  1. What amazes me is that this reredos is intact and didn’t succumb to iconoclast fury! Was it dug up from somewhere, or reversed and used as paving?


  2. The Blessed NP ought to have been amazed and thankful that the reredos survived at all. Had seen and admired it on your Flickr site. Thanks for posting it here with comment and with the bonus of Eric Hardy’s shot.


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