'Coventry Doom' – Coventry, England - Atlas Obscura
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Coventry, England

'Coventry Doom'

This amazing 15th-century mural remained hidden in plain sight for centuries. 

The Holy Trinity Church in the center of Coventry, England dates back to at least the 13th century. It has great architectural merit in its own right, but the real star of the show is the “Coventry Doom.”

Doom paintings were common features in English medieval churches, but few have survived to this day. This intriguing artwork stretches across an arch underneath the tower. Built in the early 15th century, the painting pre-dates other masterpieces, like Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, by several years.

The Doom Painting is a remarkable survivor of years of abuse and neglect. After the English Reformation, Puritan clerics covered the artwork in whitewash. This was done because during the reign of Elizabeth I, such images were considered too popish.

Then, after a painstaking (but essentially botched) 19th-century restoration, the painting was varnished with the wrong material. The varnish quickly darkened and eventually went black, shrouding the image until it was rediscovered in 1986, after a small fire in the church burned away some of the concealing material.

The painting was again restored and was revealed in its current state in 2004. Today, you can clearly see Christ at the center with acts of charity and the route to heaven on one side and uncharitable acts and the route to hell on the other. The gates to heaven and hell, as understood at the time, are clearly depicted.

Know Before You Go

To find the church, follow the signs to Coventry Cathedral then walk about 200 yards, roughly south, toward the nearest tall spire.

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