Author Topic: Notes on Chancel Screens in Some Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque Churches  (Read 4023 times)

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Offline Christopher McAvoy

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Earlier I had posted a link to a video of an english church that suggested that rood screens were a later medieval development.
But the matter is not as simple as that. Though there is a more distinctive "gothic" post-norman concept of "rood" choir screen (with cross on top: Košice - Carved cross and Virgin Mary ans st. John statue from year 1420) that spread in northern europe during the three centuries before the reformation, there are earlier precedents which are similar, but different.
This is the finest article I have yet read on chancel screens and barriers in the history of the latin church.

from page 13 it says:

The Visigoth churches were small buildings, but frequently the plan of the basilica was employed. The remainder had a cruciform plan. The interiors were usually constructed so as to create small pockets that served their liturgical requirements to keep clergy and laity separate and also, where applicable, to separate priests from deacons. Thus there were many with chancel screens and even a barrier at the chancel. An example is to be seen at the VII century chapel of São Gião de Nazaré, in Portugal North of Lisbon. Here there is a barrier which provides very restricted access to the sanctuary area and which would have hidden the activity around the altar from the laity in the nave.

Such screens were used in most churches in Spain that date from the VI and VII centuries. The liturgical requirement for them seems to have existed in the coastal belt of Southern France; the Musée Lapidaire at St Guilhem Le Désert has on display a substantial number of fragments of a chancel screen.

The English Parish church of the 13th to 15th century  - 3D development models: Decorated-Perpendicular interior

Sixteenth-century painting of St Peter's Basilica, before its reconstruction. Old St Peter's, as it is now called, was constructed by the emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD. Around the shrine of St Peter were four antique spiral columns, allegedly brought from the temple of Solomon, and therefore an important element of the building. This Basilica inspired the original construction of Durham Cathedral (in England).
A three-dimensional reconstruction of the old St. Peter's basilica (X-XI century AD)

With all this evidence in mind, it appears that there is no question that the practice of a chancel screen or chancel barrier with columns (essentially a iconostasis without icons filling in every the space) should be the normative practice of the future within the latin rite churches of the Orthodox Church. Such a practice should not be viewed or felt to be a "byzantinzation" for it originates in the shared history common to both latin and byzantine churches.  

From my own personal opinion I would say that it seems to be most appropriate for a latin rite chancel screen to not be required to be entirely covered with icons as byzantine rite iconostasis traditionally is. Surviving examples that have images connected to them tend to have images above the architrave beam.

<a href='' target='_blank'><img src='' border='0' alt="Chancel Screens Notes on Chancel Screens in So" />[/url]

However to have the two icons of the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary and Christ Pantocrator in two spaces of a chancel screen is reasonable especially if such a church is devoid of any other images (which latin rite churches ought not be!), even though, so far as I know it would be a latin rite custom it also is not opposed to latin rite customs. It may or may not be seen as byzantinization.

« Last Edit: June 09, 2013, 05:19:56 PM by Christopher McAvoy »
"and for all who are Orthodox, and who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith, remember, O Lord, thy servants" - yet the post-conciliar RC hierarchy is tolerant of everyone and everything... except Catholic Tradition, for modernists are as salt with no taste, to be “thrown out and trampled under foot

Offline FrAugustineFetter

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Thanks for the correction and mention, Christopher.

In Christ,

Fr. Enoch