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finish for church furniture. The strong yellow colour and shiny surface are objectionable. An effort should be made to secure that the seats be of oak or other good wood, simple but massive in design, and left without varnish or polish. If desired a coating of oil or dull waxing may be applied to the surface. Chairs are not used in this country, but are very common in English and Continental churches. Where good oak pews cannot be afforded, I should prefer rush-bottomed chairs, they crowd up the interior less than pews or benches. Deal fittings, if painted or decorated, are unobjectionable.
In the matter of brass, wrought-iron, and other metal work there is much room for improvement, these being mostly of stereotyped pattern. Enamels are little used, but are a beautiful art, adapted to church use. Some most admirable enamel work has been done of late years in Ireland by Mr. Reeves, of the School of Art, Dublin ; Miss
; O'Kelly, and other artists.
Ireland was, in early days, noted for the unrivalled beauty of its metal work, and the old examples in the National Museum afford admirable suggestion for modern design, but the way in which modern so-called Celtic design is too often reproduced is deplorable.
Confessional boxes are a comparatively modern institution, and there are no very old models. The older ones, found in some Continental churches were much smaller and simpler than the large boxes now common. In St. Nicholas Church, Galway, is a stone confessional built in the wall. Ordinarily, the large wooden boxes used in Irish churches constitute a great obstruction, and when of varnished pine or deal are ugly. They are frequently of a very poor stock pattern. It would be much better if they could be designed as part of the church itself and done in stone, failing this of unpolished oak, partly recessed in the walls. In a new church they should form part of the design.
The chancel itself, as already observed, should be of ample proportions, and be marked off in some very distinctive fashion. In the Middle Ages a chancel screen was usual. These were most commonly of carved and traceried oak, often very rich and elaborate. Many examples of these still exist all over England and abroad in perfect condition. No example remains in Ireland. They are not used in modern Irish churches, and it is a loss, for, apart from their beauty, they served to set the chancel by itself unmistakably. They were termed rood screens, and often bore the holy
rood. From the earliest times the apse or sacrarium was protected by some kind of fence. The first known were railings of bronze or wood. The Church of the Apostles, erected in Constantinople in the fourth century, had a screen of gilded bronze. St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, speaks of the Holy of Holies being accessible to priests only, and fenced off by bronze gilded railings. None of these very early railings, however, survive.
The origin of the medieval choir screen is two-fold, according to Mr. Francis Bond, a very erudite writer on these subjects, partly in altar fences, railing or colonnades, partly in low parapets, partly in the necessity for providing supports for a rood screen, which carried a crucifix and attendant figures, reliquaries, curtains etc. The rood beam developed in Italy into a colonnade, in England into the choir screen of oak or stone. Many of the English screens, particularly in Norfolk and Suffolk, were richly coloured and gilded, and bore decorative figure panels. The red of the poppy, the gold of the corn, the yellow, blue and green of the flowers, were introduced, and gilding was freely used.
It is said that almost every church in Devon and the adjoining counties was once furnished with its rood loft and gallery front, surmounting the chancel screen. In Lincolnshire alone there must have been over a hundred rood lofts.
Altar rails, as now used, are of post-Reformation date, as prior to that, almost every chancel was already fenced by the chancel screen.
Where the church is too short-and most Irish churches are—it is best not to introduce a chancel arch, because it only accentuates the lack of length.
The altar, with the reredos, constitutes the central object of the chancel, and always stood first in dignity and importance in Christian worship in the ancient churches. In the earliest times, the church was but a shelter for the altar. The earliest type was in the form of a wooden table, and in the Greek Church the wooden form endured to the present day. In the Western Church, the stone altar was ultimately preferred. Sometimes a simple block of stone was used.
On either side of medieval altars there were usually side curtains, "ridels' or 'riddells,' or 'costers. Examples of
,' medieval altars are fairly numerous in England, and in Ireland a few fine ones remain at Holy Cross, at Straide, Co. Mayo (until lately used as the high altar of the parish church), the front enriched with figure-carving and canopy
work, etc. These old native Irish altars are of limestone. Why should not the use of Irish limestone for altars and pulpits be revived ? Many limestones, moreover, polish well and have a softer tone than Sicilian marble. Finely chiselled limestone would look very well, and be most appropriate.
Reredoses are supposed to have come into general use about the eleventh or twelfth century, and many beautiful examples remain in England, but I know of none in Ireland. One of the finest examples of a medieval reredos still remaining is that of Christ Church Priory, Hants, also the great reredos of Winchester, and that at Sherbourne Abbey.
The reredos should be detached from the altar. Most of the modern altars in Irish churches are unrubrical in character, the reredos being mounted on the altar, and forming a sort of superstructure. A small pamphlet on the correct rubrical construction of altars, compiled by the late Cardinal Vaughan and Mr. Osmund Bentley, published by Burns and Oates, gives much practical information on these points.
