1. Sacred Destinations
  2. England
  3. Salisbury
  4. St Thomas Becket Church

St Thomas Becket Church, Salisbury

Exterior view of St Thomas Church, Salisbury. View all images in our St Thomas Becket Church Photo Gallery.
Nave looking east.
Last Judgment painting.
Painting on a nave arch.
Chapel in the south aisle.
Cafe in the north transept.

The Church of St. Thomas Becket in Salisbury dates from the mid-15th century and is especially notable for its medieval mural of the Last Judgment.

History

The big town church of Salisbury was built around 1220 as a place of worship for the masons working on the 13th-century Salisbury Cathedral. It was rebuilt around 1450 and bears the emblems of the townspeople who paid for it.

The Last Judgment mural was completed in 1475. The work was painted over in 1593 (well after the Reformation) and remained hidden until it was discovered and restored in 1881.

In England's Thousand Best Churches, Simon Jenkins gives the Church of St. Thomas three stars out of five.

What to See

The church's most notable feature, the Last Judgment or "Doom" mural, fills the wall above the chancel arch and greets you as you walk in. Pre-restoration drawings confirm that this composition is original to 1475 and the details are familiar from other 15th-century murals. The color has faded quite a bit, but the completeness of the work is remarkable, as is the detailed backdrop featuring buildings, trees and landscape.

As in other depictions of this scene, the Doom mural depicts Christ in judgment with the apostles in the center, with the blessed on the left and the damned on the right. A frightening Devil can be seen to the right of the arch, with an ale-wife beneath him. Interestingly, the demons lack the customary instruments of torture. This being a town church, bishops but no merchants are included among the damned! The two saints at the foot of the mural are St. James and St. Osmund.

The nave and aisles of St. Thomas' Church are in the Perpendicular style. Slim pillars are topped with foliated capitals, and clear glass windows overlook the market buildings outside. The carved timber roof includes crested and painted beams and more than 100 angels in various locations.

The south chapel, built by William Swayne around 1450, displays a primitive mural of nativity scenes on its north wall and a fine classical reredos and wrought-iron screen. There are fragments of medieval stained glass in the windows, including the Virgin tending a garden of lilies.

In the north aisle, look for the coat of arms of Elizabeth I, with lion and dragon supporters. This would have hung above the chancel arch when the mural was painted over.


Quick Facts on St Thomas Becket Church

Site Information
Names:St. Thomas Becket Church; St. Thomas Becket Church, Salisbury
City:Salisbury
State:Wiltshire
Country:England
Categories:Churches
Faiths:Christianity; Catholic; Anglican
Feat:Gothic Murals
Styles:Gothic
Dates:13th-15th C
Status:active
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Salisbury, England
Coordinates:51.069017° N, 1.797005° W  (view on Google Maps)
Website:www.stthomassalisbury.co.uk
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of St Thomas Becket Church

Below is a location map and aerial view of St Thomas Becket Church. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Personal visit (August 22, 2006).
  2. Simon Jenkins, England's Thousand Best Churches (2001), 737.
  3. The Rough Guide to England, 7th ed. (May 2006), 282.
  4. Parish of St Thomas and St Edmund, Salisbury - official website

More Information

Article Info

Title:St Thomas Becket Church, Salisbury
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:11/20/2009
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/england/salisbury-st-thomas-church/england/salisbury-st-thomas-church
Link code:<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/england/salisbury-st-thomas-church/england/salisbury-st-thomas-church">St Thomas Becket Church, Salisbury</a>