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Re: door symbolism - 'Jim's list'


Jon Cannon <[log in to unmask]>


medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>


Mon, 27 Feb 2006 11:25:37 -0000





text/plain (652 lines)

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

This has turned into something of an excursion: one of those 'that will
be quick and easy to do' moments that multiplies in complexity as one
descends into them. I hope there is useful material somewhere in it all!

The list is from memory, with a few dips into my notes. It is based on
having read closely the main literature on each English cathedral in the
past two years (and visited them all). Specific discussion of the use of
doors is infrequent (iconography less so): where I recall such, I have
inserted a reference. With the references I have tried to strike a
balance between full academic citation and not letting a 'quick' mailing
list response transmute completely into a journal article. Square
brackets in text mark refs, then see list at end for further details.
Hopefully most of what is needed to follow a lead is here. Come back to
me if you need more. 

And do note, the naming of the Wells north porch is the one and only
contemporary documentary source that tells us how a specific door was

I have ignored doors that do not lead outside: but included doors from
cloisters. Two main exclusions result from this: Chapter House
entrances, which had a rich iconographic tradition (much of it Marian) -
to follow this I suggest Salisbury, Westminster Abbey, and York. They
need studying in the context of the iconography inside the building,
considerable evidence for which also survives. 

I have also omitted close gatehouses. They are something of a grey area
because the lay entry for several secular cathedrals appears to be an
opening in the cloister wall, positioned close to the nearest door into
the cathedral itself, and this appears to be a secular 'answer' to an
arrangement common at monastic cathedrals, where a close gate led via a
slype direct to the cloister, often at a position close to the church.
However I can't find examples in the current sample where that door is
the only possible point of lay access into the church (rather than the
convent): Norwich appears to come closest. All these gates are
architecturally plain, but the main entrances into the close at large
can be very rich: iconography worth a further look can be seen, for
example, at Lincoln, Wells and (in particularly) Norwich (all c14 and

The sample is of course biased by the absence of non-cathedral great
churches apart from the handful that later became the seats of dioceses.
On the 'plus' side, all the English medieval cathedrals barring Coventry
and St Paul's survive - a near-complete set of Episcopal seats.   

Whether what follows is of any relevance to Jim's researches, I cannot 
Guess. But some possible generalizations have occurred to me while
preparing the list, and they are given at the end. 

Ok, here we go: I may have missed a few minor doors in corners of E
ends, but hopefully there is enough here to be getting on with... 

W door: processional entrance below window, c15. with side doors. 
No other entrances are built into the building except those to cloister;
did lay people come in via w door or by a door in the cloister, which is
lost? Iconography: rich w front sculpture with inscriptions. Wounds of
Christ and other Christ's body-related images on the w door. [Monckton,

W door: processional entrance below w window. c15. Not very prominent.  
NW Door: bishop. Route from Bishops Palace via Bishop's chapel
undercroft to cloister, entering church just E of NW tower. Palace and
Tower both c11 (lanfranc); tower survived until mid c19. Consistory
court located beneath tower probably in c13 [Sparks, M in Blockley,
Sparks and Tatton-Brown 1997]. 
N transept door: bishop and monks. From main cloister, including Chapter
House and Bishop's Palace. Route used by Becket immediately before
martyrdom, subsequently grandly rebuilt [Tatton Brown, T in Blockley,
Sparks and Tatton-Brown 1997; Woodman 1981]. Complex (c14 and after)
arrangement of stairways and (now missing) walls including the 'red
door' within transept attempted to separate processing monks from
visiting pilgrims [Woodman, 1981].
N crypt door: monks. from east cloister (Canterbury has two cloisters). 
S door: lay - and VIP? Grand c15 porch facing directly onto lay entrance
from city. Previous form unknown, but likely to have always been a focus
of lay visitors. Perhaps had liturgical/VIP function too: far more
elaborate than roughly contemporary w door. 
William Klukas [R Allen Brown, 1984] says there was a separate door from
the nave north aisle, which held an important Lady Chapel, to the
Iconography: copious images niches around south porch. I believe statues
are c19. See Woodman 1991. 

