Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dark chancels

click photo to enlarge
I visit a lot of churches and over the years I've come to appreciate dark chancels. You might wonder why since they are clearly harder to photograph than one that is well lit. What I like is the contrast between the better lit nave, and the air of mystery that the subdued lighting gives to the focal point of the church. Fortunately, through most periods of architectural history the builders and furnishers of churches have agreed with me and have generally inserted fewer, smaller windows and have filled them with stained glass. The tendency to insert more memorials, elaborate seating, reredos, organs etc in this, usually, smaller space has deepened the darkness in many buildings. However, broadly speaking, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the eighteenth century, and the twentieth century more light was allowed to enter the chancel.

In the fifteenth century the fashionable architecture of the time was responsible for light chancels, and frequently there was no dividing arch between and the nave. This example at Skirlaugh in East Yorkshire is a good illustration of what I mean. In the eighteenth century more inclusive worship lightened chancels, and the same trend influenced the twentieth century. But the Gothic Revival in the nineteenth century and the original Gothic of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries usually exhibits dark chancels, as does the earlier Romanesque period where large windows were technically unfeasible.

In my recent visit to St Denys in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, I photographed the chancel to capture the jewel-like appearance that low light usually imparts to the stained glass. Here, even the sunlight streaming in from the south facing windows could not overpower the deep reds and blues of the glass, though I did need some negative EV to better capture what the eye saw.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title:Chancel, St Denys, Sleaford, Lincolnshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
Exposure Compensation: -1.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On