4.12 The nave west wall: Pride or 'The Whore of Babylon' (north side: upper compartment)


In 1804, there was some confusion about the iconography of the image located in the lower compartment of the north side of the west wall of the nave (see model). Wheler described the figure as 'an allegory of the dangers of luxury', or a 'personification of Mammon' (1814, 57). He thought the figure to be male, being presented with a money box by evil spirits and surrounded by angels with scrolls containing latin inscriptions, which he noted had been 'partly mutilated', and the face of God, which had been 'erased' (Wheler 1806, 100). Interestingly, Fisher did not label this image on his scaled plan of the church, and this may have been one of the images that Fisher struggled to identify and about which he asked Gough for advice (Bodleian Ms 17790 f.323-326).

By 1892 Fisher's drawings had been considered in the context of other surviving paintings by the medieval wall paintings expert Charles E. Keyser (1892, 343), who suggested that the scene was a representation of Pride. Medieval images of Pride were represented as part of a series of Seven Deadly Sins, in medallions or compartments, where they were often juxtaposed with Corporal Acts of Mercy (Keyser 1892, 343). Two different depictions of Pride were common. At Alveley (Shropshire), a late 14th-century image of a clothed female Pride is shown with sins emanating from her that are shown as predominantly male. At Little Horwood and at Padbury (Bucks), two 15th-century paintings depict naked men with sins attached to relevant parts of their bodies (Keyser 1892, 333). At Stratford, Pride was already depicted in The Doom painting, as a figure with a scroll labelled 'Superbia' being carried off to Hell by a donkey-headed demon and in The Dance of Death, where Pride was included in the lower tier of paintings in compartment 13, underneath an image of the Physician.

Gill has suggested that the naked female figure accompanied by animal attributes and wearing peacock figures at Stratford-upon-Avon is a version of a Central European figure representing the Seven Deadly Sins, known as Frauwelt. However, Davidson (1988, 31) has argued that the Stratford-upon-Avon image was a representation of The Whore of Babylon, drawing on the Apocalypse, indicated by the inclusion of red flames rising from the earth in the lower part of the scene. The cup depicted in the female figure's right hand would then be the Cup of Abomination, with God looking down from Heaven and two angels pointing accusingly at the figure, suspended in the air.

The model and the paintings

The model juxtaposes Fisher and Puddephat's drawings of the image once more. Interestingly, neither Wheler nor Puddephat (Figure 29) appears to have attempted to transcribe the texts within this scene, but support for Davidson's hypothesis appears to be provided by the scroll just beneath the Cup of Abomination, which clearly contains the word 'babilonis' within it.

4.13 The heraldry of the Guild Chapel

The heraldry of the Guild Chapel has been carefully studied and reconstructed by W.T. Collins (1991), drawing on the evidence from antiquarian sources, such as Dugdale (1730), the Victoria County History (1945).

Dugdale recorded four shields formerly in the windows of the Chapel. The first of these may well have been designed to represent Henry IV, who granted the guild their first licence (France Modern and England quarterly; which Dugdale attributed to Henry VII, but see Collins 1991, 139). The second appears to be the arms of John Carpenter, Bishop of Worcester (1444-76). The Bishop of Worcester was an important figure for the Guild of the Holy Cross. It was John Coutances, Bishop of Worcester, who founded the town in the late 12th century, and his 13th-century successor, Bishop Giffard, who granted the Guild its first licence in 1269. But John Carpenter, Bishop of Worcester Dictionary of National Biography is of particular significance for Clopton's scheme because he is extremely likely to have been related to the London John Carpenter, Clerk of London, and patron of the Dance of Death at St. Paul's cloister (Dictionary of National Biography). Moreover, Carpenter had a particular devotion to the cult of the Holy Cross, as recent discoveries of paintings depicting Carpenter's funeral procession at Westbury-on-Tryme, Bristol, have revealed (Cannon 2010).

The third shield described by Dugdale is also of interest, since it appears to have been that of the merchant John Hanney (Handys/Hannys), who was Master of the Guild thirteen times between 1430-1470 (Collins 1991, 139; Macdonald 2007, 30). Hannys is of particular interest because he was the father of the mercer Thomas Hannys, who joined the guild in 1480 and who was apprenticed to Hugh Clopton and was an executor of Clopton's will in 1496. In his own will, proved in 1503, Thomas Hannys left money for another ambitious scheme of rebuilding — this time of the Guild's almshouses complex (TNA Prob/11/13; Macdonald 2007, 26-7).

From this analysis it is clear that although, like most late medieval paintings within the Chapel scheme, there were no overt depictions of, or references to, the patrons of the scheme, the heraldry in the sculpture and glass certainly highlighted the roles of particular families or individuals involved in, or connected to, this remarkable act of patronage. The inclusion of John Carpenter and John Hannys may suggest that donations to the scheme had been accumulating during the mid-15th century, or simply that the rebuilding was seen in part as an act of devotion in memory of key figures in the families or lives of men such as Hugh Clopton and Thomas Hannys.


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