In and out of time in the Medieval Parish Church Dr Meg Bernstein, Visiting Fulbright Scholar
History of Art Research Seminar Series
While the parishioners at the church of St. Peter in Chaldon (Surrey) face the altar to the east during the mass, an arresting scene plays out behind them. On the west wall of the church, a mural (c. 1200) depicts angels, demons, and naked souls interacting in a perplexing composition depicting heaven and hell, connected by a ladder that likely represents an early, experimental idea of purgatory. Although the end of time is a popular theme appearing in both painted and sculpted form in parish churches in this era, it is also within these very places where earthly time is framed through baptismal and funeral rites, the passing liturgical seasons, and the realities of the agricultural calendar. This seminar discusses this dichotomy by exploring conceptions of time and space, with the medieval parish church as a vessel for the marking and imagining of time.