Rochester Cathedral Fresco
Visitor highlights of Rochester Cathedral include:
- Early English style choirs and transept,
- 13th century wheel of Fortune fresco.
The wheel of fortune is a concept by which it is possible to grade society, and fix our position within it. The wheel appears as a device that moves. At the same time it is a machine: an instrument of manual labour. The Rochester wheel has characters ordered like court cards:
- Fortune, pictured as a queen, is robed in yellow, and regulates the movement of her wheel, of the same colour, with her right hand.
- At her feet a man, plainly clad in a dark red gown, with green stockings and black shoes, is trying to gain a position on the wheel.
- Above him, another figure, whose attire is correspondingly richer, has risen halfway to the summit, and . His gown is a little lighter in colour, and has a hood to match; his sleeves are yellow, his stockings green, and his shoes ornamented.
- At the top is proudly and comfortably seated the present favourite, richly arrayed in a full robe of red turned up with white, with furs round his neck, a white belt and green hose. He looks towards the missing half of the picture, where others were no doubt represented as falling or fallen from the high place that he now holds.
The wheel of fortune is a symbol rich in interpretations. The characters trade places by ascending, falling, or as the wheel revolves. The turn of the wheel was an idea from the Middle Ages, but it is also conceptualised within art of the Victorian industrial revolution - at which time the Rochester fresco was recovered. Evelyn Waugh describes an equivalent 20th century wheel at the end of the novel Decline and Fall .