Glossary

 

Item

Definition

Abbey

A major monastic establishment superior to a priory.

Acanthus Decoration

Stylised vegetation

Aisle

From the Latin word for a wing and is a lateral extension to the nave separated by a collonade or arcade of arches. A few Norman churches were constructed with Aisles eg St Margaret at Cliffe Kent or St Peter Northampton but most are later additions.

In the later Medieval period aisles were constructed to accommodate Guilds or for use as Chantries.

Altar

The term adopted by the early church to describe the Eucharist table. From the sixth century these were commonly built of Stone

Ambulatory

An area for walking around the outside of the chantry characteristic of Norman churches. 

An aisle surrounding the chancel on three sides

Apse

Semi-circular or polygonal east end of the Chancel.

Apses were a common feature of Roman Temples and very early Churches. Apses were widely used in Norman Architecture but were rarely built after the C12.

Ashlar

A term used to describe squared and smoothed stone

Baluster

A short pillar with a curving convex outline

Beak Head Ornament

Norman decoration consisting of the heads of mythical beasts and birds with pronounced beaks

Pews Benches and Bench ends

From the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries seating was provided for the congregation in the form of benches. A pew is an enclosed bench although generally the two terms are used synonymously.

A pew is distinguished here as having a solid back and sides and being fixed to the floor often on wooden pew platforms rather than a solid stone or tile floor.

Bosses

A decorative terminal in wood or stone where cross members of a ceiling meet.

Brasses Monumental

A monumental brass is an engraved metal plate fixed to the floor or wall of a church or a tomb. They date from circa 1250-1650 and about half depict a human figure. About 6000 survive.

Buttress

A projecting structural support to counteract the weight of a roof or tower

Capital

The head of a Column, Pier or Pilaster, often decorated

Chancel

 

The east end of the Church reserved for the clergy where the altar is located.

It is normally separated from the nave by an arch and is usually narrower than the nave.

Chantry

A medieval endowment for saying masses in memory of the founder or other benefactor located as part of an aisle or a chapel. 

Choir or Quire

Part of a cathedral, monastic or collegiate Church. In lesser Churches choir stalls were not installed until the Victorian Period but the term choir or quire is often used erroneously to describe the position of Victorian seating for a choir in the chancel.

Churchyard

The area of land around the church often circular and often about 1 acre in size. Most pre Victorian churchyards were used for burial. 

It is commonly held that Churchyards are much older than the Church at their centre and often have their origins in the early Pagan or Saxon times. There is however little evidence for this.

 

Churchyard Crosses

A churchyard cross is a free standing cross usually on the South Side of the Church erected to sanctify the burial ground and to act as a monument to the burials before the advent of grave markers or head stones or individual memorials which became common from the C17 century onwards.

 It has long been held that Churchyard Crosses were erected on early burial sites there is little evidence for this

Clerestory

An upper portion of a nave containing windows often these are later additions

Collegiate Church

A church which is endowed for a group of canons or prebendaries which is not a cathedral

Altar or Communion Rail

A low rail in front of the altar inserted after the C17 to protect the altar from for example stray dogs.

Confessional or Shriving Pew

An enclosed recess or stall where a priest sits to hear confession. Although now rarely used in the Anglian Church they occasionally survive.

Corbel

A projection of stone, wood or brick supporting an arch, beam parapet or moulding

Cruciform

 

A church plan in the shape of the cross consisting of: Nave, Crossing Transepts and Chancel. Often a tower was constructed above the crossing but many collapsed. 

Crypt

Vaulted underground chambers used for burial, usually beneath the chancel

Doom

A wall painting depicting the day of judgement often located in the nave above the chancel arch

Dressed Stone

Carefully worked stone shaped and smoothed used for door and window surrounds or corners of a building.

Easter Sepulchre

 

A place to the North of the Altar where the Sacraments were placed on Good Friday and returned to the Altar on Easter Sunday. Generally these were temporary structures but in some Churches a permanent structure was created.

Effigies

Figures representing a dead person incorporated into a monument.

Friar

A type of monk

Gargoyle

 

A projecting gutter stone often carved to depict a grotesque figure or beast 

Green Man

A carving of a male head with foliage depicted as growing from mouth ears and nostrils

Hatchment

A diamond shaped board onto which a coat of arms was painted. It was carried as part of the funeral procession and was sometimes hung outside the dead personís house before being hung in the Church or retuned to the house for the period of mourning

Lancet

A small narrow window - the usual form of a window in Saxon and Norman churches

Lantern

An open portion of a tower usually containing bells.

Linenfold

Sixteenth century panelling with carving of stylised fabric filling each panel

Minster

 

An Anglo Saxon religious community whose duties were conversion and administration of the early Church. They were invariably located on Saxon Royal Estates

Misericord

A hinged wooden seat for members of a choir in a Cathedral, monastery or collegiate church with elaborate carvings under the seat. They date from the mid C13 to late C15.

Nave

The part of the Church where the congregation assembled separated from the Chancel by an arch and steps

Narthex

In early churches it is a vestibule or ante-chamber extending across the west end of the Nave. In the medieval period it was reserved for use by women or penitents.

 In Victorian Churches it is an apt description of any extended entrance hall.

Parclose Screen

A decorative screen separating a side chapel from other parts of the Church

Pilgrim Crosses

A small cross carved by a pilgrim or other person near to the entrance to the Church

Piscina

A small recess with basin and drain for washing vessels used in the service usually located on the south side of the chancel

Porches

The original purpose of the porch was to provide shelter for the principal door to the Church

Priest Door

A door directly into the chancel for the use of the priest

Reredos

Painted or sculpted screen behind and above the altar

Rood

Rood Screen

The Saxon word for cross.

 A crucifixion group of Christ on the Cross flanked by Mary and St John, above a screen separating the Nave from the Chancel

Sedilla

Group of seats usually three recessed in the south wall of the chancel for the priest, deacon and sub deacon

Squint

An opening cut through a wall so that priests in side chapels could see the sanctuary and thus co-ordinate the services

Stained Glass

The term is used as a generic term for glass that is coloured in a decorative form by the addition of for example metallic oxides to the silica of glass.

 

Stair Turret

A usually circular turret attached to a tower usually at the corner containing a spiral staircase

Sundial

A device for calculating the time based on the position of the sun. These take the form of either a circular hole into which a finger or stick was placed and the time was indicated by inscribed lines or a more elaborate stone face with a permanent object, a gnomon, usually a tri-angular piece of metal fitted high on a south facing wall.

Transepts

In a cruciform church the name given to the North South elements of the cross form.

Tympanum

The space enclosed between the top of an arch and the lintel of a door. With a rounded Norman arch this gives rise to a semi-circular area which was often decoratively carved. Carved tympanums are usually confined to the principal door but occasionally are found elsewhere such as on the Tower Door as at Purton Oxfordshire.