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Article

Alison Manges Nogueira

Monumental, marble paschal Candlestick of the late 12th to early 13th century with reliefs signed by Nicolaus de Angelo and Vassallettus now in S Paolo fuori le Mura, Rome. The imposing column (h. 5.6 m), adorned with six registers of reliefs and surmounted by a fluted candle holder, rests upon a base of sculpted lions, sphinxes, rams and female figures. The upper and lower reliefs bear vegetal and ornamental patterns while the three central registers portray Christ before Caiaphas, the Mocking of Christ, Christ before Pilate, Pilate Washing his Hands, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension. The culminating Easter scenes reflect the paschal candle’s function during the Easter season as a symbol of Christ resurrected, as evoked in an inscription on the base. A second fragmentary inscription refers to the unidentifiable patron’s desire for commemoration. A third inscription identifies Nicolaus de Angelo as the master sculptor and Petrus Vassallettus as playing a secondary role. Both were active in the second half of the 12th to the early 13th century and came from leading families of Roman sculptors: the Vassalletti and Cosmati (Nicolaus’s family). The candlestick is the only work signed by and securely attributed to Nicolaus and the scope of his contribution remains uncertain. A plausible theory attributes the base and first register to Petrus, based upon similarities to works signed by him and ascribed to his family, such as the cloister of S Giovanni in Laterano in Rome and the narthex of S Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome. Nicolaus probably executed the Christological scenes, distinguishable for their more dynamic, expressive figures and decorative chisel work, and appropriate for the master sculptor because of their centrality and significance. Early Christian sarcophagi and Carolingian ivories may have provided models for the figural types. This form of paschal candlestick was probably inspired by Roman columnar monuments carved with triumphal scenes....

Article

Charles Tracy

Places in the choir of a church set aside for the daily use of the clergy. They are usually made of wood and are found only in churches of the Western tradition. Choir-stalls were essentially places for standing, the clergy being required to do so during most of the services. Each stall consists of a folding seat, turning on hinges or pivots, with a Misericord under it, a standard on each side with elbow rest, a wainscot backing and, sometimes, a canopy above. Some form of book desk was provided in front.

The daily task of the members of a cathedral chapter was the recitation of the Psalter, particular psalms being allocated to the different prebends. At Lincoln Cathedral the initial Latin verses allocated to each canon, over-painted in modern times, are still to be found on the stall backs. An absentee canon was expected to have a deputy, called a ‘vicar choral’, who was paid ‘stall wages’. The seating in the choir-stalls of a great church mirrored the hierarchy of the organization. It was stipulated in the manuals of customs, such as the Sarum Consuetudinary, written in the early 13th century. In medieval England the principal place of honour in a secular ...

Article

Iris Kockelbergh

Closet-like piece of furniture used in the Roman Catholic Church and some other liturgically ‘high’ denominations for auricular confession. Confessionals are always made out of wood, since it was thought inappropriate to use more costly materials for non-liturgical church furnishings. Several types of confessional were in existence during the Middle Ages. In the 12th century the priest was seated while the penitent knelt in front of him. From the 14th century in Sweden, where men lived alongside women in double monasteries, grilles were inserted in special recesses in the choir walls to prevent the priest from coming into contact with the sisters. The first confessional rooms, with a grille opening into the church, appeared in Portugal in the early 15th century (e.g. at Guarda Cathedral); a century later (1517–20), at S Maria, Belém, in Lisbon, the confessional room was extended to a double alcove, one for the priest and another for the penitent, connected by a grille. In the 16th century in northern Europe confessional grilles were inserted in the choir aisle windows so that confession could be made from outside the church. During the Reformation, after a number of disputes over the objectivity of confession, regulations for the sacrament were drawn up at the Council of Milan (...

Article

Christa Grössinger

[Lat. misericordia: ‘act of mercy’]

Hinged choir-stall seat, which, when tipped up, gives support to the clergy, who according to the Rules of St Benedict (6th century) were required to stand during the Divine Offices, consisting of the seven Canonical Hours. The term is first mentioned in the 11th-century Constitutiones of Hirsau Abbey, Germany (chapter 29), when they were confined to the upper rows of the stalls and used by the old and weak monks only, who had previously been allowed crutches. The use of misericords is restricted to western Europe. Their undersides are usually carved, and the earliest surviving examples date from the 13th century (e.g. Exeter Cathedral, c. 1230–60).

In contrast to other church art, the subject-matter of misericords is predominantly secular, illustrating the humorous side of life, proverbs, games, fables, professions, and a vast repertory of grotesques, animals, and plants. Scenes based on the scriptures are few (e.g. Amiens Cathedral, 1508–19...

Article

Pew  

Charles Tracy

Term used to designate certain kinds of seating, particularly fixed wooden benches in churches. The provision of permanent seating for the congregation became common only in the later Middle Ages, and it may have been a speciality of England, where most examples survive. Earlier, bench-tables along the walls or encircling the nave piers had provided seating for the old and infirm, but most of the congregation stood, as is still the tradition in the Eastern churches. The earliest surviving examples of fixed wooden pews date from the late 13th century, at St Mary and All Saints, Dunsfold (Surrey), St Mark’s, Mark (Somerset), and St Luke’s, Gaddesby (Leics). Seats for parishioners are recorded at the synod of Exeter in 1287, when the practice of claiming a specific place was condemned, and enclosed ‘pues’ for wives and widows are mentioned in the Visions of Piers Plowman C, vi, 144 (c. 1377–87...

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