Western entrances unclear: Nave collapsed and demolished.
S transept door: bishop and canons? Large ceremonial door (entirely c19
in current form) facing directly onto walk of cloister that leads
towards refectory (Carlisle was Augustinian) and bishop's palace. 

Western entrance: ceremonial/VIP. Single door sheltered by large porch
with possible platform above. Tomb recesses in walls. C13. 
NW door: lay. into NW tower from N side, facing former gate to town.
Smallest entrance at we end. C13. 
SW door: bishop - and clerics? Very grand trumeau'd door with image of
St Richard de Wych, bishop saint. Nearest door to canon's houses and
bishop's palace.
SE door: vicars - and clerics? into south choir aisle. Vicars' college
this end of complex from c15. Cloister also very late, date of door not
clear to me. 
The three westernmost doors at Chichester are a 'textbook' arrangement -
liturgy/bishop/lay, each smaller than the last and facing the
appropriate way. 
Iconography: tombs in w porch; empty image niche over north west door;
c19 image of St Richard de Wych over south west door replaces an
original [Tatton-Brown in Hobbs 1994]

Coventry had a screen west front. No openings survive above ground.
Architectural knowledge summed up by [Morris in Demidowicz 1994]. 

Western entrance: no west front at ground level; current west door leads
to Galilee. 
NW door to galilee: lay/female pilgrims?. Small door into Galilee, not
sure if door is in fact medieval. If it is, access by women in
particular might have been part of its use, as that is known to have
been a reason for building the Galilee. Or it might have been a general
lay entrance.
NW door to nave: bishop - and lay? C12. Door faces Bishop's Palace and
all routes from city. It has the Sanctuary knocker. To separate bishop
and lay entrances one has to see the position of this knocker as largely
symbolic, and assume lay people could only enter via the galilee. Rites
of durham do not specify. 
S side: monks. Two c12 doors from two sides of cloister would have
offered the usual processional and other access from the monastic
All the doors were hugely enhanced by Hugh de Puiset, who left only the
bishop's one untouched but has been credited with the Sanctuary Knocker
Iconography: only if you count the Sanctuary knocker. 

Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. Galilee added c13 to enhance such
S W entrance: bishop. C12. There was once I think an entrance into this
westwork direct from the Bishop's Palace [Dixon in Meadows and Ramsay
S side: monks. Doors from each side of cloister, 'monk's dooe' and
'Prior's door', both elaborate c12.
NB On a superficial analysis, topograghy would allow a lost lay entrance
from cloister to exist.
N side: lay. Door in transept faces town. The medieval arrangement of
images and relics within makes it clear that pilgrims entered here.
Current form c17.
NB these arrangements compare instructively with those at nearby
Iconography: no images survive in the Galilee. Priors door has famous
c12 carving of Christ In Majesty [see Norwich]. 

Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. Main door with side doors. Bishop's
chantry adjacent to central entrance reflects its special status. C14.

NW porch: lay? canons? Grand porch facing city but also many canon's
houses in close. Positioning of watching chamber above may imply lay
access. Otherwise lay entrance would have to be side doors of w front,
or even further round via the cloister. But this would then be identical
to Salisbury and Wells. C14; on the other hand Hereford's arrangement
must have been very similar, and there it seems lay people as well as
canosn used the great north porch.
S side: clerics - and bishop? - and lay? Two doors from two sides of
cloister. Bishop's Palace was on this side too but much further e;
possibility of entrance via e cloister walk is worth exploring. W range
of cloister lost, so impossible to know if there was a door to the w
here. One door is C12.  
Iconography: best treatment of W front is in various articles in [Kelly
1991]. Note current layout post-dates actual structure by decades or
more, probably because of the Black Death. N porch has image niches over
door, now c19; it could be classed as a tower-porch with castle
associations, see John Goodall in Nigel Saul's recent volume on Windsor
Castle [reference not to hand]. 

Western entrance: unclear. c12 westwork collapsed in c18. It was
elaborate: engravings exist. 
N porch: canons and lay. Canons houses and city to this side. Lay use
confirmed by refurbishing of route from porch to Lady Chapel as
pilgrims' route in e c14 [Morris in Aylmer and Tiller 2000]. Late c16
plans to build both chapels and chantries besides and over this door:
chapel to St Mary survives above it. C13, 14 and 15.  
S side: two doors from cloister. W most was nearest to bishop's palace.
I'm not sure of their date: topography is c12; cloister c15. 
It seems highly likely that Hereford shared its arrangement with Wells,
Salisbury and Exeter. At Wells it seems certain the main north porch was
specifically for Canons; at Hereford perhaps equally so that lay people
could use it too. 
Iconography: multi-period n porch has elaborate incidental figure
carving in voissours of outer door to inner porch, which would merit
further study. Later Marian chapel above outer porch [Morris op cit].

Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. Also lay? Three doors face a close
gate, though this gate is not obvious best route from city. C13 
S transept: lay? Elaborate door faces main medieval route from city. C13
N transept: bishops and clerics? Elaborate door faces Bishop's palace;
most canons' houses were on this side too. But not all. C13
Iconography: W front: column statue on trumeau - image of Virgin is c17
reworking of original. Lapidary remains of a few others of the many
medieval statues intended for this façade are discussed by [Richard
Morris in Maddison 1993]. 
N and S transepts: richly carved doors, but all iconographical content
probably c17. 

An exceptionally rich place for looking at doors.
Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. And Lay? Three great arched doors face
both city and castle. C11. Lincoln is the only cathedral were I cannot
find any other possible point of lay access than the W front. 
N side: clerics. doors from NE transept leads to walk that runs past
Chapter House to Dean's Palace, canons' houses, vicars' colleges; this
walk arguable predates the others by a century and may have been a
covered walkway rather than a cloister, ie a la Lichfield, York, and
Southwell but with access beyond the Chapter House as at Wells. c12
[Alexander pers comm.] But note grand door put in below 'Dean's eye' in
N transept at same time as Galilee next to 'Bishop's eye in S. [Kidson
in Owen 1994]
S side: Bishop. Elaborate Galilee porch attached to S transept faces
directly bishop's palace. An exceptionally emphatic Episcopal entrance,
also with ceremonial functions? C13.
Angel Choir: grand trumeau'd entrance doors to N and S. The S entrance
is the closest surviving English equivalent to the great French c13
sculpted doorways, and astonishingly almost all carving is damaged but
W front: there has been much discussion of the reasons for the fortified
appearance of the c11 western bloc. Start with [Richard Gem in Heslop
and Sekules 1986]. Possible evidence in Lincoln Use has been explored.
Carvings on bloc include frieze, best discussed by [Zarnecki 1988 and
elsewhere], could be c11 or c12; mid c12 west doors with lavish
incidental sculpture ,and originally column-statues too; fragmentary but
magnificent remains of a c12/13 Christ in majesty now displayed in the
NW chapel; gallery of kings added late c14, also discussed in various
places [recent article - in volume ed by Philip Lindley? Can't put hands
on reference]. Dozens of c12 image niches on w front too, but no
evidence they were ever filled. 
Angel Choir:  S trumeau'd door combines Christ in Judgement with Christ
showing his wounds; church and synagogue; again, much discussion - try
[Broughton 1996], which suggests conventional ideas of what should be E
and W conflicted with N and S creating an unusual arrangement. Jenny
Alexander has some interesting theories on its significance in Lincoln
on that time, but as they are unpublished and this is pers comm. Perhaps
come back to me and I'll put you in touch with her if this one strikes a
chord. The door should also be considered in relation to the iconography
within the building, which compares only with the Wells west front for
the extent and scope of its published discussion. [Paul Binski has
written on it several times, not least in 'Beckett's Crown' - try
putting him into one of the bibliographical databases].

Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. Faces city. Large c15 door on c12 site
flanked by niches. Smaller doors either side, or w facing door in
cloister to s, offer the only clear ways in for lay visitors.   
South side: monks - and lay? two doors at each end of cloister. E most
known as 'Prior's door' and very elaborate (c14 in current from). W most
- lay too, after entering though cloister? 
N transept: Bishop. Elaborate c12 door apparently designed specifically
as part of plans by founder Herbert de Losinga for grand direct way in
from his bishop's palace. Possible ceremonial access on floor above,
too. Another good Episcopal entrance. [Fernie 1993 and articles in
Atherton, et al 1996]

Iconography: I believe we know the saints that stood either side of the
w door in the c15 niches. [Try Atherton, et al 1996]. 
The striking iconography of the Prior's Door - elegantly combining
Christ in majesty with precursors/models for Christ and locally relevant
saints receives a first rate discussion in I think [Sekules in Atherton
et al 1996]. Note the c12 cloister is known to have been richly sculpted
so the Christ in Majesty theme may be older - compare Ely for door in
same position, same region, same name and also with a CiM. 

Western entrance. VIP/ceremonial. And lay? Main door with side doors.
Faces castle. C12. repositioning of nave parish altar in attached church
here in late med supports the possibility of access from w end -- or
doors in north nave aisle have? 1327 injunction: ‘said religiousshall
make for the said parishionrers an Oratory in the corner of the nave of
thesiad church, beside the north door wit ha door and window on the
outer side of the said church' [McAleer 1999]. N side: cloister doors,
much reworked in modern period, facing conventual buildings. Grand c14
door now in n choir aisle probably provided access via night stair over
Chapter House to Dorm, though very emphatically donated by a bishop.
Original location and function somewhat unclear.
S side:  see above at w entrance. Or was there an lay 'pilgrim's
entrance/exit e of transept near 'Gundulf's tower'? 
W front images, much restored but very comparable to continental c12
practise, including column figures.  

Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. Main door with side doors. Faces some
canons' houses. 
SW entrance: clerics - and lay? Door in cloister wall may be main lay
entrance [indeed it is today], though as at Exeter and Norwich it is not
particularly convenient. Elaborate c13 door from cloister here to church
within. At other end of cloister, C13 door from s transept leads to
cloister walk leading most directly towards bishop's palace and chapter
NW entrance: canons/lay? Grand porch facing both city and canon's
houses. Comparison with nearby Wells suggests it may however have been
exclusively for canons; the arrangement at Exeter was arguably
identical. But Hereford demonstrates that it ain't necessarily so. 
Iconography: the few surviving statues on the w front are c14; it is
possible they were never completed. But there was an image of the Virgin
in the trumeau of the w door which received some cultic attention [Ayers

St Pauls:
Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial? Detail of design now lost. C12.  
N transept: lay. Main route of access from London was directly opposite;
major lay gathering point for city was immediately to e. cluster of
lay-related monuments around this entrance: Pardon Churchyard, Black
Rood, etc. [Keene et al 2004] c12 and later.
S transept: canons - and bishop? Faces both. etailed form and details of
access to c14 cloister nearby no longer clear. 
Iconography: n transept door had an iamge of St Uncumber by 1500, with a
cult around it; presumably a very late addition. 

Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. Main door with side doors. 
SW entrance: clerics - and lay? Door in cloister wall may be main lay
entrance [Sampson, 1998]. Elaborate c13 door to church within. 
N entrance: canons. grand porch, recorded in c13 as being the 'great
gate of the canons', latec12/ec13. This is the only medieval door I have
come across where we have a contemporary source that gives it a specific
N transept: vicars (and canons attending chapter). c15 bridge from c14
vicar's close past c13 Chapter House and processionally into east end.
ie built for use of canons coming from and to chapter - as at Southwell,
York, Lichfield - but adapted later to provide access from vicars'
S transept: bishop. - and others? C13 door from s transept leads to
cloister walk leading most directly towards bishop's palace. Also past
cloister lady chapel so door may have been more about practical access
than exclusivity. 
Iconography: a career could be made exploring the iconographical
resonances of the w front. Start with [Sampson, 1998]. Note most of the
figures originally had inscriptions. N porch: only incidental carving
survives, but very fine: eg St Edmund; various beasts; a canon. The
inscription on his scroll is the only such in an Engilsh medieval
cathedral porch. From all this Jerry Sampson suggests subjects for the
empty niches - good suggestions, if entirely speculative. 

