At the point division between the Nave and the Chancel
of a medieval church building stood the rood screen and on top of that was the
devotional tableau from which it took its name, the cross of Christ, the
rood. The rood was the primary image in
the medieval church and it was quite common for it to be given what you might
term a ‘canopy of honour’. This could
take a number of different forms: the roof structure of the bay above the rood might
be richly or profusely painted to differentiate it from the rest; or a small
canopy called a ‘Tester’ might be hung from the rafters. Alternatively the bay above the rood might be
panelled out, to create a false ceiling, what is often termed a ‘Celure’ or ‘Ceilure’
and this in turn might be painted.
I want to share with you a wonderful example of a Celure from Almeley in Herefordshire.
Dating from the very end of the fifteenth century, the Almeley Celure is constructed of simple planking that has been nailed to the timbers of the
nave roof. The planking has been painted, rather naively,
to give the impression of the underside of a vault, with ribs and bosses and
panels decorated with double roses. It
is more or less convincing from the ground, but not when a telephoto lens takes
a closeup! The polychromy has now
oxidised and faded to a dark green and orange, but there is no doubt that when
originally painted, the Celure would have been rather bright and would have
drawn attention to the Rood below it.