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Visually impaired visitors invited to feel paintings, using 3D guide

02 June 2023

St Mary’s Chalgrove

One of the wall painting in St Mary’s Chalgrove

One of the wall painting in St Mary’s Chalgrove

A CHURCH famed for its medieval wall-paintings has produced a tactile guide that allows anyone with impaired sight to “‘feel”’ the artworks.

It has been devised by a group from the congregation of St Mary’s, Chalgrove, in Oxford diocese, who are responsible for interpretation of the Grade I listed church’s heritage. They have already produced a 50-page illustrated guide to the paintings, a smartphone app, and iTouch guides.

“I was blown away with how accessible it was, and the fantastic work that has gone into making it user friendly for the visually impaired community,” Devante Claridge, a community-engagement worker with the charity MyVision, said. “Being giving access to specialist equipment really enabled the church to come alive at the palm of my hand and visualise my surroundings, with limited sight no longer a barrier.”

The guide is made with “Swell” paper, which is specially treated to expand on contact with ink when heated, to create a 3D surface. It comprises sets of six images with accompanying audio descriptions. They are linked to the images through RNIB PenFriend technology, which enables the user to listen to the descriptions of what they are feeling with their fingers.

The paintings on the upper walls of the chancel date from the first half of the 14th century. They show the childhood and Passion of Jesus, and the death and assumption of the Virgin Mary. In about 1547, during the Reformation, they were limewashed over, and were rediscovered and uncovered only in 1858.

The Vicar of St Mary’s, the Revd Michael Lakey, said: “Far more than beautiful decoration, the sacred art in our nation’s churches exists to tell and retell the story of God’s salvation of humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.

“We translate our Bibles from Ancient Hebrew and Greek into Modern English because we are convinced that this story is for everyone, without exception. I see this fabulous project, led and implemented by our dedicated team, as a natural extension of that impulse, and I warmly invite you to visit our church and give it a try.”


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