Project Canterbury

The Symbolism of Churches and Church Ornaments
with an Introductory Essay, Notes, and Illustrations

By John Mason Neale and Benjamin Webb.

Leeds: T.W. Green, 1843.

Chapter VIII.
Examples of Symbolism Continued.

We come now, according to the plan we laid down, to speak of the symbolism of some particular features of a church, which do not fall so well under any of the four heads which we have been considering. And firstly, of WINDOWS.

The primary idea shadowed forth in every one of the styles, is the saying of our LORD to His Disciples, YE ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. More simply set forth at first, this notion acquired, in the course of time, various methods of expression, and was subjected to different modifications; but we must retain it as the ground work, or we shall be in danger of mistaking the true meaning of ancient Church Architects.

In Norman, then, and Early English, the single lights, North and South, set forth the Apostles and Doctors, who have shined forth in their time as the lights of the Church: and the rich pattern of flowerwork wherewith the stained glass in them was decked, represented the variety of graces in each. But to have symbolized the servants without the Master, the members without the Head, had been at variance with all the Catholick Church has ever practised. Looking therefore to the East end, we behold that well known feature, the Triplet: setting forth the Most Holy and Undivided TRINITY. [We read, in the legend of S. Barbara, that, being confined by her father in a room where were two windows only, she added a third, by way of setting forth this Mystery.] Nor is this all: to denote that all that the Church has, and all She is, is from above, the string course, springing from the eastern Triplet, runs round the whole church (often both within and without,) binding it, as it were, in and connecting every other light, with those at the east. Again, the Western door, as we shall see, symbolized CHRIST: and two lights, typical of His Two Natures, are therefore generally placed over it. There are, undoubtedly, instances of western Triplets: though we think that the Camden Society has well explained these.

In some cases, there is a series of couplets on each side of the church: and, taking the hint from Durandus, we may interpret this arrangement of the mission of the Apostles two and two.

A series of Triplets, as in Salisbury Cathedral, and the Lady Chapel of Bristol, is very rare: and, of course, not objectionable on any other grounds than that of the too cheap use of a most beautiful feature.

So far all is simple: but as we approach the Decorated style, the symbolism becomes excessively complicated. The principal Doctrines of the Catholick Church are set forth in each window: and to unravel the whole of these is often a task of no small difficulty. We shall proceed to give a few examples, with the explanation which appears to us probable: entreating the reader to remember, that if in any instance our conjectures should appear unfounded, the failure of probability in one case throws no discredit on the otliers,and still less does it invalidate the system. Durandus's silence on the language of tracery is easily explained by the consideration, that assign as late a date as we will to the publication of his work, it came forth while the Early English style was yet in existence: and his silence on Triplets only proves, what is well known to Ecclesiologists, that they are far less common in foreign than in our own architecture.

In Norman windows the wheel window is conspicuous. This, whether formed with the radii like those of Barfreston, or of the Temple church, represent (as we shall presently observe that Norman symbolism usually does represent) an historical fact: namely, the martyrdom of S. Catherine. The celebrity of this Virgin Martyr may tend to explain why she should be so far honoured: a celebrity which has descended to our own day in the common sign of the Cat and Wheel: as well as the firework so denominated.

Of Norman Triplets there are not many to which we can refer. The Tower of Winchester, however, presenting one on each face, is a noble example. The Southeastern transept of Rochester, though later, is equally in point: it contains two triplets, far apart, and one disposed above the other. The West front of S. Etienne at Caen is a well-known instance.

The earliest symbolism of Early English Triplets represented the TRINITY alone: the TRINITY in UNITY was reserved for a somewhat later period. And this was typified by the hood moulding thrown across the three lights. At other times a quatre-foiled, or cinque-foiled, circle was placed at some little distance above the triplet: thus typifying the Crown which befits the Majesty of the King of Kings. And the same Crown is often exhibited above the Western couplet. But, for as much as we are COMPELLED BY THE CHRISTIAN VERITY TO ACKNOWLEDGE EVERY PERSON BY HIMSELF TO BE GOD AND LORD, a crown is sometimes represented over each light of the Triplet, as in Wimborne Minster.

Another method of representing the same doctrine was by a simple equilateral triangle for a window: whether plain, of which there are many examples, or with the toothed ornament, as in the famous example at York Minster.

S. Giles's, at Oxford, has windows, the tracery of which will serve as an example of many: it has three tre-foiled lights, with three quatre-foiled circles, arranged triangle-wise in the head.

This type is a little varied in S. Mary Magdalene's church, in the same city, by the introduction of the ogee form.

Berkeley church has a wheel window containing three quatre-foils: the three spaces left between them and the line being tre-foiled.

