Fring Church

At Fring in Norfolk, sits a lovely old Early English church. Simon Knott on the Norfolk Churches website describes it as “sprawl[ing] in its churchyard like a great lazy lion”. I like this very much. One of its many remarkable features is a gigantic medieval painting of St Christopher facing the visitor as he steps through the door. Most medieval churches would have been colourfully painted from top to bottom. At the Reformation and during the Commonwealth, these cheerful relics of popery were covered in whitewash; Christian faith was now about listening to the word, not goggling at images. Presumably, some later generation saw fit to peel off this white coat and behold the glories beneath. And very fine it is too. His face and the child he carries cannot be seen; early protestants may have done a more thorough job concealing the faces than the rest.

It was traditional to have such paintings facing the main, south door. A similar arrangment is seen at St Mary the Virgin, Sedgford. The medieval worshipper thought that by gazing at St Christopher, he might not die that evening. Villagers would therefore call at the church each evening and get their spiritual elixir even if there was no sacrament available. We might pity their superstition, but during the Black Death when people really were dropping like flies, nipping to the church to see old St Chris seemed a reasonable way to survive the night. It was probably just as effective as the contemporary physicians’ remedies, and much cheaper too.

People now, like then, are afraid to die. Life is tough, but death is scarier. Each one of us shall enter eternity according to God’s providence, neither a minute sooner nor later. It is not to St Christopher, some other saint or any human to whom we must look, but to Jesus Christ Himself. God said in Isaiah 45:22:

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”

Do not gaze at churches, saints, preachers and pastors. None can help you, only Christ Jesus Himself:

“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” John 11:26