4.3 The Chancel: the bishop and crucifix and the dragons over the Vicar's door

Although there must have been paintings between the two windows on the south side of the chancel, Wheler (1806, 105) noted that whatever had been there had been 'so completely destroyed, previous to removing the coats of whitewash in 1804, that scarce a trace remained'. Fisher confirms this in his plan of the chapel. As far as can be established, there are no missing scenes from The Legend of the Cross that these images might have represented. Their destruction might suggest that whatever was here was considered so controversial during the Reformation that it was removed entirely. Alternatively, the damage to this area of the chancel may reflect its use as a chamber and the construction or addition of semi-permanent fixtures and fittings to this part of the wall during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Two further images do survive on the south wall (see model). The first is a pair of red and greyish dragons, placed over the arch of the Vicar's door, with arrow-shaped tongues extending across the apex towards each other. To the left of the dragons was a 'tolerably well preserved' image of a bishop 'in pontificalibus' kneeling before a crucifix, accompanied by two figures - a young man holding his crozier and a rather large 'spectator'. Nichols (in Fisher 1838, 4) suggested that this was probably a depiction of the Bishop of Worcester, from whom the guild secured their original licence. An alternative explanation is that the image is that of the 15th-century Bishop of Worcester, John Carpenter, who had a particular devotion to the Holy Cross. More mysterious perhaps is the over-sized individual, also depicted gazing at the Cross. If this scene is a statement about those involved in the foundation and re-foundation of the guild, it is possible that this figure represents an earlier Master, or perhaps Hugh Clopton himself?

4.4 The Chancel: the Five Wounds and the Eucharist

Fisher's plan does not record the precise location of two further images recorded in the chancel: the Five Wounds (Figure 17) and the Eucharist (Figure 18). Davidson (1988, 28) records these as being located at the west end of the south wall of the chancel, but Wheler (1806, 105) describes the Eucharist as being 'above' the scene of the bishop (see model). Wheler also records the presence of the Five Wounds here, of which 'only the lower subdivision remained perfect', showing 'on a red ground the heart, hands and feet of Christ, pierced with nails and spear and bleeding'. By the 15th century the depiction of the crucified Christ was ubiquitous and often associated with altars (Rosewell 2008, 41). This might suggest the location of a subsidiary altar beneath this scene, since there were two altars recorded in the chancel in the consecration licence of 1427/8.

Figure 17  Figure 18

Figure 17: The Five Wounds, Stratford-upon-Avon Guild Chapel, Thomas Fisher (1838), Plate N (© Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive, Fol. 87/33, reproduced with permission of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust).
Figure 18: The Eucharist, Stratford-upon-Avon Guild Chapel Thomas Fisher (1838), Plate M (© Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive, Fol. 87/33, reproduced with permission of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust).


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