Sunday, January 14, 2007

Gateways and doors

click photo to enlarge
A typical medieval English church has three entrance doors. The most commonly used is in the south wall of the church towards the west end, and is usually inside a porch, though it probably wasn't originally. Whilst quite a few south porches date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and a few more were built in the sixteenth century, it was the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when most were constructed. The one at this church has the date 1611 carved above the entrance arch. Traditionally the service of baptism started in the south porch, entrance to the building echoing entrance to the religion. So too did the marriage service.

The west door is usually the largest and most elaborately decorated doorway of the church. The photograph shows an example that leads through the tower of the church of St Michael at St Michael's-on-Wyre, Lancashire. Much less used today than formerly, west doors were opened for processions during important ceremonial occasions. In summer many churches open this door to let the church "breathe"! The third door is commonly in the south wall near the east end of the church, and is usually quite small. It is the "priest's door". In medieval times, as its name suggest, it admitted the clergy only, usually opening straight into the chancel. Today these doors are rarely opened. This arrangement of doors results in most churchyards having a path leading to the south porch, and often another to the west door. That's the case at St Michael's. Here the gateway through to the west door has an interesting wrought iron lantern arch, probably dating from the nineteenth century, but possibly a century older.

The winter afternoon sun was throwing long shadows and giving an orange tint to the light when I took my photograph, standing in the busy road that passes the church, my wife warning me of approaching vehicles! I framed my shot to feature both the lantern and the west tower of the church, and to show the path from the gate to the west door. I used a wide zoom at 22mm (35mm equivalent), with the camera set to Aperture Priority (f8 at 1/200 sec), ISO 100, and -0.3EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen