Friday, 1 January 2010
Hailes, Gloucestershire - post-Reformation liturgical arrangements
I'm very grateful to Roger Mortimer for his fascinating comment on Elizabethan table carpets, which he has posted on my Buckland vestments article. In his post he mentioned in passing the Elizabethan liturgical arrangements, that until the mid twentieth century, were still extant at Hailes church in Gloucestershire.
This is a view of the west end of the chancel at Hailes, that I took in 2007. Until fifty years ago, the east end of the chancel was a mirror-image of the west end. The double tier of seats that you see here, continued right across the east end of the chancel, as the diagram below shows.
This arrangement of seating prevented the holy table being placed at the east end of the chancel where the medieval altar would of been. Rather, as this photograph below shows, the holy table was placed in the very centre of the chancel, with its short ends facing east and west. A table carpet would have been thrown over the table during the time of communion and the priest would have stood on the north side, facing south across the table as he celebrated communion in the midst of the people. This liturgical arrangement was intended to create an intentional visual statement. It was intended to visually divorce the reformed communion service from the perceived supersition of the medieval mass.
Sadly this rare and interesting liturgical arrangement at Hailes has now been swept away. This is the east end of the chancel today. The eastern seating has been removed and steps have been introduced to support a freestanding altar at which the priest presides facing the people.