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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  February 2006

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION February 2006

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Subject:

Re: use of cathedral naves

From:

Jon Cannon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 1 Feb 2006 10:39:53 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

'They carried banners which, it has been suggested (for England, in the
12th century) explains the height of the nave.  '

This is a charming idea! But surely wrong. The 'Great church'
arrangement of nave higher than aisles indeed has its roots in the Roman
basilica, and was thus a standard feature of ambitious church
architecture long before Pentecostal processions -- and in any case,
these processions went to cathedral or other 'mother churches', leaving
out many large monastic institutions whose naves were also high. And few
English churches have high entrances, which would cause some trouble for
banner-carriers on the way in. 

The primary function of the 'large nave' is surely processional, with a
certain architectural grandeur and appropriateness thrown in, as John
Briggs has already said. And many monastic choirs extended well into the
nave, a fair number of them remaining in this position (eg Norwich, St
Albans) throughout the middle ages. 

But the Pentecostal processions are not irrelevant. The poster is right:
they did occur, especially in the c12, and though evidence for the
numbers of people involved seems to be scanty it is clear that in some
places and at some times the number could be quite large. Inter-village
rivalry often broke out en route - there are several instances of this
for Lincoln, I think cited by Dorothy Owen. At St Paul's, London, as
late as the c14, the bishops had to adopt 'crowd management' techniques,
specifying which parts of the diocese would process on which days of the
Pentecost season, and their routes through the City of London to the
church. Detail is in Derek Keene and Andrew Saint's book, 'St Paul's,
the cathedral church of London, 604-2004'. In other places the
processions were indeed commuted into payments, or rather the parish
priest or rural dean gathered payments without requiring anyone to
process with them to the 'mother church'.

Such events are among many occasional needs for cathedrals to
accommodate large gatherings, and this is surely part of the function of
the 'large nave'. A saint's translation, or a major annual saint's
feast, especially if it coincided with a fair, could generate large
crowds: there is evidence for choir boys being directed to 'crowd
management' within Ely cathedral during St Etheldreda's fair. The
'multitudes' cited at saintly bishop's homecomings, or their Easter
sermons in the cathedral itself, might otherwise have attended their own
parish church but were clearly prepared to abandon it for a major event.


Synods and other official meetings could be based there, too: I believe
Herbert de Losinga, builder of Norwich cathedral, organized regular
synods of the parish clergy in his diocese, and that in the mid c12 one
such was taking place in the cathedral nave (I would like to pin down a
firm source for the location, but do not have it to hand) when the Jews
of Norwich were accused of being responsible for the death of 'St
William'. Perhaps Herbert was thinking more of his diocesian priests
than the laity when building his 'long nave'. Or perhaps he was just
engaging in the 'long nave fever' which seems to have gripped English
church-builders in the 40 years after the Norman Conquest.  

Finally, of course, the nave was used for a wide range of secular
activities: St Paul's London contained (among other things) a 'standard
measure' of English length measurements, inscribed on a column; and was
the place of business for official letter writers. 

I don't think it's going too far to say that, like so many other parts
of the great church, the 'large nave' is - as well as a processional
space - an emblem for an event which actually happened quite rarely, but
it was nevertheless important to embody in stone: the large gathering,
lay or religious, which for could in the case of a cathedral 'represent'
the wider diocese.
 
Jon Cannon 

-----Original Message-----
From: medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious
culture [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Postles,
Dr D.A.
Sent: 31 January 2006 19:49
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [M-R] cathedral naves

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and
culture

If I understand it correctly, parishioners were expected to process to
their cathedral church at pentecost - pentecostal processions.  They
carried banners which, it has been suggested (for England, in the 12th
century) explains the height of the nave.  It seems that the processions
did actually take place, as bishops of large dioceses appointed
alternative venues because of the distance, during the 12th century in
England.  Later, of course, the obligation was commuted (usually called
smoke penny or smoke farthing).  This is based on Martin Brett, The
Church under Henry I, and the additional information in the BritAc
volumes of English Episcopal Acta.  Sorry to be so Anglocentric.
D.

 

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