Not only did the medieval church believe in the Seven Sacraments, but it taught the faithful about them visually – in carved stone and painted wood and glass – as shown in the representation of a medieval baptism in late fifteenth-century stained glass in the East window of Tattershall church in Lincolnshire.
Visual teaching about the Seven Sacraments reached its apogee in the forty Seven Sacrament fonts made between 1450 and 1550, which feature the Sacraments on seven of their eight faces.
All but two of these are in Norfolk and Suffolk.
The font at East Dereham cost £12 13s 9d in 1468 (a sufficient sum of money to have hired a priest to say requiems for two years), whilst Laxfield font was described as ‘new’ in a will of 1503. Laxfield’s font stands on handsomely traceried Maltese-Cross shaped steps. Two scenes of baptism are shown at Salle and Sloley.
The infant has been defaced at Salle, but clearly infant baptism was the norm, by immersion. Both fonts show the priest being assisted by a cleric holding a service book; one figure at Salle may hold a chrismatory. ND