The East windows of Dunchurch and Fen Stanton have been explained in the publications of the Cambridge Camden Society: the former in their few words to Church builders, the latter in their illustrations of Monumental Brasses; Part iv.

The South transept of Chichester Cathedral is a glorious specimen of Decorated symbolism. In the gable is a Marygold, containing two intersecting equilateral triangles: the six apices of these are sex-foiled: the interior hexagon is beautifully worked in six leaves. The lower window seven lights: in the head is an equilateral spherical triangle, containing a large tre-foil, intersected by a smaller tre-foil. Here we have the HOLY TRINITY, the Divine Attributes, the perfection of the DEITY.

A window in Merton College Chapel has three lights: with a circle in the head containing six sex-foils.

Broughton, Oxon, has in the head of one of its windows a circle, containing two intersecting equilateral triangles, the six apices, and six spaces around, being trefoiled.

The East end of Lincoln, though far inferior to the south transept of Chichester, is nevertheless highly symbolical. The East window of each of the Aisles has three lights, with three foliated circles, disposed triangle-wise in the head. The great East window has eight lights in two divisions, each whereof has three foliated circles in the head: and in the apex of the window is a circle containing seven foliations. The upper window has a circle of eight foliations in the head: and in the apex of the gable is an equilateral trefoil.

The next element introduced was the consideration of the six attributes of the DEITY. One of the simplest examples was to be found in the West Window of the North Aisle of S. Nicholas, at Guildford: a plain circle, containing six trefoils: these are arranged in two triangles, each containing three trefoils, and the two sets are varied.

The Clerestory of Lichfield Cathedral, (Circ. 1300,) is a series of spherical triangles, each containing three trefoils.

A similar Clerestory occurs in the North-West Transept of Hereford Cathedral, and the same idea is repeated in its triforium: a series of three tre-foiled lights, with three circles in the head.

The East end of Lichfield symbolizes most strikingly the same glorious Doctrine. The apse is trigonal: the windows of each side are the same: each is of three lights, with six trefoils (emblematical of the Six Attributes) disposed above in the form of an equilateral triangle.

The East end of Chichester is rather earlier, but introduces yet another element. Here we have a triplet: and at some height above it, a wheel-window of seven circles: symbolising therefore eternity and perfection.

The triforium and clerestory of Carlisle are singular symbols of the Doctrine of the TRINITY. The former has in each bay three adjacent equal lancets. The latter is a series of triplets: the central window in each being composed of three lights. We may observe, by the way, that three adjacent equal lancets are hardly ever found, whatever the reason may be. We know but of three examples: in the churches of Bosham, Sussex, Godalming, Surrey, and S. Mary-le-Crypt, Gloucester: and in all these cases they occupy the same position, the South East end of the Chancel, or Chancel Aisle.

Dorchester church, Oxfordshire, has for one of its windows an equilateral spherical triangle with three heads, or knops, one at each angle.

We are now in a purely Decorated age. And as one of its earliest windows we may mention that in the Bishop of Winchester's Palace at Southwark. It was a wheel, and contained two intersecting equilateral triangles: around them were six sex-foiled triangles, the hexagon in the centre containing a star of six great and six smaller rays. Here, of course, the Blessed Trinity and the Divine and Human Natures were set forth.

[We may perhaps be allowed to say a few words here on the subject of those singular windows which the Cambridge Camden Society has called Lychnoscopes.

[It appears, that in Early English churches, the Westernmost window on the South side of the Chancel is both lower than, and in other ways (particularly by a transom) distinguished from, the rest. It is sometimes merely a square aperture, as in some churches in the Weald of Sussex: sometimes a small ogee-headed light, as in Old Shoreham: sometimes, where the South side of the Chancel is lighted by a series of lancets, the Westernmost, as in Chiddingfold, Sussex, is transomed, where the others end, and carried down lower; sometimes the lower part appears to have been originally blocked, as in Kemerton, Gloucestershire, and Kingstone next Lewes, Sussex: sometimes there are remains of clamps, as at Buckland, Kent, sometimes of shutters. Again, sometimes there are two, one North, the other South of the Chancel: sometimes the same arrangement is found S. E. of the Nave. On the other hand, it is never found in any but a parish church: never in late work: seldom is it ornamented. We will give a few remarkable instances. 1. Dinder, Somersetshire. Here there is a double lychnoscope, North and South: the date is late Early English, and the specimen is unique from there being a rude moulding in the Window Arch. 2. Othery, Somersetshire. The lychnoscope itself is here blocked: it is square-headed, and of two lights: date probably Early Decorated. The church is cruciform, and a central Perpendicular Tower was subsequently erected. One of the diagonal buttresses is thrown out at a distance of some three feet from the window, so as to hide it: and an oblique square hole has been cut through the masonry of the buttress. This is the more remarkable, because there are stalls in the Chancel, of perpendicular work, which would seem to render any window in that position useless. 3. Christon, Somersetshire. Here, almost close to the ground, is a horizontal slit which appears never to have been glazed. This is an early Norman church. So at Albury, Surrey, at the S.E. end of the South Aisle. 4. S. Appolline, Guernsey. This church is of the same date as, or may be earlier than, the last. The windows are rude and square headed slits: the lychnoscope is transomed. 5. Preston, Sussex. There are three Windows in the South of the Chancel, which rise one above the other, like sedilia, to the East. 6. Loxton, Somersetshire. This is an Early English church with a South Western Tower serving as Porch. From the Eastern side of this a long slit is carried through the Nave wall, a distance of some twenty feet, and exactly commanding a view of the Altar. It is grated at the West end, not glazed: the Eastern end has long been blocked up. Way is made for it by a bulge of the wall in the angle formed towards the East by the Tower and Nave. This seems to form a kind of connecting link between the hagioscope and the lychnoscope.