Western entrance. VIP/ceremonial. C14 replacing large c11 west work
which itself may reflect c9 west work of previous church [Kjolbye-Biddle
in Crook 1993]. The latter designed to show king off to best possible
effect, and faced the then royal palace [Berthe-Biddle], presumably an
element of Royal entrance-way until c12 when Royal function of
Winchester began to diminish; demolition of westwork may reflects this
'demoting' of Winchester's Royal role. 
N side. Monks doors from cloister. 
S transept: lay?. small door facing gate from city widely assumed to be
main way in for pilgrims, compare Ely [Crook in Crook 1993?]. As at Ely
and elsewhere, monks' choir extended under crossing. 
Iconography: none survives. 

Western entrance: ceremonial? Monks? small originally c12 opening,
monks' dormitory beyond on banks of Severn. Current form c19 but
footings preserved. Shares with other monastic cathedrals Durham and
Canterbury an exceptionally un-emphatic western entrance.
N side: monks. doors from cloister ranges.
SW side: bishops/lay. large c13/c14 porch faces bishop's palace and
This is the only way lay visitors could have entered, and the only
unequivocal example that there was no necessary taboo on bishops and
ordinary citizens entering a church through the same door. What one
reads into this for the 'status' of lay visitors is another matter. NB
nearby Hereford also combines two 'levels' of access, in that case lay
and canons, unusually equivocally, in its main nave porch. 
Iconography: none survives. 

NB Brown cites many egs of legal disputes etc being heard/resolved
'before the door of the church'.
Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. Lay? Main door with side doors, does
face a gate to w side of city. C14 west front replaces c12 predecessor. 
S entrance: lay. Canons too? Large transept built in c13 and leading to
site of tomb shrine of St William. Faces main gate from city. Most
emphatic eg I know of a grand entrance apparently being designed mainly
lay use. [Brown 2003] Compare Lichfield. 
N side: some clerics: separate c13 door in nave from now vanished St
Sepulchre's college.
N transept: Bishop. Small door in c14 Chapter House vestibule perhaps
replaced function of previous c13 larger door from transept. Both face
bishop's palace. Speculated site of Alma Sophia pre-Conquest church.
[Brown 2003, following Norton] 
Iconography: west front was lavishly sculpted, including the door,
recarved only in the last 20 years or so. Only tantalizing fragments
survive, including an unusual mounted figure. It was preceded by an
almost equally magnificent early Gothic (c12) w front from which some
sculpture survives. [Brown 2003] has best coverage. 
Post-1541 cathedrals:
St Alban's Abbey
Western entrance: VIP ceremonial. Lay Elaborate unfinished c13
arrangement. No obvious other way in from town. 
S side: doors from former site of cloister.  

St Augustines, Bristol
N transept: lay? Only surviving medieval door to church, but best
explanation for position facing town is for access to Elder Lady Chapel
(c13). NB St Jordan's chapel stood in churchyard. 

St Frideswides, Oxford
Western entrance: lost in c16. 
Southern entrance: all? via cloister and chapter house. Would expect a
door in n transept leading direct to saint's shrine but no access from
city possible on that side now due to encroachment of [medieval]
colleges. Arrangement may well have changed much over time.  

