Our Church during the Middle Ages

 

No 27: The Changing appearance

If we were transported back in time to stand outside the church when it was first built, probably 900 years ago, we would not recognise it. There was no tower, both the nave and chancel were smaller and there was no south aisle, side chapel or vestry. In the following two centuries the church gradually expanded as the population increased and as the services became more elaborate. By the start of the 15th C we would at least have known where we were.

Inside it looked very different. There were no seats in the candle-lit nave which was strewn with straw and rushes and must have been freezing cold in winter. The congregation took little active part in the service, most of which was in Latin. There was no hymn singing.

Nonetheless, it was a place of awe and mystery to our medieval predecessors. It was the only stone-built building in the parish and by far the most impressive. The walls were painted with biblical scenes in bright colours which we know are stil there under the whitewash because patches of colour were revealed in practically every part of the church when the walls were steam cleaned in 1952. Unfortunately it was too expensive to expose anything beyond the three 13th C consecration crosses and two small texts and painting near the present pulpit.

It had a very catholic appearance with painted statues and woodwork, stained glass and large brass candelabra. The whole nave was dominated by the great rood screen and loft surmounted by the figures of the crucified Christ, Mary and St. John hanging in front of the painting of the Doom which fitted neatly into the pointed arch of the chancel.

It was not until the 15th C that the growing popularity of sermons and readings demanded a pulpit, a lectern and seating for the congregation.

© Miles Green, December 2000.