The series of murals in St. Agatha's church Easby is a picture-story of God, his covenant with all humanity throughout all time.
The wall paintings in St. Agatha's Church, Easby, which date from around 1250 AD, were discovered during the Victorian restoration of the church, and were restored in 1994 by Perry Lithgow, supported by a grant from English Heritage. They had been covered with lime-wash during the sixteenth century Reformation, probably during the reign of Edward VI, son of Henry VIII. This was in order to obliterate anything deemed to be 'childish superstition'. The paradox of this, of course, is the attempt to remove them actually resulted in their survival, because paintings such as these were never meant to be permanent, but rather replaced when they had deteriorated or become outdated (Rouse, page 9).
Who were the painters? Sadly, they are unknown for Easby as they are for most village churches. They were probably journeymen, who travelled from place to place. The technique used in England was to cover the entire surface to be painted with plaster, after which it was finished with a coat of lime-putty. Colours were made from mixing iron oxides, the commonest of which were red and yellow ochres, within which a wide range of shades was possible. Blue was rarely used, but a skilful mixing of black and white with prime colours could produce a wide colour range.
The Easby murals are significant for several reasons, including they are of an early date, c 1250 A.D., and also because they were painted during the pivotal time of the thirteenth century when the focus of teaching Christian doctrine moved from the Roman focus of Christ as Judge to Christ the Redeemer (Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, page 299). This is exactly what the murals at Easby symbolise.
During the medieval period murals were to be found in most parish churches, although the majority have not survived. Their purpose wasn't merely to decorate the building, but to illustrate for people the Christian message, as interpreted at that time from scripture, and probably even to reinforce the Christian message delivered during worship.
The Easby murals follow a conventional pattern for wall paintings, in that the Biblical narratives they depict are shown in a 'comic strip' arrangement, reading from left to right, beginning with the Old Testament scenes on the north wall of the chancel.
Notice, however, the suggestion God, shown as a father-figure, has not abandoned the human race, for the labourers are receiving comfort as they work.