[With these windows we will venture to connect those extremely rare ones, three adjacent, unconnected, equal, lancets, as occurring of the same date at the same position. There is again another kind of lychnoscope only found where the Chancel has Aisles. A panel of the parclose, or wooden screen, behind the longitudinal stalls, is sometimes found pierced with a small quatrefoil, at the S.W. part of the Chancel. This is vulgarly called a Confessional. It seems however clearly connected with the lychnoscope. Examples are found at Erith, Kent, and Sundridge in the same county. Perhaps also the curious slit in the South wall of the Chancel of S. Michael's church, Cambridge, communicating with a South Chantry Chapel is another variety.

[From the above facts we deduce the following remarks: 1. That the necessity for a lychnoscope must in some cases have been very urgent: as may be proved by the example, at Othery, where a buttress is much injured to form one. 2. But yet this need was not universal, because there are many churches in which the arrangement does not occur. 3. That it appears, strictly speaking, a parochial arrangement, not being found in Cathedral or Collegiate churches. 4. That smaller buildings rather than larger are marked with it: it seldom occurs where there are Aisles to the Chancel. 5. That, where employed, lychnoscopes were only used occasionally; else the shutters which have evidently sometimes existed, would have been useless. 6. That they are very seldom ornamented, and never have windows it is next to impossible to explain. Carlisle and stained glass. 7. That in the Perpendicular era they generally, though not universally, ceased to be used. 8. That a large sill seems to have been a requisite to them. 9. That, where the upper part is glazed, the lower part often was not, ns in the Decorated lychnoscope at Beekford, Gloucestershire. The principal hypotheses to explain the use of this arrangement are. 1. Dr. Bock's. That it was a contrivance by which lepers might see the Elevation of the Host. But the structure of the greater part of these windows forbids this idea: many instances occur in which it is splayed away from the Altar, none (except that at Loxton, and a doubtful case at Winscombe, Somersetshire, where a Perpendicular addition has been made) in which it is splayed towards it. 2. That of the Cambridge Carnden Society, that it was for watching the Paschal light. But this, besides being a priori, improbable is refuted by that at Othery. Here the eye has to look through t\vo apertures, at some distance from each other, and therefore can command only a very small field on exactly the opposite side of the Chancel. 3. It has been imagined by some that it was for confession. The idea of confession near an Altar sufficiently refutes itself: but furthermore, some of these openings are so very low down that the thing would be impossible. Two solitary facts, more, though they throw no light on the subject, may yet be mentioned. 1. In the church of S. Amaro, near Funchal, in Madeira, is a grating at the West-end like that at Loxton. Its use is now said to be to cool the church, though in that case one should have expected to meet it elsewhere. 2. In Sennen Church, by the Land's-End, there is said to have been a lychnoscope (now no longer existing) used to take in the tithe-milk. We may gather on the whole, l. That lychnocopes could not have been used to look into a church. 2. Nor to hand anything in or out. Both those are sufficiently disproved by Othery. 3. Nor to speak through. But one can hardly imagine any other use, except it were to look out of the church. We are inclined to think that it was in some way connected with the ringing of the Bells, or of the Sancte Bell. Where the Tower is central, we very often find it: as at Old Shoreham and Alfriston, Sussex: at Loxton it is evidently for some purpose connected with the Tower. So in Beckford, which has a central Tower; and Urfington, Berks, a Cross church. And the place where the Sancte Bell was rung is exactly between a double lychnoscope. But what the particular use might have been, we will not pretend to guess. We will conclude this long note, by a question as to the authority for calling the small Chancel door, the Priest's Door. It is never (originally) furnished with a lock, but always with an interior bar, thus showing that it could only have been used from the inside. So the Priest could never have entered the church by this way, unless the door were previously opened for him.]

