St Peter and St Paul Church, Chaldon is internationally renowned for the twelfth-century wall painting on the west wall of the church and the church is mentioned in the Doomsday book. The west wall is almost covered by this superb example of medieval art. The Chaldon paintings are thought to be the work of a travelling monk well-versed in Greek art. The vividly coloured painting shows the Biblical Day of Judgement.
The picture on the west wall is famous as an early English wall painting – it dates from about 1200 and is without equal in any other part of Europe. It is thought to have been painted by a travelling artist-monk with an extensive knowledge of Greek ecclesiastical art. The picture depicts the ‘Ladder of Salvation of the Human Soul’ together with ‘Purgatory and Hell’ Wall paintings of this kind were intended as a visual aid to religious teaching and they provide a wide philosophical background to such studies.
The painting, in dark red ochre and yellow ochre, measures 17ft3in x 11ft2in. At some stage, probably in the seventeenth century, during the ‘Commonwealth’, the painting was white-washed over. In 1869 when the Rector, Reverend Henry Shepherd, had decorators in to prepare the walls for re-limewashing, he noticed signs of colour and stopped the work. The workers had already reported having found some more figures on the north wall arch, which were unfortunately hacked off irretrievably, including a devil and two human figures. The Surrey Archaeological Society undertook the cleaning and preserving of the mural and Mr. J.G.Waller, an expert in these matters, undertook the restoration. A certain amount of addition of colour was made at that time. Later it was covered with a protective wax coating, which over the years caused it to lose colour owing to the growth of mould underneath. This was removed in August 1989 when the Mural was cleaned and conserved by Mr.Wolfgang Gartner, Conservator and Director of the Canterbury Wall Paintings Workshop.