st faith, little witchingham, Norfolk

Medieval pilgrims encountered strange and new devotions to unfamiliar saints, devotions that they often took home with them. This may well have been how this small church, deep in the Norfolk countryside, came to be dedicated to the young martyr of Agen, in SW France. Early in the 14th cent, Little Witchingham church received the extensive wall paintings it still bears; otherwise it rested in the shadow of its opulent neighbour at Great Witchingham, with angel roof (1493) and Seven Sacrament font.

Time passed, pestilence and (late medieval) climate change shrank the community, and by the mid-20th century the church had slipped into disuse. One day in 1967, Eve Baker climbed through a window into the semi-derelict building to take a closer look; she was a national expert on mural paintings. Within a few years a campaign began to safeguard the church and the paintings.

The deep red pictures, some fragmentary, still cover much of the nave and aisle walls. Today we have come to see the finest high on the north nave wall, instantly recognizable I as the incredulity of Thomas, a visual version of John 20.27-8: ‘Then saith he to Thomas, ‘Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said unto him, ‘My Lord and my God’.’

Once forsaken, now resurrected, Little Witchingham church is almost a parable in itself. Pray for all doubting Christians, that their faith may be strengthened by the Risen Christ.

Give thanks for all believers who give new life to flagging congregations and to neglected buildings, and pray for the repose of the soul of Gordon James, priest, who did much to ensure the survival of Little Witchingham church. Grid reference TG 115202

Simon Cotton