Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The rood loft at St Margarets in Herefordshire


St Margarets, Herefordshire, originally uploaded by Vitrearum.

St Margaret's church in the remote hamlet of St Margarets overloooking the 'Golden Valley' in Herefordshire, has a remarkable survival. A complete early sixteenth century rood loft. You can't really call it a screen and loft, for in effect there is no screen. No rood screen was required in this humble building, as the opening between the nave and the chancel is a narrow Norman arch. Instead the loft is supported on two gloriously carved posts, resplendent with tabernacles, which presumably once contained three-dimensional images. The detail of the carving is in the west country tradition, with sumptuous, delicately undercut foliage and vine trail. Photos below.

St Margarets, Herefordshire 4

St Margarets, Herefordshire 6

St Margarets, Herefordshire

Rood lofts are an unusual survival as they were legislated against in the reign of Elizabeth and fewer than half a dozen remain. Other notable examples are at Coates by Stow in Lincolnshire and Flamborough in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Rood screens, on the other hand frequently survive as they still served a practical purpose after the Reformation. The Reformed liturgy emphasised a two-room plan for church buildings. The chancel was reserved as the place for the sacrament and the nave as the place of the word and the remaining screens helped demarcate and differentiate these spaces.

2 comments:

BillyD said...

Why were rood lofts outlawed?

Allan Barton said...

My understanding is that they were removed for two reasons. Because generally they incorporated the beam that supported the rood image itself. Secondly because removing the loft would make the re-erection of a rood a lot more troublesome.