Church - More Church terminology
Church Terminology Explained
Chancel - Is the east end section of a church which contains the altar.  In pre-reformation times the chancel was restricted to the clergy and the celebration of mass.
Saxon – From the 7th century to the Norman conquest 1066. Characterised by roughness and crude construction. 

Triangular headed windows and round towers.

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Saxon round window
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Saxon triangular window
Norman – 1066 to about 1200 - Distinctive rounded arches and massive round pillars introduced after the Norman conquest.  Large wall pillars and thick walls are a typical feature with small round headed slit windows. Rich, bold ornamentation.
Early English - 1200 to 1300 – Gothic spans roughly a period of a 100 years from the reign of Richard through to about 1300. Windows changed from singular, to being grouped into threes, fives, or even seven. Everything became, with  finer,  beautiful foliage carving, window tracery and other decorative carving.

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Early English lancets

Decorated Style – This was the high point of ornamented gothic architecture in the first half of the 14th Century. 
Windows grew larger and  tracery became more flamboyant with lots of decorative mouldings.


Decorated butterfly window


Decorated reticulated window

Transitional - and early English - 1200 to 1300 – Following the Norman period. Pillars became slimmer and lighter. Windows were still slit but with a pointed top.
Perpendicular - From the time of the black death in 1350 until around 1500. Lines soaring upwards, both in windows and towers.


Classic Perpendicular

Tudor – 1500 to 1600 - From Henry VIII until the end of his daughter’s reign, Elizabeth 1.  Not much change apart from the attractive embellishment of the Tudor rose.


Tudor - a flatening of the arch over a Perpendicular window

Flint Knapping -  flints which have been split across the middle with great skill to achieve a shell-like fracture and a lustrous flat surface.
Flush work - This is the use of knapped flints set into a panelled pattern in either brick or stone or a combination which adds visual beauty and a striking impact.
Gargoyles - Designed to throw rainwater well away from the building of the church. In ancient churches they took on a secondary function that of guarding the church against evil and the devil. 

With this in mind most gargoyles are grotesquely carved in forms of weird beasts, dragons or devils probably on the basis that it takes a devil to catch a devil. 

So it is always worth looking up or taking along a pair of binoculars in order to better appreciate this unusual form of architecture.

Hammer beam Roof - Of the late gothic period 15th/16th century in which the thrust of the roofs weight is taken on hammer brackets which produces a very artistic result.
Jacobean - copious use of bricks and a move towards a renaissance expression of architecture which employed the principles of ancient Rome and Greek styled buildings.
Low Window - A small square or oblong window located very low down on a church. Normally in the south wall of the chancel, or just east of the chancel arch. Fitted with shutters, though in some instances these have been replaced with glass. It is suggested that these were ‘leper windows’, so that the afflicted could look in and share in the Mass. However, another suggestion is that at the point in the mass when the priest holds up the Host above the altar a handbell would be rung through the opened low window. This allowed the parishioners in the fields to pause in their labours and cross themselves and thus share in the celebration of Mass. Unfortunately a lot of these windows have now been filled in.
Lych Gate - The word 'lych' is Anglo Saxon and comes from the German word meaning corpse. 

The purpose of the lych gate was to provide shelter and a resting place for coffin bearers on the way to the church. In olden times the gate would have a coffin table on which the coffin could be set. People who had been unable to afford a coffin would be wrapped in a sheet and placed onto the coffin table. The priest would then speak the first sentence of the burial service before the coffin or person was moved. 

Charles II, in order to promote the wool trade, passed an act of parliament in which it was an offence for someone to be buried without being wrapped in a woollen cloth, and the fine imposed was £5. This act was not repealed until 1814.

Misericords - Or 'Mercy Seats'.  These were ancient stalls with hinged seats to give rest to the old and infirm monks who were suffering from the long hours of monastic office. It allowed them to rest on a small ledge, but still gave the impression that they were standing. Underneath the tip up seats are carvings quite often done with a sense of humour. Anything from wildest caricatures to domestic scenes
Nave - This is the main body of a church. The word comes from the Latin 'navis', a ship. In times past once the services were over it was quite often used for parish meetings or as a courtroom.
North Doors - In most churches the main entrance door and porch are located on the south side of the church with opposite it a north door, which in most instances now has been filled in. Occasionally the main door may be on the north side.  If this is the case then the village centre probably also lies in that direction. In medieval times the churchyard was a gathering place for market sports, fairs and socialising; all of which normally took place on the north side.

The south side was reserved for burials. Its is assumed that the north door was used as an exit point for the processions which were a great feature of Sundays and feast days before the reformation. However there is also a legend that says that when the congregation entered the church through the south door they dipped their fingers into the holy water stoup and that by crossing themselves the devil was expelled. As the devil could not go out over their shoulders, a north door was included for his retreat. Thus sometime the North door is known as the Devils door.

Poppyhead - Floral ornamentation which graces the end of bench pews.

Said to be derived from the French poupee, puppet doll or figurehead. 

Poppyheads came into being in the 15th century. Some of the carvings have resulted in grotesque faces or animals or a crest or coat of arms from a noble patron.

Porch - The services of baptism began in the porch as well as part of the burial service and the wedding service. The porch was also the place where a kneeling penitent received absolution.
Reformation - This took place during the 16th Century in western Europe as a result of Henry VIII's intention to put away one wife in order to take another, thus rejecting the Pope in Rome as the Head of the Church who would not sanctify the divorce.  The reformation lasted from 1538 to 1588.
Scratch Dials - Normally located near the south porch of old churches. Usually about six to ten inches across with radiating lines coming from a central hole. These were used by priests as clocks to determine the time for mass. A wooden peg known as a gnomon (Greek indicator) was placed in the hole and the shadow cast by the sun moved round the dial. When the shadow touched one of the radiating lines it was time for a mass. 
Seven Sacrament Font - Dating from the 15th Century, though a few might be slightly later. Octagonal in shape and exquisitely carved, consisting of eight panels. Some have unfortunately been mutilated, those of the Roman Church suffered the worst at the time of the Reformation. Seven of the panels contain representations of the 7 holy ordinances of sacrament, such as baptism, holy communion, confirmation, confession or penance, ordination to holy orders, marriage and extreme unctions. The eighth panel varies in its depiction. Fonts used to be kept locked both for cleanliness and for checking the use of the water for superstitious purposes. Most of these covers disappeared during the sixteenth century probably at the same time that the fonts themselves were mutilated.
The Green Man

Dating back from a past far older than Christianity, it is a pagan survivor, which has been absorbed into Christian imagery.

Often of a demoniacal appearance and having living vines issuing from its mouth, it probably used to represent the spirit of fertility.

Biers - Some churches, particularly those with long paths, have a conveyance to carry the coffin to and from the funeral service.   These strange vehicles can sometimes be seen discreetly tucked away at the back of the nave or in a side aisle.
Bosses - The carved ornamentation seen at the intersections of roof beams or of the ribs in vaulted ceilings.  Normally in the shape of foliage, grotesque animals, portraits of heraldic arms.
Lancet - This a slim pointed window and came into being at the beginning of the Early English architecture from around 1200.
Priests Door – Most chancels have a small door usually on the south side which was the priest's private entrance into the church.
Sound Holes – Normally located in the tower and at first floor level.  A small opening, can be any shape,  often with beautiful ornamentation.  Their purpose is to let in light and to allow the ringers to hear the bells they are ringing.