St. Thomas Becket Church, Salisbury

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.

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History of St. Thomas Becket Church

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 at St. Thomas Becket Church

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
Country:England
Categories:churches
Styles:Gothic
Dedication: St. Thomas Becket
Dates:13th-15th C
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:51.069017° N, 1.797005° W
Address:St. Thomas's Square
Salisbury, England
SP1 1BA
Phone:01722/322537
Website:www.stthomassalisbury.co.uk
Hours:Usually open daily during daylight hours
Lodging:View hotels near St. Thomas Becket Church
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

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

Nave looking east. © Holly Hayes
Last Judgment painting. © Holly Hayes
Painting on a nave arch. © Holly Hayes
Chapel in the south aisle. © Holly Hayes
Cafe in the north transept. © Holly Hayes

Map of St. Thomas Becket Church, Salisbury

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