Stairway to Heaven
The rood screen – surmounted by a loft, rood, and associated figures – was central to mediæval spirituality (ND September 2012). Candles were burned in honour of the rood, and it was necessary for the sexton to make frequent regular visits to the loft to light and extinguish them. In most cases, as at Culmington (1: Salop) we can see the stairway, on the nave side of the screen, as is the norm – notice the tiny window to supply light to the stairway; a piscina to serve a nave altar in front of the screen; and a large square window to light the rood. The stairs often begin well above ground level, as at Thompson (2: Norfolk), where the stairs start in the inner reveal of a north-nave window.
Sometimes there is an open stairway, like the one in front of the stunning screen and loft at Llanwnnog (3: Powys), in this case with oak steps. Another loft, now vanished, at Garway (4: Herefs.) was approached by steps from the chancel: a rarity.ND
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