Baptism and Burial in Stone: Materializing Pastoral Care in Anglo-Norman England
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Abstract: During the eleventh and twelfth centuries the English parish church was undergoing an intense period of transformation, including the codification of the parochial system and the rights of pastoral care, as well as the standardization of the use of stone in church architecture and fixtures. This article examines a body of evidence compiled from documentary sources, baptismal fonts, and burial markers from Anglo-Norman Yorkshire to reveal the intersections between pastoral care, liturgical practice, parochial formation, patronage, and materiality in this formative period. We argue that the development of the medieval parish system was inextricably linked to not only the obligations of pastoral care, but also the physical materials with which the rites of birth and death were performed. The interdisciplinary methodology employed here enables us to reveal the nuances of a process that was more complex and more contingent on the efficacy of material culture than has been traditionally understood.
Baptism and burial marked the beginning and the end of the life of a Christian in the Middle Ages. For the vast majority of medieval society, the parish church was the venue in which these social and spiritual transitions of birth and death were performed via the familiar community rituals of prayer, blessing, washing, and professions of faith. Stone baptismal fonts and commemorative markers both within and outside the church building monumentalized these rites of passage for their lay and ecclesiastical participants, becoming essential reference points that activated the “theatre of memory” of the early medieval parish church. Fonts and grave markers were particularly significant tools in this arena because they held both profound religious and community significance: they preserved the individual memory of personal or familial spiritual events, and also embodied the community memory of the institutional rights and responsibilities of the medieval parish church to administer the pastoral care of souls.
Parochial rights and structures were undergoing a particularly intense process of negotiation and transformation in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and this period was fundamental to the emergence of the familiar parish framework that came to define the local community and the provision of pastoral care throughout the later Middle Ages. During this key period of transition between Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Scandinavian, and Anglo-Norman England, the material permanence of stone gave fonts and grave markers powerful agency in the emerging parochial networks; these things of the past helped patrons navigate religious and political changes and situate themselves and their churches in a rapidly shifting social hierarchy. In order to understand how and why communities chose to enshrine rites of birth and death in stone in the context of this especially formative period in the development of churches, settlements, and society, our study focuses on the material evidence of fonts and commemorative monuments in a selection of local churches from northern England.
Traditionally, the establishment of the parochial system and the exercise of pastoral care have been studied through documentary evidence alone. And while fonts and funerary monuments have been understood as objects of medieval art, they have been comparatively neglected as sources of evidence for both parochial development and the social purposes of patronage. In contrast to previous work on these topics, we focus here on integrating historical and archaeological approaches as a means of providing more comprehensive insight into the religious and secular uses and meanings of fonts and grave monuments. This study foregrounds the material evidence of the medieval church and its fittings, considering it in the context of institutional changes in the Church and manorial system, the doctrinal and popular development of religious practice, and the motivations of patrons and their audiences—all of which affected how, when, and why fonts and gravestones were erected. In order to understand the full extent of the role they played in parish churches and in society, we cannot think of fonts and funerary monuments as acontextual items of church furniture, nor as isolated pieces of art. Rather, they were integral parts of the material and historical development of the churches in which they were erected and essential components of the process of parochial formation taking place in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Beyond their usage as functional liturgical items, fonts and grave markers also bore considerable significance outside the sphere of the church itself. They were focal points for secular patronage and prominent material manifestations of social and economic status; patrons used these stone objects to aggrandize themselves and their families by displaying their individual wealth, and by contributing to the advancement of their parochial communities. By adopting an innovative interdisciplinary perspective, our study of northern England’s developing ecclesiastical landscape in the eleventh and twelfth centuries reveals how objects played an active role within competing local and regional hierarchies, materializing valuable but inherently ephemeral rights and privileges at a time of considerable social change.
In addition to our specific exploration of fonts and grave monuments, this essay’s wider focus emphasizes the cross-disciplinary importance of material culture studies and the reflexive relationships between things and people, both of which are relevant beyond the particular geographical and temporal context considered here. We conceptualize material culture not as a passive reflection or outcome of past events, but rather as a set of tools which were consciously deployed to help create and maintain social structures, relationships, and behaviors. Just as medieval people shaped material objects and their environments, so objects and environments shaped people in return. As the physical products of human choice and agency, objects give us unique insight into the lives of past actors; the durable, monumental material character of stone objects makes them especially valuable in this regard. The use of material evidence also helps us refocus historical questions to encompass practice and action as much as ideas and intentions, and to include people and processes that are either marginalized or simply not present in the documentary record. In many cases, including the questions of parochial development and pastoral care we address here, material culture enables us to reveal the nuances of a process that was longer and more complex than the relevant documentation implies. By highlighting the social efficacy of a particular group of objects at a formative time in medieval England, this interdisciplinary study reveals the clear methodological advantages of applying a material lens to the past.
The time period we focus on in this study was part of a longer era of intensive foundation, rebuilding, and reorganization in the local church. Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical organization of the seventh to ninth centuries consisted of a network of important collegiate churches, or minsters, which oversaw large pastoral districts known as parochiae. John Blair has developed a thorough explanatory framework of early church development, frequently referred to as the “minster model.” Minsters were often associated with royal estates, and were tended by teams of either secular or monastic clerics who were assigned the pastoral care of the district. From the seventh to tenth centuries, the powerful minsters controlled these large proto-parishes, either serving the entire district on their own, or commanding burial rights, tithes, and other tribute payment from dependent churches within their parochiae. In the tenth century, however, changes in land tenure facilitated the advancement of a large class of sub-royal landholding lords, or thegns, who built their own small, initially private churches within the parochia boundaries. From this period onwards, the middling and minor elite, rather than kings and high ecclesiastics, became the prime movers behind changes in the local church, and they would remain so for the whole of the later Middle Ages.
As the number of local churches grew, so did their importance in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The new churches began competing with minsters for burial and baptismal rights, tithes, and congregations, marking their transition from private establishments to public, community-focused churches. By the eleventh century, most pastoral duties had shifted from the old minster churches to the local churches, and they formed the basis of the emergent parochial system. Adding to this complex web of ecclesiastical hierarchies, from the late eleventh century onwards, monastic foundations frequently appropriated churches and chapels via lordly donations. In exchange for new spiritual, familial, and economic relationships with monks and canons, local lay elites formally gave the pastoral responsibilities, rights of patronage, and revenues of their churches to wealthy monastic houses, which then appointed a rector or vicar to oversee the parish’s day-to-day operations and ensure the continued provision of sacraments to the laity.
