Interpretation of the Mural

According to research done at Leicester University by Miriam Gill, the Hardwick wall-painting represents in its lower part the Seven Deadly Sins:

Pride
Envy
Anger
Avarice
Sloth
Gluttony
Lust
and in its upper part the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy:

Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Welcome the stranger
Clothe the naked
Visit the sick
Visit the prisoner
Bury the dead
though only five of the latter are known to be present.

Apparently wall paintings with this theme were not uncommon in English churches in medieval times, though most have been destroyed or obliterated. Hardwick was one of just twenty churches used in the Leicester University study, the others being: Arundel, Brooke, Catfield, Dalham, Hoxne, Hunworth, Ingatestone, Kentford, Kingston, Milcomb, Milton Abbas, Netherbury, Oddington, Quatt, Ruabon, Ruislip, Stanningfield and Trotton. Hardwick is unusual in that the Sins are portrayed riding on animals, the only other place where this is found being Langar in North Wales.

Element type Times depicted Number of figures Gender of main figure Gender of secondary figure Attributes of main figure Attributes of secondary fig
Pride 1 1 M bearded, crowned, sword in right hand, riding on lion
Avarice 1 1 M riding on horse?
Envy 1 1 M hat, riding on dog?
Anger 1 1 M hat, suicide, stabbing self in head, riding on deer
Lust 1 1 M hat, touching heart, riding on goat
Gluttony 1 1 M hat, drinking from cup, riding on unidentified animal
Sloth 1 1 M hat, right hand under cheek as if sleeping, riding on donkey
Feed hungry 1 2 F M veil, holding objects (loaf) in left and right hands beardless, with crutch
Drink to thirsty 1 2 F M veil, holding flagon in left hand bearded crutch and wooden right leg below knee
Welcome stranger 0 0
Clothe naked 1 2 F M bearded, loin cloth, crutch, kneeling
Visit sick 1 2 F M veil, standing over bed in bed
Visit prisoner 0 0
Bury dead 1 5 F M standing and pointing to body, in shroud, before church gathering round shrouded body

It is probable that the wall painting was whitewashed over not because of fear or rejection of superstition, as surmised by John Willis Clark in his 1859 article, but because in certain eyes it appeared to justify Redemption by Good Works rather than by Faith alone. (Thanks to Dr Graham Jones, Leicester University, for this comment.)

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