The symbolism of the more complicated Decorated windows it is next to impossible to explain .Carlisle and York have doubtless their appropriate meaning: but who will now pretend to expound it?

One exception we may make:--the East Window of Bristol Cathedral. It is of seven lights, but so much prominence is given to the three central ones, as strongly to set forth the MOST HOLY TRINITY: over them is a crown of six leaves and by the numerous winged foliations around them, the Heavenly Hierarchy may, very probably, be understood.


Durandus has given us a clue to the symbolical meaning which these generally present, by directing our attention to that saying of our LORD'S, I AM THE DOOR. And this, uttered as tradition reports it to have been, in reference to the Gate of the Temple, on -which the SAVIOUR'S eyes were then fixed, gives additional force to the allusion.

In small churches, doors are seldom the subject of much symbolical ornament, except in the Norman style: but in Cathedrals, some of the most strikingly figurative arrangements are often thrown into them. The Person, the Miracles, or the Doctrines of our LORD are here frequently set forth. He is sometimes, especially in the tympanum of Norman doors, as at Egleton in Rutland, represented as described in the Apocalyptick vision: with a sword in His Mouth. More frequently, however, with His Blessed Mother: in order, perhaps, to connect His entrance into the world with ours into the Church, which He thereby gathered together. This in the South entrance of Lincoln Minster, is enclosed in a quatre-foil: because the birth of CHRIST is announced by the four Evangelists; and Angels are represented around it in attitudes of adoration. A singular, and indeed irreverent symbol, is to be seen in a door of Lisieux church: the HOLY GHOST descending on the Blessed Virgin, and the Infant SAVIOUR following Him, In the entrance to the cloisters of Norwich Cathedral, the Door Arch is filled by nine niches, the central one being occupied by the SAVIOUR, the others by Saints. But this arrangement is much more common in French churches: where two, or even three rows of Saints in the architrave are not uncommon: witness the South and West doors of S. Germain, at Amiens, and a West door of S. Etienne, at Beauvais. This is sometimes, in late Flamboyant work, carried to an absurd extent: in a South Door of Gisors, two niches actually hang down out of the soffit. Early-English doors are generally double, thereby representing the Two Natures of our SAVIOUR: but embraced by one arch, to set forth His One Person. So the celebrated door in Southwell Minster: the West door in the Galilee of Ely Cathedral: the entrance to the Chapter House, at Salisbury; the West door of the same; so the Decorated West door of York; so the door to the Chapter House there, of which the inscription truly says; Ut Rosa Phlos phlorum, sic est domus ista Domorum: so the West door and entrance to the Chapter House of Wells. The West door of Higham Ferrars has the SAVIOUR'S triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, over the double Western doors. And this is the case in one of the doors of Seville Cathedral. Both these connect the ideas of His entrance into the temporal, with that of ours into the Spiritual, Jerusalem, In these symbolical doorways, we have one proof of the immeasurable superiority of English over French architecture: compare any of the above named with the celebrated West door of Amiens, with its twenty-two Sovereigns in its soffit. Again, by way of contrast to the Second Adam, by Whom we enter into Heaven; we sometimes, especially in Norman churches, have the Forbidden Tree, with Adam and Eve in the tympanum; setting forth the ONE MAN BY WHOM SIN ENTERED INTO THE WORLD.

The Crucifixion seldom occurs over doors: while over Porches a Crucifix is very common. The cause of the difference is explained by a consideration that the former are shut, the latter open: and when Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of Death, Thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers." Indeed it may almost be asserted that a Crucifix is never seen over a closed door, except where it forms a part of the usual representation of the TRINITY. For the TRINITY is also, in Norman churches, there represented: and that not inappropriately: inasmuch as the Trinity is the beginning of all things. A Holy Lamb is sometimes found in Norman Tympana: as saith the SAVIOUR, I AM THE DOOR OF THE SHEEP. A hasty glance at Durandus might lead us to imagine that we should, find the Apostles set forth under the similitude of Doors: but lie there probably refers to the well known passage in the Apocalypse. Apoc. xxi., 14.

This however leads us to another, and that a totally different, meaning attached to doors. We have already noticed the fact, that many Norman and Early English mouldings refer to various kinds of Martyrdom: those which do so, occur more frequently on doors than any where else; for it is written, WE MUST THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD. And here we may observe a very curious and beautiful progression in symbolism. In the early ages of Christianity, it was a matter requiring no small courage to make an open profession of Christianity, to join one's self to the Church Militant:--and this fact has left its impress in the various representations, of Martyrdom surrounding the Nave-doors of Norman and the first stage of Early English churches: as well as in the frightful forms which seem to deter those who would enter. But in process of time, as the world became evangelized, to be a member of the visible Church was an easy matter: the difficulty was transferred from an entrance into that, to the so living, as to have part in the Communion of Saints:--in other words, to an entrance into the Church Triumphant. And therefore in late Early English, and Decorated, the symbols which had occupied the Nave-Doors in the former period, are now transferred to the Chancel Arch.