The eleventh and twelfth centuries brought noticeable changes to the infrastructure, practice, and material culture of Christianity in England. This period saw the intensification of the influence of canon law and the fragmentation of the minster system, as well as the official recognition of Purgatory, and the firm establishment of the attitudes towards baptismal and burial practice that would characterize the later medieval period. The steady increase in the number of local churches slowed by the end of the twelfth century, when the formalization of canon law played an important role in limiting new church foundations and solidifying the boundaries of the parochial system. The end of the twelfth century is generally recognized as the time by which the full complement of medieval parish churches had been reached, and documentation of disputes between parish churches and chapels over their rights and status begin appearing in the twelfth century as well. Complicated hierarchical networks and pastoral arrangements were common and, as we will argue, physical markers of the rights to baptize and bury were necessary in order to underpin claims to jurisdictional status.
Alongside the general increase in church provision, stone church buildings had become ubiquitous during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, with c. 1200 marking the end of the period proposed for the local phase of this “Great Rebuilding” of churches. In terms of baptism, the late eleventh century marked a shift in practice from more flexible baptismal places and implements—rivers, baptisteries, and wooden tubs—to a ritual focused entirely on the stone font housed within the local church. In death and burial, interment in the local churchyard had become standard practice by the ninth century. By the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the standing crosses and “hogback” burial markers of the Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian periods had given way almost entirely to recumbent slabs and low standing markers, which were as yet unchallenged by effigial sculpture and brasses as the most popular form of funerary sculpture. Given the sway held in the early local church by the secular elite, stone fonts and commemorative monuments must also be considered in light of an increasing cultural emphasis, from the late Anglo-Saxon period, on elite consumption and the display of material culture to define status, a trend that continued unabated into the twelfth century.
Perhaps surprisingly, these profound shifts in the ecclesiastical structure and physical makeup of churches in the eleventh and twelfth centuries do not seem to have been accompanied by a significant corresponding change in baptismal or burial liturgy. The earliest surviving liturgical instructions for baptism exist in four eleventh-century pontificals, or books containing episcopal duties, one of which—the compact Red Book of Darley (c. 1061)—was likely used in a parish context by the twelfth century. These rubrics derived from the ninth-century Supplemented Hadrianum were also found in four twelfth-century pontificals, and would later be adapted in a growing number of pastoral manuals in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Surviving liturgical rites for burial were more concerned with sequences of anointing, prayers, vigils and processions at elite monastic communities rather than with individual lay commemoration at the parish level. References to lay mourners, wakes, and deathbed will-making do, however, indicate a degree of ritualized care for the dying and the dead. Concern for the adequate supply of pastoral care and the regulation of priests’ duties to baptize and bury continued uninterrupted during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, even if specific references to the great material changes occurring in the Church were omitted by documentary sources.
The Material Culture of Pastoral Care
The eleventh and twelfth centuries bore profound significance for the codification of the parochial system, not only in terms of the number of foundations which existed by that time, but because of the proliferation of the use of stone in church buildings and furnishings. This is a development frequently attributed to the Norman Conquest and its aftermath, but, as can be seen from the evidence for early churches discussed below, patterns of local church patronage in the twelfth century were primarily an acceleration of what had become common elite behavior at least two centuries prior. The standardization of stone as the principal material for building, baptism, and commemoration not only had a significant influence on the permanence of parochial sites, but also on the establishment and maintenance of pastoral rights and status in the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
Surviving remains of stone churches, grave monuments, and baptismal fonts, when combined with documentary evidence from charters and Domesday Book, allow us to piece together a map of early church foundations in the historic North Riding of Yorkshire (Figure 1). Our study draws on evidence from 254 surviving medieval churches and chapels, of which 125 (49 percent) have at least one form of documentary or material evidence dating their existence to the period before c. 1100. The prevalence of ninth- and tenth-century sculptural evidence indicates that most of these early churches were pre-Conquest foundations, although there are undoubtedly some churches in this number that were founded and built in the immediate aftermath of the Norman Conquest. Unfortunately, neither Domesday Book records nor architectural fabric from the period are sufficiently diagnostic to assign a firm pre- or post-Conquest foundation date. However, it is clear that the basic skeleton of the late medieval parochial structure was very much formed by c. 1100, when at least 60 percent (114/190) of the region’s eventual parish churches were in existence and likely in active use. A century later, the parochial map had nearly reached its full late-medieval form. At least 91 percent (172/190) of the riding’s parish churches have material or documentary evidence for their existence by c. 1200, and the probability of complete overwriting of some early evidence by later-medieval building programs means that it is highly likely that all of the parish churches in the North Riding had been established by the end of the twelfth century. At least 56 percent (36/64) of the riding’s parochial chapels were also in existence by this point, as the formal framework of pastoral care filled in around the most densely populated settlements.
Alongside the general development of local churches in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, we are also able to trace the specific presence of both fonts and grave monuments. These material features are not only evidence of the financial means of a patron, who could acquire the raw materials and craftsmen necessary to have them produced, but also of the status of the church, indicating that it possessed the essential parochial rights of baptism and burial. These rights were prestigious and potentially lucrative acquisitions for church patrons and rectors, as they mandated payments upon parishioners’ deaths (“soul-scot”), as well as both informal and official donations and gifts.
The twelfth century is the period in which we see the first widespread flourishing of stone fonts in local churches. Seventy-one Romanesque fonts survive in the North Riding’s churches and chapels, appearing both with and without surviving Norman or earlier architectural fabric (Figure 2, p. 11). None definitely date to earlier than c. 1100, although it is possible that some date from the late eleventh century. Twenty-six of the fonts exhibit some form of Romanesque decoration such as geometric motifs or cable molding, and one unique example of an elaborate figural scene on the font at West Rounton depicts the signs of the zodiac. Most surviving fonts are plain hollowed tubs of stone more striking for their size and material presence in the church building than for their iconography, although it is likely that both carved and plain fonts, like other stonework in the medieval church, were once brightly painted. The absence of diagnostic motifs makes such fonts difficult to date, and their lack of ornament and tub shape—perhaps indicating that they were modeled on wooden predecessors—has led to their general attribution to the later Anglo-Saxon or early Norman periods. The later destruction of fonts during the English Civil War and the changing tastes of Victorian rebuilders, which often saw medieval fonts lost or removed to ornament local gardens and farmyards, provide further challenges to their study.
