home I index I latest I glossary I introductions I e-mail I about this site
All Saints, Hemblington
the captions by hovering over the images, and click on them to
see them enlarged.
The first is one of a number of very interesting, even idiosyncratic, fonts in this part of Norfolk. These do not appear to be part of a series, although this one does bear a strong resemblance to that nearby at Buckenham. They do suggest, however, that there was an abundance of stonecarvers working in this area in the 15th century, and that parishes were able to express their independence and individuality in their choice of subject. The Reformation would put a stop to that.
The Hemblington font was recoloured lightly in the 1930s under the eye of Professor Tristram. It is a great celebration of Saints; there are seven seated on the panels of the bowl, and eight more standing around the shaft. The eighth panel subject is a beautiful Holy Trinity, with God the Father seated holding his crucified Son between his knees, while the dove of the Spirit descends. It is a charming image; there is another on the font at Acle a few miles off. Among the Saints on the panel are St Augustine, St Edward the Confessor, St Barbara, and a striking St Agatha - she sits with her breasts bared, a sword descending. Among those around the shaft are St Lawrence with a finely carved grid iron, St Leonard with his manacles, St Margaret dispatching a dragon with her cross, St Catherine with her wheel and sword, St Stephen and St Mary Magdalene.
If there was only the font, Hemblington would be a must-see for anyone interested in the late medieval period. But just as the font demonstrates the enthusiasms of the cool, rational 15th century, so there is evidence of the shadowier devotions of a century earlier. This is the best single surviving wall painting of the narrative of St Christopher in England. The giant figure bestrides the river opposite the south doorway, just as he does in about twenty churches in this part of Norfolk, but here his staff has become a club, and on either bank there are smaller scenes depicting events in the Saint's story. those on the west side, recalling his life as a pagan before conversion, are all but obliterated. Those on the east side, however, are marvellously well-preserved, vivid and immediate in their clarity. They show the trials and tribulations he underwent in his life as a Christian, including the occasion on which two women were sent to tempt him in prison, and another where he is led to the executioner's sword. Another shows him tied to a tree being flogged, an echo of the scourging of Christ; another shows him being shot through with arrows, which would have immediately brought to mind the martyrdom of their own dear St Edmund to the medieval East Anglians.
The donors who paid for the font, in that great, late medieval attempt to reinforce Catholic orthodoxy in the face of local abuses and superstitions, are probably among those remembered by brass inscriptions in the nave.
Simon Knott, November 2007
Amazon commission helps cover the running costs of this site.
home I index I latest I introductions I e-mail I about
this site I glossary
Norwich I ruined churches I desktop backgrounds I round tower churches
links I small print I www.simonknott.co.uk I www.suffolkchurches.co.uk