The Twelve Apostles
The twelve apostles form the two central panels of the Ranworth rood screen
The lower panels at the centre of the Rood Screen portray the twelve Apostles. The Apostles were all witnesses to the risen Christ. They included eleven of the original disciples. Judas Iscariot was replaced by St Matthias, who rarely appears on rood screens. He was commonly substituted by the Apostle St Paul, who appears here in a central position flanking the screen arch opposite St Peter.
All the saints carry their emblems by which illiterate worshippers would recognise them. At a time when literacy was becoming more popular, their Latin names appear beneath each figure. The panels background alternates between red and green, the former symbolising love and the latter heaven. The saints are clothed in silk brocade with some of the patterns traced back to Italian fabrics produced in Lucca in the early fifteenth century. The brocades depict a range of designs including hunting scenes. Unlike the skilfully folded drapery of the cloaks the silk brocades appear to have been flattened to display their pattern more clearly.
St Simon, who holds a fish, was an early leader of the Christian church. To the right of Simon is St Thomas, known as 'Doubting Thomas', who holds a spear and is the patron saint of architects. St Bartholomew holds a book and a knife representing his gruesome martyrdom by being flayed and then beheaded by King Astages of Armenia.
Tunic of St Paul
Tunic of St Peter
Although the saints wear luxurious garments their feet are bare representing their humility. They are standing on a tiled floor composed of parti-coloured lozenges. Apart from the smaller tiles under St Paul's feet they are of uniform size. The same tile design appears under figures in a illuminated initials in the psalter section of the Ranworth Antiphoner. This suggests that the panel painters and book illuminators were working from common pattern books. On the two saints tunics hunting dogs with bell collars pounce on a swan whilst a falcon seizes a rabbit in its talons amidst stylised foliage.
St John the Evangelist
St Paul was a former Pharisee who was converted by seeing Christ on the road to Damascus. He was the author of thirteen letters, or epistles, in the New testament. St Paul holds a bible and a spiritual sword representing the word of God. He was beheaded by a sword as a Roman citizen rather than crucified as a common criminal. St John the Evangelist who was present at the crucifixion of Jesus and second witness of his resurrection is shown as a young man and is holding his symbol of a dragon inside a chalice. This represents the tradition that he was miraculously saved from poison. St Philip died a violent death being crucified upside down. He is represented with a basket of loaves.
St James the Major
St James the Major is patron saint of labourers and was killed by Herod Agrippa. To his right stands St Andrew who is patron saint of Scotland, Russia and other causes. He is holding his saltire cross on which he was traditionally crucified. St Peter holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven and an open book. St Peter was a fisherman who became the first leader of the church in Rome and was martyred by being crucified upside down on his request as he felt that having denied Christ three times he was unworthy of dying in the same way.
St James the Minor
St James the Minor, patron saint of hat makers and St Jude, patron saint of desperate cases, are brothers. St James the Minor became the patriarch of Jerusalem and was clubbed to death at the age of 96. St Matthew, patron saint of bankers, died of natural causes which was unusual for an Apostle.
The highly decorated soffit above the central panel of the twelve apostles. It depicts stylised versions of local flowers, yellow iris and forget-me-nots.