As with fonts, there is a notable proliferation of stone “cross slab” grave monuments across the North Riding in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries. In this period, there are rarely more than a few contemporaneous monuments at any one church, suggesting that their use was the preserve of patrons drawn from a reasonably narrow elite, most likely manorial lords, their families, and the clergy. Alongside or sometimes instead of their central cross iconography, these commemorative monuments also often bore carved emblems, such as swords, chalices, or shears, representing the identity of the individual buried beneath. They only rarely have inscriptions, which may indicate that simply the means to possess the stone monument, plus any additional emblem, was sufficient to identify the patron to the local community. There are 253 grave monuments dating from c. 1000 to c. 1200 at eighty-two church sites across the riding, with the vast majority of these monuments dating to the twelfth century, particularly from the middle of the century onward (Figure 3). In contrast to fonts, there was a firmly established tradition of stone commemoration already present in northern England by the eleventh century, particularly evident in the ninth/tenth-century Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture found at many of the region’s local churches, where there seems to have been substantial continuity in burial practice. Half of the North Riding churches which feature stone monuments in the eleventh and twelfth centuries also have stone commemoration from the ninth and tenth centuries. It is likely that the level of continuity was originally even higher, but it may be obscured by the survival rates of monuments from both the pre- and post-Conquest periods.
Physically locating baptism and burial in relation to the parish church in this period is a challenging task. While baptismal fonts were usually placed in the nave of the early medieval church, subsequent rebuilding programs and the movement of fonts between churches can make identifying the precise location difficult. David Stocker and Paul Everson have also suggested that the ground floors of western bell towers of churches provided appropriate open spaces for baptism, as seen in the westwork baptistery of Barton-upon-Humber (Lincs). The deliberate, long-term retention of many decorated Romanesque south doors and contemporary fonts also suggests a potential spatial and liturgical relationship between these features, likely based on the tradition of performing pre-baptismal rites in front of the church entrance before procession to the font. Fonts in the nave negotiated a delicate balance between sacred and secular spaces; they were inherently liturgical objects, the ritual function of which was controlled by ecclesiastics, but they were also fixtures designed for interaction with the laity and the parish community as a whole, even when not expressly in use for baptism.
It is even more difficult to discern the placement of commemorative monuments in the eleventh and twelfth-century local church, both because of changes in burial practice over time and because most of the surviving commemorative evidence from the period has been removed from its original position. The churchyard always served as the standard burial location for the vast majority of parishioners, but the number of surviving brasses and tombs still in their medieval locations inside the church building makes it clear that, by the late medieval period, many ecclesiastical and secular elites were securing burial both in key sanctified locations near altars and in the central path of the nave. In comparison to the late medieval period, there is almost no documentary evidence for the burial of lay parishioners from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, and the monuments which demarcated early and high medieval burials have almost all been broken up and moved from their original locations. Excavations of local churches demonstrate that prior to the twelfth century, burial inside the church was rare, and may have been essentially forbidden, even if the rules were not yet formalized by canon law.
The physical profile of most standing crosses and markers in the pre-Conquest period strongly suggests that they were external rather than internal monuments, and the large, recumbent gabled monuments from the post-Conquest period were likely external too. However, as most cross slabs were flat and not prominently carved, they could have served as either external monuments set in the ground or internal monuments fit into the church floor. The complete rebuilding of churches in stone and the addition of aisles onto pre-existing churches—both common occurrences in the twelfth century—may have offered opportunities for the alignment of architectural and commemorative strategies in the church interior. Aisles have been cited as key areas of patronal investment in the parish church after the appropriation of church ownership from secular hands to monasteries in the twelfth century. It would not be surprising if patrons also sought to place their and their families’ monuments in the spaces within the local church that they had funded, and wished to mark as their own. At any rate, whether interior or exterior, the stone commemorative monuments of the elite in the eleventh and twelfth centuries would have stood out prominently in a church interior filled with few burials, or in a churchyard primarily housing graves that were either marked with ephemeral materials like wood, or unmarked entirely.
Early Chapels and the Preservation of Burial and Baptismal Rights
Although the first stages of the parochial system and the establishment of parish churches can easily be traced in the North Riding evidence, the origins and early development of dependent chapels was a highly complex process that lacked uniformity. Our focus here will be on chapels founded to provide a place of worship for those who lived too far from the parish church to attend conveniently, as opposed to those founded in private residences or castles, or at bridges, holy wells, shrines, or other cult sites. Chapels were common in northern England, where sparse populations meant parishes covered large swathes of territory, and many settlements lay distant from their parish churches. Despite ostensibly being regulated by the bishop, in reality, chapels were not uniform in terms of their foundation date, status, or even rights. They are commonly thought to be foundations of the later Middle Ages, coming into existence well after the parish church as settlements and population expanded, and being carefully regulated and limited in their rights to avoid usurpation of the primacy of the parish church. However, the North Riding evidence demonstrates that many churches designated as chapels in the late Middle Ages had been in existence from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, or even well before. In addition, perhaps due to their ancient foundation, these “old” chapels often seem to have acquired rights of baptism and burial early in their lives, even in the face of prolonged subordination to a mother church.
The small number of chapels in the pre-1100 period in the North Riding, as well as the greater numbers present before c. 1200, should be seen in light of the fluid definitions of parochial status in the early Middle Ages (see Figure 1, p. 9). As the minster system declined in the late-ninth and tenth centuries, the appearance of a wide array of new, independent churches of private, manorial origins—often marked with burials from their inception—complicated the pre-existing ecclesiastical infrastructure. Hierarchies of local churches according to their rights had already been drawn up in tenth- and eleventh-century laws that attempted to make sense of the newly chaotic scene: superior churches, which had burial rights and commanded dues, sat at the top of the ranking above two successive levels of churches with graveyards (which still had to pay soul-scot to the minster even if burial took place there). At the bottom of the ladder were field chapels (feldcircan), which were dependent, owed dues to a mother church, and did not have graveyards. At this point, baptism makes no appearance in the rights relevant to church status, perhaps because the sacrament still lay within the purview of the bishop, rather than the local church, and could be performed in a variety of settings. However, the apparent relocation of baptismal rites into the parish church in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries, and its regular performance in a church’s own stone font, soon solidified the significance of the sacrament to the status and material legacy of the church building.
