Medieval graffiti ‘peacock’ discovered in Sudbury church
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Most people would be aghast to discover graffiti on the walls of a historic property.
But when there’s a chance it could have been created hundreds of years ago by medieval pilgrims, it takes on a very different meaning.
This is the case in Sudbury’s St Peter’s Church, where graffiti experts recently discovered what looks like a peacock etched into a pillar close to the church organ.
Although they are yet to analyse the origins of the find – or work out what tool would have been used to carve it out – Roger Green, of the Friends of St Peter’s group, is very excited about the discovery.
He said: “There are lots of markings in various parts of the church but when the group of graffiti experts from Essex visited recently it turned out to be a rich harvest because what they found was quite significant.
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“I love discovering new things in St Peter’s and I was completely bowled over to be introduced to the ‘peacock’.
“I have passed it so many times since 1973 when I became involved with the church but I have never noticed it before.
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“It’s wonderful to have a newly-discovered work of art.”
Mr Green believes much of the graffiti in the church could have been created by pilgrims making their way to the shrine of St Edmund in the abbey at Bury St Edmunds – a theory that has been supported by experts.
“The pilgrims would have slept in St Peter’s overnight because it was a day’s walk on to the Abbey,” he continued.
“They would have poked their noses into the side door which led into the chapel where there was a statue of St Christopher which they would have prayed to for a safe onward journey.
“Although it’s now used mainly as a storeroom, you can find several marks left by the pilgrims on the walls in there including at least two crucifixion scenes.
“On the nave columns you can also find many examples of apotropaic markings – which were said to ward off evil.”
Such is the wealth of graffiti in St Peter’s the Essex team could not complete the task in one session and are planning to return in the near future.
Mr Green added: “Graffiti has a bad name and perhaps it often deserves it. But in medieval times, it was a way for the pilgrims to talk to other people, link with the local community and show their support as they made their way on their journey.
“I am sure people will have theories about the peacock but in a way it’s lovely to have these enigmas.”