The different agricultural operations, the signs of the zodiac, and occupations of various kinds, sometimes found on the outside of Norman Doors, signify that we must turn our backs on, and leave behind us, all worldly cares and employments, if we would enter into the Kingdom of GOD. In later Porches, true love knots are sometimes found on the Bosses: because part of the Service of Holy Matrimony was performed there. The serpent, in which the handle is so universally fashioned, has probably reference to that text, THEY SHALL LAY THEIR HANDS UPON SERPENTS: to signify that GOD'S Arm will protect us, when engaging, or about to engage in, His Service. For the serpent with his tail in his mouth is not a Christian, and indeed by no means a desirable, emblem of eternity, and therefore the door handle cannot be so interpreted.

The doors are of course placed near the West end: for it is only by way of the Church Militant, that we can hope to enter the Church Triumphant. One door, indeed, the Priest's Door, conducts at once into the Chancel. Durandus is probably right in interpreting this of CHRIST'S coming into the world; though it involves a little confusion of symbolism, inasmuch as the Chancel, properly speaking, denotes the blessed place which He left: not the abode to which He came. It is to be noted as an instance of the decline of symbolism in the Perpendicular age, that in churches which have Aisles to the Chancel of that date, we sometimes, as at Bitton, Gloucestershire, Godalming, Surrey, and Wivelsfield and Isfield, Sussex, find an entrance at the East end of the South Aisle. Though used as a Priest's Door, this is entirely to be blamed: what shall we say then of modern churches, which have two doors at the East-end, one on each side of the Altar, as Christchurch, Brighton? In Seville Cathedral, a late, although fine Flamboyant building, there are large doors at the East-end of each Choir Aisle.

Porches are usually on the South side. For as the East was considered in an especial manner connected with the Kingdom of Heaven, so was the North imagined to be under the Prince of the Power of the Air. It is curious how diametrically opposed in both these ideas were Christianity and Paganism. For as by the latter the West was known as "the better country, where lay the Isles of the Blest in their abundant peace," so in the North dwelt the deathless and ageless Hyperboreans: whose state was the model of good government and secure happiness. That the belief of our ancestors is not yet extinct, a very slight knowledge of our country churchyards will prove: the North side of the churchyard has generally not more than one or two graves. To be buried there is, in the language of our Eastern Counties, to be buried out of Sanctuary: and the spot is appropriated to suicides, unbaptised persons, and excommunicates. A particular portion is, in some church-yards of Devonshire, separated for the second class, and called the chrisomer. Where the contrary is the case, it may be worth enquiring how far it does not arise from the accidental position of the Church-yard Cross on the North side. There the spell seems broken: and the villagers' graves cluster around it, as if the presence of that sacred symbol were a sufficient protection to the sleeping dust. A remarkable instance of this occurs at Belleville, between Dieppe and Abbeville, in Normandy.

The doors in the Transepts are, in small churches, almost invariably East or West: much more frequently the latter. This, however, is probably not symbolical: but an arrangement adopted to prevent any resemblance in the Porches and Transepts:--and it is a rule which needs to be much impressed on modern church builders.

The rule as to the Western position of the Doors seems to apply generally to the church-yard.

It is worthy of remark that in the matter of doors, Protestantism presents us, as is so frequently the case, with a very unintended piece of symbolism. When we see, as in the beautiful church of Bisley, Gloucestershire, thirteen different openings, with external staircases, made into the church, through windows and elsewhere, can we forbear thinking of him who COMETH NOT BY THE DOORS INTO THE SHEEPFOLD, BUT CLIMBETH UP SOME OTHERWAY?