By the beginning of the twelfth century, new canon laws attempted to regulate the previously unchecked multiplication of chapels. They decreed that no further chapels should be erected without the permission of the bishop, although the canonical and legal definitions of what constituted a parochial church or a chapel were still being formulated at this time. The status of a church or chapel was often unclear even into the later Middle Ages, and the relationships were complicated because the locations and status of chapels were closely tied to patterns of secular manorial and tenurial dependencies, rather than simply ecclesiastical relationships. The rights of a particular church were often disputed because of the lucrative dues that parochial status provided to owners. For example, in the late twelfth century, the Treasurer of York Minster claimed the North Riding church of Myton-on-Swale as a chapel dependent on his church of Alne, while the abbot of St. Mary’s maintained that it was a mother church within the abbey’s jurisdiction. At this early stage it was often difficult to draw distinctions between these nominally dependent chapels and officially recognized parish churches, and their status could change over time, often due to the lobbying of the landholders who desired the rise in status and tried to attain it by providing the churches with a suitable endowment. Some chapels were entirely without rights and remained so throughout the Middle Ages. Others seem to have held rights from their inception, while others began as dependencies and later acquired baptismal or burial rights, operating as de facto parish churches. The acquisition of rights could sometimes eventually result in independence and official parochial status, but chapels often remained technically subsidiary to a parish church, notwithstanding their pastoral responsibilities. This is perhaps due in part to the technical difficulties of administering pastoral care over large distances and liminal landscapes, a likely issue in much of northern England. The legacy of a less robust minster system and the unchecked proliferation of private churches during the Anglo-Scandinavian period may also have influenced the standing of chapels within a comparatively weak institutional Church in the north.
Several examples from the North Riding illustrate the complex nature of chapel status in the central Middle Ages, specifically evidencing how chapels could operate as centers of pastoral care, even if these rights and status were unlegislated in the documentary evidence. Pickering’s dependent chapels of Allerston, Ebberston, and Ellerburn became independent parish churches in the thirteenth century, but Ebberston and Ellerburn both already had fonts a century earlier (Figure 4, p. 16). Ebberston also has five cross slabs datable to before the early thirteenth century, and there were funerary markers at Ellerburn as early as the tenth century. Similarly, Hutton Magna, Barton, Eryholme, Forcett, South Cowton, and Barforth are all documented as dependent chapels of Gilling West in 1396. However, Forcett has an exceptionally large number of burial markers dating to the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, and Hutton Magna, Barton, and Eryholme all had fonts by the twelfth century. Another example is Lockton, which was a chapel of Middleton throughout the Middle Ages, yet it was recorded in 1567 that burials, marriages, and baptism had been practiced there since “time out of mind.” The dependent status of these chapels in the documentary record thus belies their prominence as early centers of elite patronage and pastoral care—the reality of their position becomes visible only once the material evidence is considered. In many cases it appears that these chapels’ significance was established before the codification of canon law. Thus, regardless of their technically subsidiary status, once these rights were recognized to be of antiquity it was apparently difficult to reverse them.
The provision of stone fonts and burial monuments in the North Riding’s chapels in the eleventh and twelfth centuries potentially has much to reveal not only about when and how the churches came into being, but also about how patrons and parish communities deliberately utilized material culture to lay claim to rights, status, and historical legacies. In the North Riding, fifty-two of the seventy-one surviving early stone fonts are found at parish churches, while nineteen are located at chapels. When we consider that at least 163 of the Riding’s parish churches existed by the end of the twelfth century, and that all of those would likely have needed fonts to perform baptismal rites by that time, it is clear that a considerable number of eleventh/twelfth-century fonts have been lost, either to late-medieval replacement, early modern depredations, or new Victorian fonts during nineteenth-century restorations. However, the relative rates of survival at parish churches and chapels are worth noting. Around 30 percent of parish churches retain a twelfth-century font, while the survival rate at chapels is nearer 50 percent.
There is thus a significantly stronger tendency for chapels to retain their original font throughout the later Middle Ages compared to parish churches, possibly because of the font’s role as a powerful material symbol of the longevity of the church’s hard-won baptismal rights. Parish churches retain more twelfth-century fonts than ones of any other medieval date, but they were nevertheless often supplanted by a new and more stylistically up-to-date font at some point in the later Middle Ages. In contrast, none of the pre-1200 chapels in the North Riding without a twelfth-century font possess a later medieval one. If those chapels currently possess a font, it is always post-medieval. This suggests that either those chapels did not achieve baptismal rights until after the Middle Ages, or if they had, it was their original font that the modern one replaced.
It is clear that many parish churches and chapels deliberately chose not to replace their original fonts during the Middle Ages, even as the church fabric was being continually expanded and stylistically updated around them. Despite the profound influence that elite patronage could have on the material character of the medieval church, it appears that the need to preserve the original font for the benefit of the wider church community could at times override the desires of individual later-medieval patrons to make their mark on the church. The patterns of preservation demonstrate that the antiquity of their font was particularly important to chapels, given that their historic pastoral rights may well have come under threat from the parish church or the intervention of the bishop. Parishioners, priests, and patrons needed to be able to draw on the material evidence of their stone font in order to defend not only the existence of their right to baptize, but also the centuries over which they had continually held that right.
Fewer early chapels held burial rights than baptismal ones, and interestingly, there is little crossover in the North Riding between early chapels with fonts and those with burial evidence (Figure 5). This suggests that during the codification of the parochial system, burial rights were guarded more jealously than baptismal ones by parish churches, perhaps because of the soul scot fee attached to them. Compared to fifty-nine parish churches featuring funerary sculpture from the tenth century, only eight chapels still possess commemorative evidence from that period. It also appears that the number of chapels with burial rights did not increase much as we move into the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when only nine chapel sites featured contemporary funerary monuments. What we do see, however, is a high degree of continuity of burial rights from the tenth century through to the twelfth. Six of the eight chapels that have tenth-century funerary sculpture also feature cross slabs of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Only Haxby and Castle Bolton do not possess further burial evidence from the succeeding centuries, although we do know that Haxby successfully petitioned for burial rights in the fourteenth century, when they had in 1328 lost the body of one of their congregation to the River Foss while attempting to carry him to Strensall for burial. It seems that it was unusual for chapels that had gained early burial rights to lose them in the later Middle Ages, especially if they had surviving material evidence to demonstrate their antiquity. Equally, if a chapel had burial rights in the twelfth century, they had, apart from the odd exception, held that right for at least two centuries already.
