a picture of John Lydgate with the initials of the
The Testament of John Lydgate:
Physical Description

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The transcription of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. All rights to the images, however, are reserved as a courtesy to the Church of the Holy Trinity, Long Melford, which partially relies on donations for its upkeep. Please contact the editor with any requests.

Long Melford, Holy Trinity Church


From the period between 1464 and 1494 the Church of the Holy Trinity in the Parish of Long Melford, Suffolk underwent an extensive remodeling and expansion, largely under the auspices of a successful wool merchant, John Clopton. He provided funds for, or was the executor or supervisor of bequests to a number of parish churches in his area, but Long Melford was Clopton’s own parish church. As part of the remodeling process he endowed a permanent chantry north of the high altar intended to serve as means for the salvation of his soul, the souls of his family, and the souls of those he was legally and morally obligated to pray for. As part of the process of building the chantry a number of verses from religious works in both Latin and English were included. Thus, the chapel itself served as a type of compilatio centered on the ideas of penance and salvation.

Manuscript Contents

  • Center Beam
    • Sections of the invocation to Christ from the Sarum litany between the litany of saints and the te rogamus. The verses are laid out so that those on the southern side of the central beam, facing towards the high altar, contain the set of phrases describing how Christ should protect the speaker while those items that Christ should protect the speaker from appear on the northern side, facing away from the high altar.
  • Crossbeams
    • Four scrolls painted on each crossbeam on the altar-facing side of the roof, but only once (on the fourth crossbeam from the east wall) on the side facing away from the altar. The text is oriented so as to be read by someone facing the altar, and the phrase "Jhesu mercy"/"And gramercy" repeats twice.
  • South Wall
    • Verses 29, 30, 27, 56, 57, 58, and 59 of the Testament of John Lydgate on a carved wooden molding.
    • Request for blessing by the saints, now badly damaged, along the base of the now-empty niches that most likely contained statues of the twelve apostles.
  • West Wall
    • Verses 60, 63, 65, 66, 68, and 69 of the Testament of John Lydgate on a carved wooden molding.
    • Verses 8, 4, 14, 17, 18, and 19 of the Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum on the bressemer.
    • Six Ars Moriendi and Contemptus Mundi verses painted at the very top of the wall underneath the bressemer.
    • Two scrolls above the squint, with "Jhesu mercy" on the first and "And gramercy" on the second.
    • Two badly damaged scrolls on the right side of the squint, of an indeterminate sequence, opposite a badly deteriorated image of the Virgin or St. Anne, with "Jhesu mercy" on the first and "And gramercy" on the second. Their positioning suggests that the entire sequence repeated this phrase.
    • Verse 4 of the Ballade at the Reveranace of Our Lady below the squint.1
  • North Wall
    • Verses 70, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, and 79 of the Testament of John Lydgate on a carved wooden molding.
    • Twentieth-Century plaque noting the financing of the chapel restoration by members of the Clopton family in the United States.
    • Seventeenth-Century funerary inscription for William Clopton
  • East Wall
    • Verses 101, 114, 115, 116, 117, and 118 of the Testament of John Lydgate on a carved wooden molding.

Physical Structure


The text of the Quis Dabit Meo Capiti Fontem Lacrimarum is composed on badly damaged painted panels intended to appear like scrollwork wrapped around a typical vinework motif

The text is composed on carved wooden panels intended to appear like scrollwork wrapped around a typical vinework motif. Each carved panel was then painted to give the appearance of lined parchment.


In keeping with the majority of the source material, the poem is laid out in eight line ballade stanzas, with line fillers where the text is too short for the provided space. However, the panel analogous to Verse 56 adds a line to the rhyme royal of Lydgate's original verse, shifting the form seen in part II of the Testament to the eight-line ballade form seen in parts I, III, and V. As the intention of the panels on which the lines were painted is to give the appearance of a single continous scroll, the left and right sides of these panels are at an angle to the orientation of the lines, but the lines themselves are presented with parallel to the ground for ease of reading.

Scribal Hand

Like the other objects in the chapel, the text of the Testament is written by what appears to be a single painter/scribe in Textura Quadrata. There is some Anglicana influence, however; it is most notable in the use of Anglicana “w” but also can be seen in the similarities between “f” and the tall “s” and the form of “r” in the “or” ligature.

Ascenders, descenders, and otiose marks

The scribe consistently splits ascenders and descenders when they are either the full height of the line (as in “b,” “h,” and “l”) or at the midpoint between full height and that of regular letters (as with “t,” “p,” and “q”). Additionally, otiose marks appear to the left or right of “f” and “t” when they are the initial or last letter in a word, at the end of “e” when it completes a word, and at the end of suspension marks.

  1. As David Griffith has pointed out (“A Newly Identified Verse Item by John Lydgate at Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk,” Notes and Queries 58.3 (Sept. 2011): 364-367)" there are remnants of at least four other panels on the west wall, but the text is largely missing and while the position suggests additional verses from the Ballade, it cannot be stated with certainty.