We come now to speak of the Chancel Arch and the Rood Screen, two of the most important features in a church. These, as separating the Choir from the Nave, denote literally the separation of the Clergy from the Laity: but symbolically the division between the Militant and Triumphant Churches: that is to say, the Death of the Faithful. The first great symbol which sets this forth, is the Triumphal Cross: the linage of HIM who by His Death hath overcome Death, and has gone before His people through the valley of its shadow. ["Let us consider Him," says Bishop Hall "now, after a weary conflict with the Devil, looking down from the Triumphal Chariot of the Cross on His Church."] The images of Saints and Martyrs appear in the lower panelling, as examples of faith and patience to us. The colours of the Rood Screen itself represent their Passion and Victory: the crimson sets forth the one, the gold the other. The curious tracery of net work typifies the obscure manner in which heavenly things are set forth, while we look at them from the Church Militant. And for as much as the Blessed Martyrs passed from this world to the next through sore torments, the mouldings of the Chancel Arch represent the various kinds of sufferings through which they went. Faith was their support, and must be ours: and Faith is set forth either in the abstract, by the limpet moulding on the Chancel Arch; or on the screen, as in Bishop's Hull, Somersetshire, by the Creed in raised gilt letters: or is represented by some notable action of which it was the source: so in Cleeve, Somersetshire, the destruction of a Dragon runs along, not only the Rood Screen, but the North Parclose also. But in that the power of evil spirits may be exercised against us till we have left this world, but not after, horrible forms are sometimes sculptured in the West side of the Chancel Arch. The foregoing remarks may perhaps explain what has been felt by some Ecclesiologists as a difficulty: how it happens, since the Chancel is more highly ornamented than the Nave, that it is the Western, or Nave side, not the Eastern or Chancel side, of the Chancel Arch which invariably receives the greatest share of ornament. The straitness of the entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven is set forth by the excessive narrowness of Norman Chancel Arches. And the final separation of the Church Triumphant from every thing that defileth was almost invariably represented by the Great Doom painted in fresco over the Rood Screen: of which there are still several examples, as the celebrated one in Trinity church, Coventry: and many more might be found, if the white wash in that place were scraped off. And not only is the judgement of the world, but that of individuals here set forth: on the South side of the Chancel wall of Preston church, Sussex, is a fresco of S. Michael weighing the souls: the Devil stands by, eager to secure his prize, but by the intervention of the Blessed Virgin, the scale preponderates in favour of the sinner. There might probably be an Altar to the Blessed Virgin under this picture. Also deeds of faith are represented in similar positions:--so in the same church, on the North Chancel wall, is the fresco of the Martyrdom of S. Thomas of Canterbury. We have already noticed the triplicity, in some instances, of Norman Chancel Arches. A very curious triple Chancel Arch is to be seen at Capel-le-Ferne, Kent. We may also refer to those singular double ones, Wells and Finedon, and in another manner, Darlington, in Durham, and Barton, in Cumberland. It may be well, finally, to note the entire absence in the ground plans of our churches of any reference to purgatory. The only instance in which Chancel and Nave are separated by any intervening object, is the Chantry of Bishop Arundell in Chichester Cathedral. Of the triple division of the church by two (so to speak) Chancel Arches, we have already spoken.


We now proceed to Monumental Symbolism. But it will be proper first to consider a very curious subject: namely the reason of the difference between the personages with which the effigies of the departed were of old time, and are now, surrounded. In the former case they were always real: Our Lady, S. John, S. Pancras, S. Agatha, and so on. In the latter, they are always allegorical: Faith, Virtue, Courage, Eloquence and the like. Nay, in the very ground which is common to the two,--the representations of angels, we may observe a great difference: in modern monuments any angel is represented: in those of ancient date the particular one is often named: S. Gabriel, S. Raphael, etc. Now there are, we think, three good reasons to be assigned for this.

1. The enlightened, or in plainer terms, the sceptical character of the present age. Unaccustomed to view any great examples of heroic devotion and self-sacrifice now, we naturally, though scarcely allowing it to ourselves, begin to doubt whether there ever were any such. In thinking of patience, our forefathers would naturally have had S. Vincent presented to their mind: but we, who, some of us have scarcely heard of his name, and some, are totally ignorant of his character, have of course no such ideas suggested. So again, where our ancestors would have represented S. Lawrence, we content ourselves with a representation of Fidelity. And it is in accordance with this easy and self-indulgent age, rather to personify a thing, which as having never had real existence, cannot be brought into comparison with ourselves, than by representing a really existing person, to run the risk of a contrast between his virtues and our own.

2. This Allegorizing spirit is more in accordance with the general paganism of our architectural designs: though, be it observed, a feature of the very worst and most corrupt state of Paganism. It is worth noting that in heathen countries, evil qualities have always been personified before good. Paganism like every other false system, became worst at its close. In the early times of Grecian Mythology the attributes of Purity, and Truth, and Mercy, were so strongly felt to reside in the Gods, that a separate personification of them was needless: whereas Strife, and Violence, and Fury, qualities which had no place in heaven, demanded, and obtained, a seperate existence. But in process of time, when the Divinities themselves became invested with the attributes of sinful humanity, the qualities of goodness which were no longer supposed theirs, found separate embodiments and expressions.

