Driving up the A1065 from Swaffham to Fakenham, en route to Walsingham, you notice a signpost to Wellingham, just ½ mile away, John Timpson’s home for many years. On the eve of the Reformation, the hamlet of Wellingham enriched their church with a new roodscreen bearing the date 1532; it has some vivid paintings, like S. George and the Dragon and the Archangel Michael (ND Sept 2011). However, the most remarkable painting is the panel next to S. Michael, which only has painting on its upper half – there was almost certainly a nave altar in front of the screen – but this painting has a rich imagery encapsulating early 16th century Catholic devotion, centred upon the figure of the Christ of Pity, the Man of Sorrows standing in the tomb. The scourged figure displaying His wounds is surrounded by Passion symbols – reed and sponge with lance; ladder, sword and halberd; lantern from Gethsemane; scourge, hammer and nails; three dice; scourging pillar surmounted by cock; Pilate’s hands being washed. Above them are the crowned head of Herod and the head of Caiaphas, wearing an early 16th c. clerical cap. A priest saying Mass at this altar was faced by a superabundance of visual imagery to accompany his devotions. We may reasonably speculate that the popular votive Mass of the Five Wounds of Christ (Humiliavit) would have frequently been said there for the couple of decades until the Missal was outlawed.
He endured the nails, the spitting,
Vinegar and spear and reed;
From that holy body broken
Blood and water forth proceed:
Earth and stars and sky and ocean
By that flood from stain are freed.