Alongside canon law, the widespread introduction of stone to local church architecture and fixtures undoubtedly had a stabilizing effect on parochialization. It is debatable whether the presence of stone churches, fonts, and grave markers crystallized parish hierarchies, or whether the gradual codification of parish boundaries and relationships encouraged patrons to build in stone and make their mark on what had by then become a significant reference point in the tenurial and social landscapes. In either case, our evidence clearly demonstrates that on a practical level, material evidence of rights was likely more effective than legalities. The deliberate preservation of Romanesque fonts and Anglo-Scandinavian and Anglo-Norman commemorative sculpture into the later Middle Ages indicates their value to the church community. They were tangible, durable embodiments of the church or chapel’s rights which could be physically produced as evidence should someone question the legitimacy of their status, and these performances continually reinforced the social role of these objects, translating historic privileges and centuries of practice into a physical form. Michael Clanchy has demonstrated how an object presented on the occasion of a land donation carried the memory of that event forward in time by providing physical proof of its occurrence. Prior to the dominance of the written record, materializing the memory of significant events through objects was essential, and it is clear that these objects maintained their authority even after the documentation of parochial status became standardized. With every baptism and burial that took place within and around the church, stone things reified pastoral rights and cemented status.
Patronage and the Monumentalization of Baptism
The complex relationships between churches of varying parochial status and the development of pastoral networks in the eleventh and twelfth centuries can be seen in more detail through an examination of a particular group of large decorated baptismal fonts in four Yorkshire churches and chapels. The fonts at Marske-in-Cleveland, Upleatham, and Sneaton in the North Riding and Reighton in the East Riding are squat, square, early twelfth-century blocks of stone with similar decorative features, including engaged decorative columns at each corner and four sides bearing geometric motifs such as zigzag and chip-carved cross and star patterns (Figure 6). The stylistic relationships of the fonts and the complex advowson networks of their churches are key to determining when and how churches and chapels obtained their fonts in this period. At first glance, these fonts appear to be the direct products of local investment by new ecclesiastical patrons after appropriation by monastic institutions. Comparing these four northern fonts along with others donated at the same time, however, reveals the variety of local factors which determined when and why churches received their original stone fonts.
Like the funerary monuments that commemorated the deaths of local elites, fonts were both spiritually and temporally significant. They recorded in stone the moment of social and spiritual initiation in the medieval Christian lifecycle and also permanently enshrined prestigious pastoral rights sought after by their patrons. It has been argued that Romanesque font groups in southern England reflected a pattern of centralized production and bishop-led distribution, and this has been assumed to be the model of patronage throughout the country. However, the evidence from Yorkshire discussed here indicates that churches and chapels did not always obtain their fonts through grants from episcopal or monastic authorities. While some fonts may have been the products of new monastic patrons in Yorkshire, it is clear that lay patrons also used the currency of stone fonts to improve the status of their local churches in the parochial hierarchy.
The striking similarities between the Marske, Upleatham, Sneaton, and Reighton fonts in size, shape, and iconography provide us with an initial stylistic relationship with which to begin investigating the potential historical links to patrons and parishes in the region. This group of elaborately carved square fonts stands out from the rest of the early twelfth-century fonts in the North Riding, the majority of which are circular tubs without significant ornamentation. Of these four similar fonts, those at the churches of Marske-in-Cleveland and Upleatham lie in close proximity in the northeast of the North Riding, while the fonts at the chapels of Sneaton and Reighton lie further south along the coast, one near Whitby and the other in the East Riding. An initial possible explanation for their similarity may be found in the fact that two of the churches in this square decorated group were owned by Robert de Brus (c. 1070–1142), an Anglo-Norman baron in the retinue of King Henry I after 1100 and the progenitor of the Bruce dynasty in Scotland. De Brus held the patronage of the churches of St. Germain at Marske and St. Andrew at Upleatham in the early twelfth century, as well as a number of other lands in Yorkshire, before donating the churches to his new nearby foundation of Guisborough Priory in 1119, where his brother William was prior. Sneaton and Reighton, however, were not de Brus churches. They were chapels owned by other lay lords, and they too were later donated along with their mother churches to monastic houses in the North. An exploration of the history of these churches and others held by de Brus allows us to hypothesize when and why stone fonts first appeared in these early parish communities, and under whose patronage they were deployed.
The history of the church at Marske is comparatively well-documented for our period and provides us with numerous potential patrons for its baptismal font. The sandstone font and contemporary twelfth-century nave columnal piers (recorded but later destroyed) are the oldest material evidence for the now ruined cliffside church of St. Germain, believed to have been founded in the eleventh century. Before the Conquest, the church at Marske was owned by Copsi (d. 1067), a former supporter of and fellow exile with Tostig, the brother of Harold Godwinson, one of the claimants to the English throne in 1066. According to Simeon of Durham, Æthelric, the bishop of Durham (1042–1056), consecrated the church at Marske and Copsi gave the advowson of St. Germain to Durham Cathedral. However, the 1086 Domesday survey listed only Earl Hugh d’Avranches of Chester, William de Percy, and Robert the Count of Mortain as the landowners. Thirty years later, the new Anglo-Norman landowner, Robert de Brus, donated the church at Marske to his new priory at Guisborough, as recorded in its foundation charter.
Located only a few miles away from Marske, near Guisborough Priory, the font from Upleatham was originally located in the old Church of St. Andrew, also owned by Robert de Brus. The first documentation of a church at Upleatham is the occasion of its donation to Guisborough Priory by de Brus, but material evidence of an early church on the site survives in the form of twelfth-century corbels reset into the current ruined structure as well as fragments of Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture and Anglo-Norman cross slabs. Along with the churches at Marske and Upleatham, the old church of All Saints in Skelton, as well as the churches at Danby, Stainton, Kirklevington (North Yorkshire), Kirkburn (East Yorkshire), Stranton, and Hart (County Durham) were also given to the new priory by de Brus in 1119.