3. We may assign as a reason for the difference we have noticed the far greater reality with which our ancestors looked on the connections subsisting between ourselves and the other world. Thus, tempests and hurricanes, which we coldly explain on philosophical principles, they considered as directly proceeding from the violence of evil spirits:--earthquakes and volcanoes they regarded as outbreaks, so to speak, of that place of punishment, which they believed locally situated within the earth:--diseases and pestilences they held to be the immediate work of the Devil: madness and lunacy were, in their view, synonymous with possession. [A Master of Philosophy travelling with others on the way, when a fearful thunder storm arose, checked the fear of his follows, and discoursed to them of the Natural Reasons of that uproar in the Clouds, and those sudden flashes wherewith they seemed (out of the ignorance of causes) to be too much affrighted in the midst of his philosophical discourse, he was struck dead with that dreadful eruption which he slighted. What could this be but the finger of that GOD Who will have His works rather entertained with wonder and trembling than with curious scanning? Neither is it to be otherwise in those violent hurricanes, devouring earthquakes, and more than ordinary tempests, and fiery apparitions which we have seen and heard of; for however there be natural causes given of the usual events of this kind, yet nothing hinders but the Almighty, for the manifestation of His power and justice, may set spirits, whether good or evil, on work, to do the same things sometimes in more state and magnificence of horror.--Bishop Hall. The Invisible World, sect. vi.] Whether theirs, as it certainly was the most pious, were not also the most philosophical view, has been so ably discussed in the "Church of the Fathers" under the chapter S. Anthony in Conflict, that we need here only allude to it. But the same spirit led them to adopt the effigies of those Saints who had been members of the same Church Militant with themselves and who now were members of that Triumphant Church which they hoped hereafter to join: and its contrary leads us to adopt the cold, vague, dreamy, unsubstantialities of Allegorism.

The earliest kind of Monumental Symbolism is that which represents the trade or profession of the person commemorated. And these principally occur on Lombardic slabs and Dos d'Anes.--The distaff represents the mother of a family: [See on this subject an interesting article in the Church of England Quarterly, for September, 1841.] a pair of gloves a glover: [As in FLETCHING, Sussex.] so we have a pair of shears: and the like. But the Cross constantly appears; and in a highly floriated form: sometimes at its foot are three steps representing the Mount: sometimes a Holy Lamb. [As in LOLWORTH, Cambridgeshire.] And so ecclesiastical personages have their appropriate symbols: so the Chalice or the Ring represents a Priest [As in S. Mary, Castlegate, YORK.]:--another type is the hand raised in Benediction [As in HEDON, Yorkshire.] over a Chalice: Brasses abound in symbolical imagery. The animal at the feet varies with the varying circumstances of the deceased: a married lady has the dog, the emblem of fidelity: with which we may compare the speech of Clytemnestra, of her absent Lord,

gunaika pisthn d en domoiV eiroi molwn
oian per oun eleipe DWMATWN KUNA
[Agamemnon, 606, 7. Ed. Dindorf.]

There are, doubtless, instances (there is one in Bristol, S. Peter's) where the unmarried are so represented: but they are very rare, and quite in the decline of the art.--The knight again has, generally, a terrier at his feet: as the emblem of courage: sometimes the greyhound, the symbol of speed. [As in Sir Grey do Groby, S. ALBAN'S.] Lord Beaumont has an elephant: it is a bearing in his coat-armour. [Engraved in the 5th number of the Cambridge Camden Society's Illustrations of Monumental Brasses.]

Early priests have a lion also at their feet [As in WATTON, Herts, and COTTINGHAM, Yorkshire.]: but this typified their trampling on the devil: as servants of HIM concerning whom it is written AND THE DEVIL SHALL GO FORTH BEFORE HIS FEET. [HABACCUC III. 5 ET EGREDIETUS DIABOLUS ANTE PEDES EJUS.] They have also a dragon for the same reason. And this position doubtless also has reference to the verse, THOU SHALT TREAD UPON THE LION AND ADDER: THE YOUNG LION AND THE DRAGON SHALT THOU TRAMPLE UNDER FEET. [Psalm xc. Qui habitat.] In the decline of the art, effigies have the crest of the departed at their feet.

Whether those knights who are represented with crossed legs are to be considered as Crusaders, or at least as having taken the vow, is a question which has been much discussed. The general belief seems now to be in the negative:--and Mr. Bloxam in his work on Monumental Architecture gives it as his opinion that this posture was chosen by the Artist, for the more graceful arrangement of the surcoat. And it is to be remarked that some illuminations, as in the Life of S. Edward the Confessor, in the Cambridge University Library, represent the Knights as sitting cross legged. For our own parts we must confess that we incline to the old belief:--as better supported by tradition, and more in accordance with the general principles of Catholic Artists. The knight's hand is sometimes represented as resting on the hilt of his sword:--or as it is called drawing it. We are astonished that a writer in the Quarterly Review should fall into this popular error: especially when the idea was completely opposed to the whole course of his argument. There can be no doubt that this typifies the accomplishment of the vow, the taking which was set forth by the crossed legs. The contrary,--an act of war in the House of Peace,--is not for a moment to be thought of. As emblematical of deep humility, some effigies are represented naked: some in shrouds: some, as emaciated corpse: and sometimes, still more strikingly, the tomb will be divided into two partitions: and while the departed appears in rich vests, and with a gorgeous canopy above,--below there is a skeleton, or a worm eaten figure. There is a remarkable instance at Tewkesbury, in the enotaph of the last Lord Abbat.: and we may refer to the monument of William Ashton, in S. John's College Chapel, Cambridge.