St Peter's abbey, Gloucester
Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. Faces abbot's palace and close
S porch: lay. Large c15 porch faces main gate from city.
S transept: lay? Intriguing small but elaborate door, I speculate for
access of lay people or clerics from lay burial ground beyond. Others
have wondered if it is a pilgrim's entrance, though it would only fit
one person at a time. Not necessarily an external door: there may have
been a small structure on the outside [Welander 1985, I think]. Two
elegant mourner-like figures lean over fake architecture. 
N side: monks - and abbot? two doors, both very elaborate, at each
extreme of cloister. Westernmost was grandly renewed in late c14 and is
nearest abbot's palace. 
Iconography: only surviving of many medieval sculptures are the
evocative 'weeper' like figures leaning over fake architecture either
side of the S transept door. 

St Werburgh's abbey, Chester
Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. Faces former city market place. C15 on
c11 plan. 
S transept: lay. elaborate SW aisle door and faces another entrance from
town. Transept beyond is vast compared to rest of church. Compare york.
Lay burial ground here? 
N side: monks - and abbot? Two doors at each side of cloister. Abbot's
palace was to w. Was there access from it into the NW tower, as at Ely,
Iconography: lintel of w door has delightful small sculpture: monks in
procession, Mary, etc. I have not seen published discussion of it. 

St Peter's abbey, Peterborough
Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial. Faces open area in close (? Lay
graveyard) which in turn faces gatehouse and town. Three huge arches
(?same liturgical use as Lincoln, ie banners at Palm Sunday?). Three
small doors. Many small statues in gables. Central door with trumeau.
All ec13. Galilee porch with chapel over inserted in this entrance in
the c15. 
Other doors to cloister, on S side, unremarkable: possibility of lay
entrance via cloister is a strong one, considering its position. There
was a Lady Chapel to N, which may have had its own entrance.
Iconography: tiny statues in west front gables, discussed in [Reilly
1997]. But most interesting is colossal pier base to central trumeau
door, a large sculpted block of Purbeck marble. Paul Binski has a theory
on the scene shown - devils and clerics feature in it - and
frustratingly I cannot put my hands on the reference. The c15 galilee
porch has fine bosses showing the Assumption of the Virgin.  

St Mary Ouverie, Southwark
Western entrance lost. VIP/ceremonial? But NB very close to palace of
Bishops of Winchester who were closely involved with St Mary's.
NW porch c19 and current main lay point of access, presume medieval
porch on same site. 
Good doors on s side from canons' accommodation to S. 
Current door in s transept is a mirage: it led into an attached parish
church, not the outside world. 
Iconography: none survives. 

Southwell minster
Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial? Lay? Small c15 door. 
S transept: bishop. Small but elaborate c12 door faces directly onto
oldest part of archbishop of York's palace adjacent. 
N nave aisle: clerics. And lay? very large c12 porch faces both town and
canons' houses. 
Icongraphy: none survives. 

Ripon minster
Western entrance: VIP/ceremonial? C13 porch
Memory otherwise hazy: sorry. 

Allen Brown, R Anglo-Norman studies VI: Proceedings of the Battle
Conference 1983, Boydell, 1984

Ayers, T., Salisbury cathedral: the west front. A study in history and
conservation, Phillimore, 2000

Aylmer G and Tiller J eds, Hereford cathedral: a history, Hambledon,

Atherton I, Fernie, E, Harper-Bill C, Hassell-Smith C., Norwich
cathedral church, city and diocese 1096-1996, Hambledon, 1996

Binksi, P: various 

Blockley, K Sparks, M and Tatton-Brown, T., Canterbury cathedral nave
archaeologoy history and architecture vol I, Canterbury archaeological
trust, 1997

Broughton, L., Interpreting Lincoln Cahtedral, Lincoln cathedral
publications, 1996 

Brown, S., ‘Our magnificent fabrick’ York Minster an architectural
history c1220-1500 Sarah Brown English Heritage, 2003

Crook, J., Winchester cathedral: nine hundred years 1093 – 1993,
Phillimore, 1993

Demidowicz, G., Coventry’s First Cathedral: the cathedral and priory of
st mary, Paul Watkins of Stamford, 1994

Fernie, E An architectural history of Norwich cathedral, Clarendon
Press, 1993 

Geddes, J. in Archaeologia, 1975? 