Despite the iconographic similarities of the square font group and the connection to Robert de Brus at Upleatham and Marske, the chapels at Sneaton and Reighton were never owned by the de Brus family. Although restored in the nineteenth century, the font at Sneaton retains its size, shape, and general decorative pattern from the Norman period. As a plaque on the interior of the leaded bowl indicates, all four sides of the medieval font were recut after the church was rebuilt in 1823. The church of St. Hilda at Sneaton was a chapel of the parish church of St. Mary at Whitby, and was donated to Whitby Abbey along with St. Mary’s other dependent chapels of Aislaby, Dunsley, Ugglebarnby, Hawsker, and Fyling (North Yorkshire) in a c. 1096–1097 charter, which also recorded the Arundel family as undertenants of the chapel.
Further down the North Sea coast into the East Riding of Yorkshire, the font at Reighton is one of the only surviving pieces of the original Romanesque church, along with the jambs of the south door and chancel arch. Reighton was a dependent chapel of Hunmanby in the East Riding and in 1115 Walter de Gant gave it, along with Hunmanby, to the newly founded Bardney Abbey. Neither of the chapels at Sneaton and Reighton is mentioned in Domesday Book, but Sneaton was possibly owned by a local lay lord in the tenth or eleventh centuries, when Whitby Abbey’s estate appears to have fragmented.
Of the churches with four similar Norman square fonts, then, two were owned by Robert de Brus and all were donated to religious houses at approximately the same time in the early twelfth century. The 1119 donation date for Marske and Upleatham, 1115 for Reighton, and the late eleventh/early twelfth-century timeframe for Sneaton provide a potential chronological context for localized font production that would also suit the approximate art-historical dating of the Romanesque motifs. With the transfer of the advowson, the local churches received new potential patrons in the wealthy canons and monks of Guisborough and Bardney, whose institutions could afford the expense of quarrying, carving, and transporting new fonts to recently acquired churches and chapels. The construction of Guisborough Priory would have also provided the region with masons and sculptors skilled in the manipulation and geometric carving of the large, monolithic blocks used in this font group. Surviving mid twelfth-century Saltwick sandstone sculptural fragments from the priory, quarried nearby on the edge of the moors, appear to be the same sandstone used for the Marske and Upleatham fonts a few miles away. With a convenient local stone source and labor available from the masons working on the priory buildings, it is possible that the canons at Guisborough oversaw this font production themselves, or at least facilitated local access to their men and materials. Monastic appropriation by the Guisborough canons thus likely occasioned the creation of the materially and iconographically similar fonts of Marske and Upleatham, but a close examination of the full complement of de Brus churches complicates this initial picture.
Considering the other churches with early Norman fonts held by Robert de Brus, it is clear that some but not all of the churches received their fonts in the same way or at the same time. The other North Yorkshire de Brus churches with fonts—at Ingleby Arncliffe, Liverton, Ormesby, and Middlesborough—all have Romanesque fonts of varying sizes, styles, and stone. Similarly, the distinctive narrative and lozenge decoration on the Kirkburn and Nafferton (East Yorkshire) fonts differ from our square group, despite the fact that Robert de Brus also donated these two churches to Guisborough Priory in 1119. The other half of the square group, the fonts at Sneaton and Reighton, differ from those at Marske and Upleatham in their stone sources and proximity to Guisborough Priory, with Sneaton approximately twenty miles and Reighton fifty miles to the southeast. While the similarities of the four fonts are unmistakable, these are more likely to have been due to shared motifs and/or masons traveling down the Yorkshire coast rather than the intentions of a single workshop, patron, or priory producing and distributing fonts (as in the “shop-made” continental and southern examples). New building projects created the circumstances for such diffusion: the availability of local stone and the presence of skilled workmen with knowledge of Romanesque motifs, which then spread to where other patrons, both lay and religious, also desired fonts.
The Augustinian canons may have carried out pastoral roles in the churches they acquired during this period, either supplying a canon or stipendiary priest, or, as at Bridlington and Kirkham priories, providing a nave altar and font for lay worship and baptisms within the priory church itself. However, contemporary complaints about monks and canons not tending carefully to their flocks also indicated that material contributions to all appropriated churches were not guaranteed, and that monastic appropriation was a system built to enrich the monks and canons, not the laity. As in the example of the numerous churches owned by St. Mary’s Abbey, York, monastic patrons often had too many ecclesiastical properties to be directly investing in all local building projects, or indeed micromanaging the pastoral care of parishioners. In the churches held by Robert de Brus, there were clearly other individual circumstances for the creation of stone fonts that were not entirely dependent on his ownership or his acts of donation to nearby monastic institutions. A focused look at the de Brus church at St. Hilda, Middlesbrough (North Yorkshire) indicates how churches kept the fonts that they had acquired before their donations to monastic houses and used them in parochial disputes; appropriation was not the only occasion on which new fonts and baptismal rights were endowed.
The late eleventh-century church at Middlesbrough was destroyed at the close of the seventeenth century, but its decorated tub font survived and is now in the Dorman Museum. The circular font has geometric designs carved vertically around it, including zigzag, a large incised saltire cross, and a distinct checkerboard pattern. These motifs and its early tub shape date the font to the c. 1100, with a close parallel to the ornament on late eleventh-century fragments at Ellerburn (Figure 7, p. 24). The church at Middlesbrough was the focus of a typical twelfth-century dispute over parochial rights and privileges between the monks of Whitby Abbey and the canons of Guisborough. Whitby claimed that the church had been originally donated to the abbey by Earl Hugh d’Avranches of Chester (c. 1047–1101), an act which Robert de Brus appears to have confirmed with a recorded grant of the church to Whitby between 1119 and 1130 “on condition that there should be monks serving God and St. Hilda in the church of Middlesbrough.” This donation in favor of Whitby rather than his own newly founded priory at Guisborough indicated that the original gift of Earl Hugh must have been “sufficiently notorious” not to overlook when de Brus received the earl’s northern territories. By this point in the 1120s, however, the church had also become a chapel of the parish church at Stainton, and a dispute soon arose between the overlapping rights held by Whitby Abbey and those of Guisborough Priory, which had held Stainton and its chapels since de Brus donated them in 1119. Whitby claimed the tithes from the chapel and revenues from its twelve carucates of land, with the burial rights going to Guisborough, but the Guisborough canons were claiming total rights over the chapel and its lands. Robert de Brus resolved the disagreement by making St. Hilda’s a mother church and dividing up its lands between the institutions, an act confirmed by Henry I and again by Archbishop Thurstan in 1130. These spiritual and financial concerns characterized the complicated turnover of lay lands to religious institutions and the many dependent relationships between parishes and lesser chapels in this period.
