The medieval doom painting, Holy Trinity Church

Dr Miriam Gill, associate lecturer for the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Leicester

 

The Doom painting at Holy Trinity Church dates from the 1430s. It shows the Last Judgement; 'doom' means 'judgement' in Old English. Doom paintings were a common sight in the Catholic churches of medieval England. The Holy Trinity mural is one of the most complete and legible of over sixty known Doom paintings.

The mural fills the east wall of the nave. This location gives prominence to this important subject with its message of hope and warning and was the most common position for a Doom painting. The painting dates from the 1430s, after the remodelling of the central tower and the addition of the clerestory and present wooden roof to the nave.

The Holy Trinity Doom was whitewashed over during the Reformation but rediscovered in 1831. It was restored and treated with a dark varnish which rapidly obscured the painting. The painting was 'discovered' again in 1986 and carefully revealed and conserved in the 1990s.

The Doom painting imagery

The complex imagery of Doom paintings draws on a range of writings in the Bible and other traditions. However, most Doom paintings focus on the same identfiable subjects: Christ in judgement, the naked figures of the resurrected and constrasting images of Heaven and Hell.

The central focus of the of the Coventry Doom is Christ with hands raised in judgement, an open cloak revealing wounds to his body and with a globe of the world at his feet. The twelve apostles are positioned either side of him, including St Peter on his left and St Paul on his right. Angels with horns blow the last trump.

Figures, including popes, cardinals, kings and queens, rise from their tombs to be judged. The Virgin (left) and St John the Baptist (right) kneel beside Christ interceding for souls. Steps to the doorway to Heaven, depicted as a large city, are diagonally opposite to the mouth of Hell, which contains souls licked by flames.

Holy Trinity Doom cropped
Holy Trinity Doom Mouth of Hell

Holy Trinity Doom with Christ as the central figure
© Photograph by Paul Gardner

The terrifying Mouth of Hell
© Photograph by Paul Gardner

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