The whole scene is clearly designed to emphasise the terrors of Hell and to point the moral to medieval minds – and even perhaps our own – that God is no respecter of persons. Note the bishop and crowned heads among the condemned, and also the motto at the bottom, “Nulla est Redemptio” – “There is no escape for the wicked”.
The history of the Doom is extraordinary. The painter is unknown, but he is believed to be English, influenced greatly by contemporary Flemish schools. He painted it in about 1470.
In 1593, at the Reformation, the painting was whitewashed over and was eventually forgotten until, in 1819 faint traces of colour revealed in cleaning showed that something was there. The whitewash was then carefully removed and the painting revealed, but today we do not know what state it was in or even exactly what it looked like, as for some extraordinary reason it was covered with whitewash again. A drawing was made at the time but there is considerable doubt as to its accuracy.
The painting was not uncovered again until 1881 when the whitewash was finally removed and the painting restored. It was cleaned and retouched again in 1953, but has not since been touched.