Southwold Suffolk Chancel Screen

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Late fifteenth century. 124

show the same manner perpetuated in this pictorial decoration of Church woodwork. One of these panels, representing the Crucifixion, is shown here in Fig. 92. It forms the south wing of the reredos. There is the same intricacy in the patterning of the gesso ground as at Norwich Cathedral, but in a more free and flowing manner. The drawing of the figure of Christ is less archaic, as one would expect at this date. St. Michael-at-Plea possessed a magnificent screen in earlier times, of which this panel may have formed a part. Of this screen nothing now remains, if we except these panels. In 1504 the will of Katherine, widow of Alderman Thomas Bew field, leaves 5 marks for the painting and gilding of the rood-loft. A mark or mark of gold weighed eight ounces at this date, and was in value sixteen pounds, thirteen shillings and fourpence in the coin of this time, a large sum in the reign of Henry VII and up to the date when his son began to debase the coinage, as in those days money purchased so much. It is improbable that a gold mark was indicated in this bequest, as the present-day value of such would be well over one thousand pounds, an exaggerated sum for the painting and gilding of a rood-loft.

It is with the chancel screens of the fifteenth century, the purpose of which has already been described, that both Gothic woodwork and its colour decoration reach their highest limits in England. Their use was to guard the sanctuary of the altar, and also to support a rood-loft, on the rood-beam of which was displayed the image of the crucified Christ, flanked, at a later date, with other representations of St. Mary and St. John the Evangelist. The rood is of great antiquity,—the name itself being of Saxon origin,—and was the object of much devotion in the Middle Ages.

At festivals, numbers of lighted candles or tapers were fixed to the rood-beam, and in some churches, as at Burford, Oxon, a light was kept burning continually on the rood-loft. These lofts, among other uses, were often the pulpits and the reading


Mid-fifteenth century.


Mid-fifteenth century.

Fig. 121

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