CANTERBURY HISTORICAL 

& ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY (CHAS)

logo-1.2
HISTORY PAGES
ARCHITECTURE logo-1.2

Paul and the Viper

> BACK TO NOTEBOOK HOME PAGE
> BACK TO CATHEDRAL
> BACK TO FEATURES INDEX
> OTHER ITEMS IN THIS VIEWPOINT

This bible story of St Paul and the viper - how Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Melita (modern Malta), the locals lit a bonfire to warm the survivors, a viper ran from the fire and attached itself to Paul's arm, Paul shook it off and was unharmed - is told in Acts chapter 28 verse 3.  The depiction in the form of a wall painting in St Anselm's chapel dates from around the 1160s (Image 1).  A framed modern copy by E W Tristram is attached to the wall outside the chapel  (Image 2).  The painting was hidden for 700 years before it was revealed during restoration of the chapel in 1888.  A companion painting of St Peter on the opposite wall has been lost.

 

What to see:

 

  • St Paul appears on a bright blue background wearing a white tunic and buff mantle with red folds

  • the movement, poise and solidity of the figure are impressive

  • the skin tones and the folding of Paul's garments are well depicted with shades of colouring - a distinct advance on wall paintings in St Gabriel's chapel

  • note the bunch of foggots in Paul's hand, the white snake to the right, and the fire burning in the bottom right corner

  • Paul's nimbus (halo) would originally have been in gilt, and so much brighter

 

 

Sources: see standard cathedral sources;  also Tristram (1951)

DL