It is likely that the Middlesbourgh font played a role in the changing status of its church during this early twelfth-century dispute. We know that there was a church at Middlesbrough before its alleged first donation to Whitby Abbey—which would have occurred between the refoundation of the abbey in 1087 and Hugh’s death in 1101—and its second donation and upgrade in status by Robert de Brus between 1119 and 1130. These dates suggest two potential times for the creation of St. Hilda’s stone font, either in the eleventh century or after its designation as a parish church by de Brus. The stylistic evidence and the dissimilarity of the Middlesbrough font from the square group donated to Guisborough in the later timeframe suggests that the font ought to be considered in the earlier chronology. St. Hilda’s chapel, then, already had a font in the late eleventh century, well before ownership by de Brus and the conflict between Whitby Abbey and Guisborough Priory in the 1120s. The large monumental stone font was an effective material symbol of its practical—if not technically legislated—baptismal rights, as well as a material aid in achieving a solution to the parochial quarrel. Its presence facilitated the upgrade of the chapel to mother church status, and was also a prominent physical reminder of the church’s past. Its antiquity may have made the history of the Whitby grant impossible for de Brus to ignore.
This examination of stone fonts in churches and chapels reveals key moments in the lives of parishes which might have occasioned the creation of stone baptismal fonts due to the appearance of new patrons, nearby building campaigns, and/or the local desire to literally set in stone both long-held and long-desired pastoral rights. It is clear from our material and charter evidence that there was no large-scale centralized distribution of stone fonts to parish churches based on geography or the owner of the advowson. Rather, we see a pattern dependent on more localized circumstances, networks, and patrons. The proximity of parish churches to the recipient institution also likely affected the degree of control that the monastery held over font creation, as we saw at Upleatham and Marske with Guisborough. Indeed, Guisborough Priory was founded directly to the south of the existing church of St. Nicholas, and the priory’s embellished north door likely indicates a pastoral relationship between the two churches. Another example can be found at Easby Abbey (North Yorkshire). The abbey was founded in 1152, and at that point the earlier parish church at Easby was rebuilt and, most likely, also received its elaborately decorated Romanesque font with spiral columns and palmettes. As the example at Middlesbrough also demonstrates, some churches likely possessed early fonts that could be deployed in advowson disputes between competing religious houses. The fonts discussed here were not born from distant episcopal authorities or inserted into churches as markers of detached cultural control, but were instead items of local patronage and pastoral prestige.
Our exploration of the fonts and burial markers from churches and chapels in Yorkshire has demonstrated that the development of the medieval parochial system was inextricably linked not only to the obligations of pastoral care, but also to the physical materials with which the rites of birth and death were performed. We have emphasized the necessity of exploring questions of parochial development from an interdisciplinary perspective, as it is only possible to gain a full picture of this process by combining material evidence with documentary sources, an approach which provides new insight into the ways in which local churches and pastoral care proliferated over the course of the early Middle Ages. While we knew already from written sources that the eleventh and twelfth centuries were key to the establishment of the ecclesiastical framework that organized local churches into a stable hierarchy, the material evidence shows that much of the groundwork for later parish churches and pastoral rights was laid well before the formal interventions of canon law. The wealth of surviving eleventh- and twelfth-century material culture also demonstrates that even after the documentation of churches’ status became common, burial markers, fonts, and architectural fabric remained a powerful means of asserting and reinforcing both patronal and community status and influence, especially in subsidiary churches and chapels where rights were more likely to be threatened. The continuity of stone commemorative sculpture through major upheavals such as the Norman Conquest and manorial and parochial reorganization, as well as the deliberate preservation of original fonts to preserve antique privileges, speak volumes about the social power of stone objects. In the early medieval “theatre of memory,” stone markers and fonts were material realizations of the church’s origins and entitlements, and powerful symbols of significant patrons and events that were central both to its history and to maintaining relevance in a turbulent period of change.
While stone as a material played a similar role in both fonts and grave monuments in terms of reifying status and legacy, the chronology of its utilization is strikingly different in each medium and practice. Stone came into use in burial as early as the eighth century in northern England, and by the tenth century it was commonly used for individual, secular burial monuments at local churches and churchyards, establishing the pattern for elite stone commemoration that persisted throughout the later medieval period. Stone grave monuments tied the practice of burial to the local church from very early on, and helped establish the primacy of the right to bury in determining a church’s status. The presence of stone grave monuments in the church or churchyard enhanced the prestige of the church, and connected patrons to that locale—including its manor and settlement—in a permanent and prominent manner. In contrast, the use of stone for baptism was not commonly implemented earlier than the late eleventh century, and possibly not in any great frequency until after the Norman Conquest. Its introduction marked a sea change in the way baptism was practiced and perceived in the early Middle Ages, imbuing both the materials and the location of baptism with permanence and uniformity as well as a level of immobility, in stark contrast to the more peripatetic nature of earlier baptismal administration. Like burial markers several centuries earlier, stone fonts tied both a religious rite and a key part of an individual’s life cycle to the community church, a change which may even have been influenced by the fact that local church burial and commemoration was established practice. When a stone font was placed inside the local church, it marked the confluence of the idea of baptism as an induction into both the institutional Church and the parish and settlement community. Stone fonts ensured that baptismal rights joined the right to bury as a tangible statement of a particular church’s status and independence.
In the creation and installation of both fonts and burial monuments in the North Riding, it is clear that local circumstances and locally invested patrons took the lead, rather than more distant institutions. This is unsurprising in burial monuments, which memorialized particular patrons and their families and were personalized statements of status, identity, and legacy, but is perhaps less expected in fonts, where high ecclesiastical control—from the episcopal hierarchy or monastic institutions—might be expected to hold sway. Even if bishops and other ecclesiastical elites were driving the liturgical definitions of baptismal and burial practice, the materialization of those practices at the level of the parish was realized by local interests. Whether this apparent disconnect from institutional forces is a particular feature of Anglo-Norman northern England can only be addressed by further explorations of similar themes and objects in other regions. Nevertheless, our work has shown that when considering the material dimensions of birth and death in the formative stages of the parish church and looking for the drivers behind the acquisition of rights and status, the laity and local community deserve at least as much consideration as the institutional Church. The active role played by local patrons and their investments was at least as significant to the developmental trajectory of baptism and burial in the parish church, and to the formation of the parochial system itself, as institutional power, liturgy, or doctrine.
