Structure and image in late medieval East Anglian angel roofs

Cassell, Sarah (2018) Structure and image in late medieval East Anglian angel roofs. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Amongst the most distinctive features of some late-fourteenth-century to mid-sixteenth-century East Anglian parish churches are their open timber roofs with angelic carvings. The relationship between the earliest and most prestigious angel roof at Westminster Hall (c. 1393-9) and these church roofs with carved angels is not straightforward, in terms of either structure or image. Different structural roof types and varied carved angelic representations were concurrent throughout the period, rather than following patterns of linear development. The research has identified connections between patronage and craftsmanship in urban centres and their rural hinterlands.

These roofs present a substantial body of previously neglected visual material for investigating the significance of angelic imagery, the liturgy and lay piety in comprehensive representational schemes, often covering the entire nave. Carved angels form, or are attached to, the beam ends or principal timbers, at prayer, or carrying musical instruments, symbols of Christ’s Passion, implements of the Mass or heraldic devices. The distribution of angels had a significant connection to spatial organisation and patterns of activity at ground level. Diverse patterns of attributes were deliberately arranged to guide and affirm multi-sensory lay experience beneath in the nave, their iconography intended as a unified focus for a diverse lay audience, whose participation in the Mass was distinctive and socially important. The research also explores the visual relationships that would have existed between angelic roof programmes and other church art. It has established that there was a deliberate association between nave roof and Rood imagery in a significant group of churches where angels are vested as acolytes. The sacrificial imagery of the Rood is echoed by their Passion symbols or implements of the Mass. Supported by representations of saintly intercessors on chancel screens and on wall-posts, the angelic throng framed the Rood in a redemptive hierarchical ensemble.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art History and World Art Studies (former - to 2014)
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2020 14:31
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2020 14:31


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