Heslop, T A and Sekules V A., Medieval art and architecture at Lincoln,
British Archaeological Association, 1986 

Hobbs, M., Chichester cathedral: an historical survey, phillimore, 1994

Keene, D, Burns, A, Saint, A., St Pauls, the cathedral church of London
604-2004, Yale University Press 

Kelly, F., Medieval art and architecture at Exeter cathedral, British
Archaeological Association, 1991

McAleer, J P., Rochester cathedral, 604-1540, an architectural history,
University of Toronto press, 1999

Maddison, J., Medieval archaeology and architecture at Lichfield,
British Archaeological Association, 1993 

Monckton, L., Late gothic architecture in South West England: four major
centres building activity, PhD thesis, University of Warwick, 1999

Ramsay, N., and Meadows, P., A history of Ely cathedral, boydell, 2003

Reilly, L., An architectural history of Peterborough cathedral,
clarendon studies in the history of art, 1997

Sampson, J., Wells cathedral west front: construction, sculpture and
conservation, Sutton, 1998.

Welander, Canon D., The history, art and architecture of Gloucester
cathedral, Alan Sutton, 1991.

Woodman, F., The architectural history of Canterbury cathedral,
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981

Zarnecki, George, Romanesque Lincoln, the Sculpture of the cathedral,
Honeywood press, 1988 

Doors are clearly arranged to reflect some symbolic hierarchy of access,
but just how this works equally clearly varies from place to place. They
generaly relate, as one might expect, to the location of conventual
buildings/Canons' houses and bishop's palace, but these can be in any
combination - both on S (Winchester) both on N (Carlisle) separated N
and S of church (Durham, Lincoln). The complete separation of clerics,
lay and Episcopal ways is possible in most cases, but only demonstrable
at a few. And there are several locations where the most obvious lay
entrance is also that for the bishop, suggesting that the complete
separation of these two extremes was not seen to be an insurmountable
problem. What that means for the importance or otherwise accorded to the
visits of lay people to the cathedral is another question. And of course
use might change, or be more or less effectively controlled, over time
at any one location, muddying the waters further. How the hierarchy of
doors related to actual, day-in-day-out non-liturgical use is not clear.

To me the most sustainable taxonomy separates secular and monastic
cathedrals, for example:  The three west country secular cathedrals of
Hereford, Wells, Salisbury and Exeter appear to have identical physical
arrangements, but not necessarily used in the same way: only at Wells is
there are near-proven case for complete separation of ways in, while at
Hereford the grand north porch was, at least by the c14, used by canons
and lay visitors alike. Only Chichester and Wells have emphatic (ie
demonstrable) separations of lay and clerical entrances; both are

On the other hand, only Worcester has no door other than the bishop's
for lay people to enter, but it is part of a large monastic 'group' of
three cathedral priories at Canterbury, Worcester and Durham, each of
which have highly insignificant west doors, and grand porches facing
away from their conventual buildings which seem to combine the functions
of low and high status entrances. One might add that the less
architecturally striking west fronts - add Winchester in its c14 form
and Norwich to the above three - are all monastic - there are no secular
west fronts as un-prepossessing as these compositions - while the
greatest west fronts in terms of architectural ambition - (in
chronological order) Lincoln, Ely, Wells, Lichfield, Exeter, York - are
all, apart from Ely, secular. Why this should be would make an enjoyable
discussion. As is whether in England one can make a meaningful
distinction between 'W front' and 'door' iconography: it is often said
that England never developed the great French sculptural tradition
around doors: but the reverse could be said, that in the English 'screen
façade' the door is expanded to fill an entire screen-like wall.

Jon Cannon

-----Original ssage-----
From: medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious
culture [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jim
Sent: 17 February 2006 15:39
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [M-R] door symbolism

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and

> Jim: if you want a list of English cathedral lay/clerical entrances
> their position and use (and the evidence for them, most of which is
> topographical: Wells is exceptional in this respect), just ask.

Dear Jon,
What a splendid offer!  Yes, please.
Jim Bugslag

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