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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  October 2007

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION October 2007

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Subject:

Re: Archaeologists and the Liturgy

From:

Jon Cannon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 17 Oct 2007 11:24:08 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (153 lines)

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

I agree about the towers: its a very, very neat and attractive argument. And 
not the first time that Paul and David, both together and apart, have 
managed to 'nail' something (or at least make an inspired suggestion for it) 
quite brilliantly.

While tending more to the natural enthusiast than the natural sceptic, I 
agree with John's caution about the Remigius link. I too cannot see a 
connection with the Decreta Lanfranci; more to the point - and this is as 
ever from memory - I don't believe we have any firm liturgical evidence for 
Lincoln before the c13. It seems to me the apparent coincidence with 
archdeaconries is in itself the strongest evidence that some kind of 
episcopal, or episcopally-related authority may be involved; especially as 
these were created in the late c11 by Remigius himself, at a time when the 
bishop's authority beyond Lincolnshire in this vast diocese may well have 
not run very deep (ie archdeaconries elsehwere in the diocese need not show 
the same evidence). Also, Lincoln cathedral itself provides some ballast for 
connecting architectural form and liturgy at this time: it seems to me that 
the case for Remigius' remarkable 5-arched west front being driven by (Palm 
Sunday? Ascension Day?) liturgy is at least as strong as the current 
Stocker/Gem/Fernie concensus, that it was quasi-military in design. Both 
theories could of course be true.

Having said that, I'd be curious to know whether/how the authors rejected 
the possibility that these liturgies and their designs are not local and 
pre-Conquest in origin.

As for my book, I can only comment that the scale of publishing in our field 
over the last few years has been astonishing, and Summoning St Michael was 
in a pile of last-minute, is there-anything-unmissable-here things I checked 
through. In the quarter-of-an-hour or so I had available :(, I decided that 
while the author's arguments would be perfect for a similar work on parish 
churches (any publishers out there?), their material on cathedrals was not 
quite strong enough to warrant late changes to a completed manuscript. A 
year earlier, and it may well have got 'under the wire.'

But it did add fuel to the fire for several of my own interests. The precise 
articulation of funerary/mourning-related routes offers rich pickings in 
churches large and small, and the authors' work suggests approaches for a 
reanalysis of slypes, etc that I have long fantasized about. And my thoughts 
immediately turned to a remarkable doorway at St Peter's Gloucester (now the 
cathedral). It is part of the c14 recasing of the south transept, and it 
features two headless, near-lifesize stone figures leaning over the 
doorframe , as if intended to look 'real', in a manner more reminscent of 
c18 tastes than c14 ones. I believe one could argue - the evidence is 
fragmentary - that one is an angel and one a layman. It is a very 
extraordinary thing. Anyway, the door sits perfectly on any route from the 
south transept chapel of the cathedral to the lay cemetery, and faces the 
main entrance from the lay cemetery to the town; I have often wondered 
whether monks or mourners would have accessed the church in some way during 
funerals. It is utterly plain on the exterior; the chapel within (sadly for 
the Stocker/Everson theory) is (now) dedicated to St Andrew.

Jon Cannon
>From: John Briggs <[log in to unmask]>
>Reply-To: medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious   
>            culture <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: [M-R] Archaeologists and the Liturgy
>Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2007 01:19:23 +0100
>
>medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
>
>For reasons which I shall explain later, I'm going to rave about a book 
>before I have read it!  (I may be less enthusiastic once I have done so...) 
>The book is:
>
>D.A. Stocker & P.L. Everson, Summoning St Michael: Early Romanesque Towers 
>in Lincolnshire (Oxbow Books, 2006) ISBN 1842172131
>
>The authors are archaeologist working for English Heritage, who have made a 
>study of a group of parish church towers in Lincolnshire which have 
>attracted attention in  the past, because they date either from just before 
>or just after the Norman conquest.  (Our authors plump for the late 11th 
>century - which was a bit embarrassing, as the fieldwork had been conducted 
>for the "Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture"!) They gave a talk a few 
>days ago based on their findings, which caused me to sit up and take notice 
>- because they have made a link between the archaeology of the standing 
>buildings and the medieval liturgy.
>
>These towers all have a bell stage with paired belfrey opening on each 
>face. It is fairly obvious that bells were hung there, but our authors 
>found that they were rung from a ringing chamber below, not from ground 
>level.  These ringing chambers had slit windows, and these faced the 
>direction or directions that covered the greater part of the churchyard.  
>All the towers have (or formerly had) west doorways, but the ground floor 
>spaces of the towers were poorly-lit, again by slit windows. There was a 
>tower arch into the nave, often highly decorated, but this decoration was 
>only on the nave side, not the tower side. The conclusion was that the west 
>doorway was an exit, not an entrance. The ringing chamber was accessed by a 
>doorway above the tower arch - i.e. it could only be accessed via a ladder 
>placed in the nave - not from within the tower.
>
>The interpretation of all this was that the vigil over the body of a dead 
>parishioner was held overnight in the ground floor stage of the tower, lit 
>by candlelight, and that the funeral procession subsequently left via the 
>west doorway, with a bell tolling until the instant that the body was laid 
>in the grave.  Our authors suggest that these towers were built in response 
>to a change in the liturgy, driven by Bishop Remigius as he built his new 
>cathedral at Lincoln, after 1072.
>
>So far, so good - although some awkward questions arise.  As you should 
>know by now, I am somewhat sceptical by nature, so I asked why these towers 
>were found only in Lincolnshire, when the diocese famously stretched from 
>the Thames to the Humber?  The answer was that they seemed to be confined 
>to the three archdeaconries of Lincolnshire (I do wonder if we should look 
>to the archdeacons rather than the bishop - as deacons they might well be 
>more concerned with the liturgy away from the altar...)  Also, they claimed 
>that Remigius was following the lead of Lanfranc, but I can't find any 
>support for their larger claims in the Decreta Lanfranci.
>
>For there is more: our authors claim that this use of western towers is 
>mimicking the liturgical use of the transept ends of abbey churches and 
>cathedral priory churches (and presumably secular cathedral churches such 
>as Lincoln, although they weren't too clear on that point).  They claimed 
>that these incorporated belfreys, and mortuary chapels dedicated to St 
>Michael. I suppose their book may have been published too late for Jon 
>Cannon to take their findings into account in his own book - which could be 
>a bit embarrassing if they turn out to be right!
>
>Because I have a feeling that I may be less convinced once I have read the 
>book.  I am convinced that their archaeological interpretation of the use 
>of these parish church west towers is correct, but I am less certain that 
>they are on firm ground with their interpretation of the liturgy - but we 
>shall have to see!
>
>John Briggs
>
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