Saturday, 5 March 2011


AUMBRY - A receptacle in the wall, square or rectangular, and used to store the holy oils used in baptism  or confirmation.  They originally had doors and many medieval hinges still survive.

APSE - Semi-circular or polygonal end of a chancel or a chapel.

BUTTRESS - Brickwork built against a wall to add strength to a structure.

CHANCEL - The part of the east end of a church in which the altar is placed.

CLERESTORY - The upper section of the nave walls pierced by windows.

CROSSING - The space at the intersection of nave chancel and transepts found in cruciform churches (built in the shape of the cross).

EASTER SEPULCHRE - Special type of tomb chest, with flat top, and situated to the north of the high alter.  During the Middle Ages, the consecrated host was placed on it on Maundy Thursday, which was a focus of devotion until its unveiling on Easter morning.

FONT - Used in the Baptism ceremony.  Many have a lockable cover, or, on many others, the holes or rusty hinges indicate where the cover used to be.

HAGIOSCOPE - Internal 'window' cut through walls to allow priests at side altars to see the main altar.  Mass was often said at several altars at the same time.

HANGING MONUMENT - These originate from the Elizabethan period, and are similar to the standing type, but hang on the wall without touching the floor.

HEART SHRINE - Medieval in origin.  As the name suggests, built to contain the heart of the deceased.  Two examples can be found in Kent - one at Leybourne and the other at Brabourne.

JAMB - Straight side of an archway, doorway or window.

LANCET WINDOW - Slim pointed-arched window.

LEDGER STONE - Large stone slabs found in the floor, which have dedications to the deceased, but do not necessarily cover the grave.  Many were lost during the 19th century restorations when the floors were generally re-laid.

LYCHGATE - Wooden structure, with a roof and open sides, at the entrance to the churchyard to provide space for the reception of a coffin.  The word lych is Saxon for corpse.

MASS DIAL (or Scratchdial) - Used to determine the times of Mass.  Usually found on the south wall beside the door, they were small sundials with a hole in the centre where the gnomon was inserted to cast the shadow from the sun.

MONUMENTAL BRASS - Generally found set into the floor - but sometimes on walls - with name and date to commemorate the deceased.  Not actually made of brass, but an alloy known as latten.  Kent can boast more of these than any other county.

MISERICORD - Hinged bracket on underside of choir-stall seat which offered the occupant some support during long period of standing.

MURALS - Pictures painted on walls.  The interior walls of most churches were decorated during the Middle Ages, but during the 17th century were often whitewashed over (to avoid offending the Puritans) and forgotten.  Subsequently, when churches were restored in the 19th century, most were lost for good when the plaster was replaced.  There are however a few surviving examples.

PISCINA - A receptacle to hold water for the priest to wash his fingers before Mass.  Always found next to every medieval altar.

QUOINS - Dressed stones at the angle of a building.

REREDOS - Structure behind and above the altar.

ROOD - Crucifix usually placed on the screen which divided the chancel and nave, or on a beam above.  Most statues and screens were demolished during the Reformation, but there are a few survivors.

ROYAL ARMS - Since the Reformation, Royal Arms were placed in churches to signal the monarch's position as head of the Church.  There are not many survivors as most were ordered to be taken down during Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth period (1649-1660).

SEDILIA - Seats for the priests (usually three) on the south side of the chancel.

STANDING MONUMENT - An alternative to the tomb chest, with a carved effigy beneath an ornamental canopy that is usually let into a wall.

TEXT BOARDS - Painted oval or rectangular boards carrying biblical text and scriptures.  Originating during the 18th and 19th centuries and - so far as Kent is concerned - found mostly in the Romney Marsh churches.

TOMB CHEST - Solid rectangular block of stone - some with plain polished top, or with effigy of the deceased.  Usually with some decoration with differing degrees of elaboration.

TRACERY - Intersecting ribwork in the upper part of a window.

TRANSEPT - Transverse portion of a cross-shaped (cruciform) church.

TYMPANUM - Space between the lintel of a doorway and the arch above it.

VOUSSOIR - Wedge-shaped stone in an arch or arch-shaped window.

WATER STOUP - Made to contain holy water that had been blessed by the priest, and with which the congregation would cross themselves on entering or leaving the church.  Usually found near the main door.

WHEEL WINDOW - Rose-shaped window, with patterned tracery, arranged to radiate from the centre.

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