The symbolism of Ecclesiastics, lying principally in their vestments, does not so much fall within the scope of this essay. The same be said of the allusion to the Holy Trinity in the Benedictory Attitude of the Bishop: and the distinction between the mitred Abbat and the Bishop in the former holding his pastoral staff with the crook inwards, as signifying his dominion to be internal, i. e. within his own house;--the latter outwards, to set forth his external dominion over his Diocese.

The reception of the soul of the departed into Abraham's bosom is often represented. Sometimes angels are bearing it, in the likeness of a newborn child, (a figure symbolical of its having now returned into its baptismal state of purity) and presenting it before the Throne. The founders or rebuilders of churches are known by the building which they hold in their hands.

The carving of the open seats is one of those parts of Ecclesiastical symbolism, which it is very hard to explain. The monsters which constantly occur on them may be perhaps regarded as typical of the evil thoughts and bad passions which a life of ease and rest encourages, and it will be observed, that in the Choir, a gentler class of ideas often is suggested: we have here flowers and fruit, and birds making their nests, and flocks feeding. There, are however, certain other types to be found here, and also in stringcourses, and corbel heads, of which we shall presently speak in terms of disapprobation.

Nothing, with this exception, shews the exuberance and beauty of ideas which distinguished the architects of the ages of Faith,--and the depth and variety of the scriptural knowledge we are pleased to deny them than their wood carvings. [The astonishing Scriptural knowledge of Durandus may be judged of from the Index at the end of the volume of texts quoted by him.] There is perhaps hardly a scriptural subject which they have not handled: and it requires no small degree of Ecclesiastical knowledge to be able at all to comprehend many of their allusions: while probably many more are lost to us. The Annunciation is one of the most favourite topics. The almond tree blossoming in the flower pot--the lid terminating in a cross or crucifix--the prayer desk at which the Blessed Virgin kneels--the temple seen in the distance--the Holy Dove descending on a ray of light--these are its general accompaniments. The descent of our SAVIOUR into Hell--the delivery of souls--

"Magnaque; de magna praeda petita domo:"

the visions of the Apocalypse: the final Doom: the passions and triumphs of Martyrs--all here find their expression.


The corbels which occur in the interior of churches generally represent the Heavenly Host,--often with various instruments of music, as if taking a share in-the devotions of the worshippers. This idea is most fully and beautifully carried out in late perpendicular roofs: where the various orders of the Heavenly Hierarchy hover, with outstretched wings, over the sacred building,--an idea evidently derived from the Cherubim that spread their wings over the Ark, and the Apostle's explanation, WHICH THINGS THE ANGELS DESIRE TO LOOK INTO. Often, however, benefactors to the church are here pourtrayed. The gurgoyles, on the contrary, represent evil spirits as flying from the Holy Walls: the hideousness of the figures, so often, by modern connoisseurs, ridiculed or blamed, is therefore not without its appropriate meaning.

We must now say few a words on the least pleasing part of the study of symbolism: we mean the satirical representations which record the feuds between the secular and the regular clergy. Thus, in the churches of the latter, we have, principally as stallwork, figures of a fox preaching to geese: in those of the latter an ass's head under a cowl: or, which is very frequent, both in woodwork, and as a gurgoyle, the cowled double face. As a specimen of these designs, we may mention the stalls in East Brent, Somersetshire. [RUTTER'S Delineations, p. 89.] A fox hung by a goose, with two cubs yelping at the foot of the gallows, a monkey at prayers, with an owl perched over his head: another monkey holding a halbert: a fox with mitre and staff, a young fox in chains, a bag of money in his right paw, and geese and cranes on each side. To these objectionable devices we may add those which to us appear simply profane or indecent: [It is fair to observe that our designating them so may be the effect our own ignorance.] such as the Baptism of a Dog, in one of the Stamford churches, and others in Northampton, S. Peter's, of Norman date. One of the grossest which we have ever seen is to be found on the North side of the chancel arch of Nailsea, Somersetshire. On the towers of some Norman churches, the evangelistic symbols are represented. So in Stow church, Lincolnshire. Tiles ought not to have the Cross on them: for though CHRIST is indeed the Foundation of the Church, yet these holy symbols should not be exposed to be trodden under foot. Heraldic devices are here more proper, to signify the worthlessness of worldly honours in the sight of GOD.

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