Doom paintings

Detail from a medieval Doom wall-painting, St Andrew's Church, Chesterton, Cambridge, 15th century
Last Judgement, Fra Angelico, panel painting, 1425–1430
Last Judgement, Stefan Lochner, panel painting, 1435
St James's Church, South Leigh, Oxfordshire, 15th century
Detail from the 12th-century mural at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Chaldon, in Surrey

A "Doom painting" or "Doom" is a traditional English term for a wall-painting of the Last Judgment in a medieval church. This is the moment in Christian eschatology when Christ judges souls to send them to either Heaven or Hell.[1]

The subject was very commonly painted on a large scale on the western wall of churches, so it was viewed as people left the church, and the term is typically used of these, rather than depictions of the Last Judgement in other locations or media. Many examples survive as wall-paintings in medieval churches, most dating from around the 12th to 13th centuries, although the subject was common from the 1st millennium until (in countries remaining Catholic) the Counter-Reformation. Most dooms in English churches were destroyed by government authority during the English Reformation.

The most famous of all Doom paintings, The Last Judgment by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, painted in 1537 to 1541, comes at the end of the tradition, and is unusually sited on the east wall behind the altar.

  1. ^ "doom: A painting of the Last Judgment on the chancel arch of a medieval parish church."--E. Lucie-Smith, The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms (1984); p. 68. The term remains capitalized, as the proper name of a specific incident more often than not.

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