Arma Christi – Thomas Waryn of Preston St Mary

Here, Suffolk Record Office’s Carol Henwood gives a personal account of an exciting discovery she made while transcribing an early will.

“Thomas Waryn wrote his will in 1524.  Transcribing the will was something of a challenge because it has been so damaged that large chunks are missing.  But our group of transcribers have worked on many wills with bits missing and, with the help of Clive Paine, the final version is reasonable.”

Among other things, Waryn requested to be buried inside the porch of the church of St Mary at Preston.

“I asked Clive if he knew Preston church, was there anything in the porch.  He made a drawing of the porch (which later proved to be entirely accurate) which corresponded with Waryn’s wishes.  Interestingly, the guide to the church attributed the tomb to someone else but, armed with my information, the guide is being rewritten.”

The porch of St Mary's, where Thomas Waryn is likely buried

The porch of St Mary’s, where Thomas Waryn is likely buried

Other requests made by Waryn are no longer visible.  For example, he requested images at “Perkyn’s Cross”:

“Ite(m) I wyll to have att perkyns Crosse 4 Imagys one of the Cruc[ifixion the second] of ower lady the thyrde of saynt John [the Baptist to] stond at the hyther syd of [the cro]sse to warde [Sa]int Thom(a)s The 4th of sa[int Thomas of C]aunterbery to stond on the further syd”

Perkyn’s cross is, however, nowhere to be seen, no doubt swept away during later refurbishments.  His will also requested images of the Arma Christi to be placed upon the church’s rood screen (which has long since disappeared) and it is here that Carol’s learning began:

“I knew nothing about them [the Arma Christi] so I raided the internet, and Clive’s knowledge, for help.  They are the Weapons of Christ, or Instruments of the Passion.   There are about 10 primary instruments and maybe 30 more, depending on the country  in which they are found.  They include: the cross where Jesus was crucified; the sponge on which he was offered vinegar; the three nails, or scourges which attached him to the cross; the dice with which the Roman soldiers played; the 30 pieces of silver as the price of Judas’ betrayal.  Waryn wanted his Arma Christi on the rood.  There is no rood in place now, but the Arma Christi are still there: the east wall features some exotic decoration, influenced by Henry Griffin Williams who was Rector from 1854 until his death in 1870 and was also a professor of arabic studies.  The Arma Christi are represented within a row of tiles, either side of the reredos, and at dado level.”

Whether Henry Griffin Williams was aware of Waryn’s Arma Christi on the rood, and remembered them in the 19th Century tile motifs, or whether it is just a coincidence, we may never know.

Arma Christi at St Mary's Church, Preston: dice and crown of thorns

Arma Christi at St Mary’s Church, Preston: dice and crown of thorns

Hammer and pincers

Hammer and pincers

Ladder

Ladder

Three nails

East wall showing decoration with Arab influences

East wall showing decoration with Arab influences