In Ireland the altars are usually of Sicilian marble, a very cold looking material in this country, and ordinarily employed and carved in a manner more suited to soft stone than to marble. Marble should be used in broad smooth masses, It lends itself well to simple flowing curves, panelling, and inlays, rather than to elaborate carving. An excellent example of the right use of marble is in the Catholic University Church, Stephen's Green, Dublin, including the fine pulpit.
Marble altars are common in the Italian churches but are not found in medieval Gothic churches, in these countries stone or oak being usual. The reredos in medieval churches is usually of soft stone like Bathstone, which lends itself well to good carving and enrichment. The medieval artists did not hesitate to touch up their carved stonework with gold. Coloured alabaster was also much used, and nothing could be better ; it is quite permissible to enrich it with gold and colour, which gives a warm and glowing effect. The following is a description of an English alabaster altar-piece in the South Kensington Museum :
-It was acquired at the sale of Lord Swansea's collection at Singleton Abbey last November, a complete English altar-piece in alabaster, dating from the middle, or second half, of the 15th century. Such altarpieces were made in considerable quantities from the alabaster quarries at Chellaston, in Derbyshire, and much work was done at Nottingham. They appear to have been articles of export, and a certain number of complete altarpieces are preserved in France and Italy and elsewhere, but though many separate panels exist in English public and private collections, no other complete altar-piece, as far as is known, has been preserved in this country. The altar-piece is in triptych form, with its original wood frame painted and decorated with gilt gesso. The lower border bears inscriptions describing the subjects of the panels. These are five in number, and represent the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Holy Trinity, the Ascension of Christ, and the Assumption of the Virgin. At the end of the wings are figures of St. John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist. The colouring and gilding of the alabaster has been extremely well preserved and the whole altar-piece gives a remarkable idea of the brilliant effect produced by such panels, individually often insignificant, when combined in their proper setting. It has been temporarily exhibited in room 62, to the right of the main entrance.' I have not seen this altar-piece, but it should be well worth visiting by anybody who has the opportunity. Such altar-pieces were used as a form of reredos.
Speaking generally, either stone or alabaster is a more suitable material than marble for altars, pulpits, and similar work. Stone shows carving to much better advantage. It is rather a pity, too, that good carved oak work is not more largely availed of for such purposes as a reredos or pulpit. Admirable effects may be obtained at considerably less cost than in marble or stone.
The painting or gilding of either stone or alabaster must, it need hardly be said, be done with great skill and restraint. Marble does not hold shadows well, therefore elaborate mouldings are more or less out of place in this material, and the beauty of its marking and veining and the variety and richness of its colour are thereby lost. Very good effects may be obtained with native Irish marbles, properly used.
Alabaster is a material which has fallen much into disuse in Ireland. Very fine effects in altars, pulpits, rails etc., may be produced in this material, which varies in colour from red to white, and is often beautifully marked. It carves well, and may be reinforced with gold and colour. Very elaborate tracery, crockets, finials, and • tabernacle work,' which would be lost in marble, can be used with effect in alabaster.
The altar table should be of ample length, nine feet is a minimum length for a high altar; the predella and steps should be of easy and ample proportions. Many predellas afford insufficient space for three priests. The predella should be at least 4 feet 6 inches wide in front of the altar, and 12 feet in length. The steps may be either three or five in number, the latter preferable where there is sufficient room; and they are almost always too high and too narrow, which is mosť inconvenient, and even dangerous. They should not be less than 14 or 15 inches on the tread or flat portion, or more than 5 inches on the riser or vertical part, an easier step would be 16} inches by 4 inches ; but in all cases the riser must be properly proportioned : a rough and ready rule, which generally yields satisfactory proportions, is that the riser, multiplied by the tread in inches, equals 66, sometimes an inch or so may with advantage be added to the tread. The lower the riser and the wider the tread the better. If a chancel be very narrow it is better to run the steps right across the chancel. Between the bottom step of the altar and the communion rail adequate space must be left; it is frequently too narrow. It should not be less than six feet, better if it can be many times that. In the altar itself, the mensa or table-top is often too narrow in front of the tabernacle, the width should be not less than 18" to 20". The height of the altar varies little, a certain standard of 3' 3" to 3' 6" being generally observed.
The remarks as to material made in respect of the altar, apply equally to the communion rails ; marble has here the advantage of being easily kept clean. The steps to the communion rail may be one or two in number, and never less than 14" in width, or better still 15" or 16"; where there are two steps, the lower one should be at least 18" or 20" on the tread, so as to accommodate the leg of a person kneeling on the upper step from the knee to the toe, otherwise it is uncomfortable and dangerous.
Other furniture of the chancel, which should be provided wherever possible, and in a permanent and dignified form, as part of the structure, are the sedilia, the piscina, and perhaps an aumbry. In the medieval church the sedilia was often a most beautiful object upon which much labour and skill was lavished. Where there is no sedilia, it becomes necessary to introduce chairs for High Mass into the chancel. Many beautiful examples of sedilia exist in England, and at Holy Cross, Thurles, there is an exceedingly fine late Irish