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The Wall Paintings

'The Church of St. Mary at Battle must at one time have exhibited one of the most impressive painted interiors of the middle ages in Sussex. The whole area above the chancel arch was painted with the Three Living and the Three Dead (a warning of the emptiness of earthly rank and riches) and a great Last Judgement continued on the north and south walls of the Nave. The whole north wall of the Nave above the arcade was also painted, including the clerestory window splays.

Restoration in 1976-1978 by Clive Rouse and his associates has revealed the following: at the east end of the north wall, now partly concealed by new organ pipes, is a great procession of Blessed Souls about to be received into heaven by St. Peter part of the Last Judgement.  The whole of the rest of the wall is occupied by a series representing the life of St. Margaret of Antioch in twenty-four scenes. She is alleged to have lived in the Middle East in the fourth century and was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages, being invoked by women in childbirth. The scenes here are clearly based on the Life given in the Legenda Aurea of Nicholas de Jacobus Voragine

The series starts at the right hand (east) end with the upper row and reads westwards to the end, when the scenes return eastwards in the lower row. The scenes are somewhat repetitive, showing the birth of the Saint, her handing over to her Christian nurse, the approach of the Roman Provost Olybrius and her subsequent tortures, finally her execution, burial, and her soul received into Heaven.

The paintings are of the highest quality, and artistically very fine and consequently of great importance. There has been a much wider range of colour than in normal parish church paintings. On stylistic grounds one would be inclined to place these paintings at the end of thirteenth century or early in fourteenth century.'    (E. Clive Rouse)

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