Saturday, September 04, 2010

Eagles, angels and lecterns

click photos to enlarge
Go into any English parish church and the chances are that somewhere below the chancel arch, on the south side of the nave, you'll see a lectern holding a Bible. It's the place from which extracts are read during services. In the vast majority of churches the lectern will take the form of three footed base supporting a column with a ball on top, on which stands an eagle with outstretched wings. The inclined plane formed by those wings forms the surface on which the Bible rests. In most instances the whole of the lectern will be made of brass, and will date from the nineteenth century.

That being the case, it is quite refreshing to go into a church and find a variation from this dominant design. Sometimes I come across seventeenth or eighteenth century versions, occasionally made of wood, with an eagle that looks more like a parrot. More often I find a simpler design with a column holding a decorated, inclined shelf. Today's main photograph shows a detail of one such lectern that I saw a few days ago. The brass shelf had been designed (in 1897) with a very pleasing fretwork pattern, and I felt motivated to capture this close-up that shows something of the intricate leaves, swirls and central cross. A couple of weeks earlier I'd stumbled upon an altogether different take on the lectern. The church of All Saints, at Harmston, Lincolnshire, has an angel with upstretched arms holding the usual inclined shelf. It has something of the Art Nouveau about it, and I guess it dates from somewhere between 1890 and the beginning of WW1. It is not without its attractions, and as far as symbolism goes has just as much to commend it as an eagle perched on a ball. But, I have to say that I find it a touch disconcerting, perhaps because the slender figure holding that  large weight in such an awkward pose for eternity makes me feel decidedly uncomfortable. On the other hand it could be that, to me, the figure looks a little too worldly for its setting, and might be more appropriate in a town hall, opera house or grand hotel.

photographs and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo 2)
Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.), (10.2mm (48mm/35mm equiv.))
F No: f2 (2.8)
Shutter Speed: 1/20 (1/40)
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 (-0.66) EV
Image Stabilisation: On 


Heidi said...

Hi there Tony, Just wanted to drop you a line and say how pleased I am to have found your blog. I've really enjoyed browsing and your images are fabulous.

All my best Heidi

Tony Boughen said...

Thanks for the kind comment Heidi.


mojo51 said...

You may be interested to know that the angel has a friend who is the lectern at St. Elisabeth's Church, Reddish, Greater Manchester. Please try this link to my SkyDrive to see a photo of it.
It is engraved with the names of those lost in WW1 around the base, but could be earlier.

Tony Boughen said...

Very nice. Thanks for the information. The church is one I don't know and would like to see. Anything by Waterhouse is worth a look.