Early stone church fabric, fonts, and grave markers were thus not the products of an established parochial system, but rather actors in the chaotic processes of its formation. Patrons and communities could use them to reinforce the cohesion of the ecclesiastical infrastructure and the vision of outside organizers. Or they could just as easily be deployed to undermine and effectively challenge attempts to impose hierarchies of status, or to sway the processes of parochial formation in an advantageous direction. The use of stone forced the stabilization of parochial and manorial locations, as prominent markers in the landscape were necessary to create an effective, durable parochial structure. In return, the churches’ permanence, status, and attractiveness to patrons were reinforced by the legal framework of the parochial system. Stone fonts and grave markers operated in a similarly reflexive relationship between the materials and the imposed system; both classes of objects could be physically touched and officially presented in order to ensure the rights that churches had gained and to defend against encroachment or challenge, or they could be acquired and provided by patrons in an effort to elevate a church to the desired status. The orderly appearance of the fully formed, codified late medieval parochial system can obscure the fact that its formation was a highly contingent, uncertain process. The survival of a particular church and its privileges was not inevitable; patrons needed to be proactive in securing their church’s social position, and, by extension, their own. In this turbulent period, stone was thus an essential part of an effective strategy of patronage. Its capability to materialize the memories of both individuals and the life history of the church and its community is a fundamental reason why the medieval parochial system developed as it did.
M. T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England 1066–1397, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 38. The transfer of physical things like knives and swords confirmed public agreements and served to infuse objects with the memory of past actions. An object given on the occasion of a land donation, for example, metonymically represented that transfer and the object could be produced to invoke its memory as needed.
On the late medieval parish see Beat A. Kümin, The Shaping of a Community: The Rise and Reformation of the English Parish, c. 1400–1560 (Brookfield, VT: Scolar Press, 1996); Katherine L. French, Gary G. Gibbs, and Beat A. Kümin, The Parish in English Life, 1400–1600 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997); and Katherine L. French, The People of the Parish: Community Life in a Late Medieval English Diocese (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).
E.g., George Addleshaw, The Beginnings of the Parochial System (York: St Anthony’s Press, 1970); Francesca Tinti, ed., Pastoral Care in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2005).
Iconographic approaches to fonts include Francis Bond, Fonts and Font Covers (London: H. Frowde, 1908); C. S. Drake, The Romanesque Fonts of Northern Europe and Scandinavia (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2002); Frances Altvater, “In Fonte Renatus: The Iconography and Context of Twelfth-Century Baptismal Fonts in England” (Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Boston University, 2003) and her forthcoming Sacramental Theology and the Decoration of Baptismal Fonts: Incarnation, Initiation, Institution (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing). John Blair and Paul Barnwell have integrated the baptismal font into discussions of pastoral care and the parish: Blair, “The Prehistory of English Fonts,” in Intersections: The Archaeology and History of Christianity in England, 400–1200: Papers in Honour of Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle, ed. Martin Henig and Nigel Ramsay (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2010); Barnwell, The Place of Baptism in Anglo-Saxon and Norman Churches (Deerhurst: Friends of Deerhurst Church, 2014). In funerary monuments, the volumes of the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984–2016) characterize traditional cataloguing and iconographic analysis approaches. David Stocker and Phil Sidebottom have considered the patronage of Anglo-Scandinavian monuments and their connection to the foundation of parish churches: Stocker “Monuments and Merchants: Irregularities in the Distribution of Stone Sculpture in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire in the Tenth Century”; and Sidebottom, “Viking Age Stone Monuments and Social Identity in Derbyshire,” both in Cultures in Contact: Scandinavian Settlement in England in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries, ed. Dawn Hadley and Julian D. Richards (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000). However, little has been done to connect post-Conquest funerary sculpture to the processes of parochialization.
We draw here on the sociological theory of structuration established in Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society: Outline of a Theory of Structuration (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), in which social structure is both the medium and the outcome of human action, and can be reproduced, modified, or undermined by those actions. This theory has been adapted with a material focus for archaeology, where material culture is an active participant in this recursive process. See Ian Hodder, Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). For medieval examples see Jane Grenville, “Houses and Households in Late Medieval England: An Archaeological Perspective” in Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain, ed. Wogan-Browne, et al. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), 312–14; Kate Giles, An Archaeology of Social Identity: Guildhalls in York c. 1350–1630 (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2000), 9–11; and Roberta Gilchrist, Medieval Life: Archaeology and the Life Course (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2012), ch. 6.
See John Blair, Sarah Foot, Alan Thacker, and Catherine Cubitt in Pastoral Care Before the Parish, ed. John Blair and Richard Sharpe (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1992); Eric Cambridge and David Rollason, “Debate: The Pastoral Organization of the Anglo-Saxon Church: A Review of the ‘Minster Hypothesis.’” Early Medieval Europe 4 (1995): 87–104; Blair, “Debate: Ecclesiastical Organization and Pastoral Care in Anglo-Saxon England,” Early Medieval Europe 4 (1995): 193–212; and Blair, The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 3, 73, 79–134, and 368–425.
John Blair, “Introduction: From Minster to Parish Church,” in Minsters and Parish Churches: The Local Church in Transition 950–1200, ed. John Blair (Oxford: Oxford University Committee for Archaeology, 1988), 2; Richard Morris, Churches in the Landscape (London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1989), 28, 141.
John Blair, “Churches in the Early English Landscape: Social and Cultural Contexts” in Church Archaeology: Research Directions for the Future, ed. John Blair and Carol Pyrah (York: Council for British Archaeology, 1996), 12.
B. R. Kemp, “Monastic Possession of Parish Churches in England in the Twelfth Century,” The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 31:2 (1980): 133–60; Janet Burton, “Monasteries and Parish Churches in Eleventh and Twelfth-Century Yorkshire,” Northern History 23 (1987): 39–50; Ulrich Rasche, “The Early Phase of Appropriation of Parish Churches in Medieval England,” Journal of Medieval History 26 (2000): 213–37.
Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, trans. A. Goldhammer (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1990); See also Helen Foxhall Forbes, Heaven and Earth in Anglo-Saxon England: Theology and Society in an Age of Faith (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013), 202–19.
David Crouch, “The Culture of Death in the Anglo-Norman World,” in Anglo-Norman Political Culture and the 12th Century Renaissance, ed. C. W. Hollister (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 1997), 177; Bryan D. Spinks, Early and Medieval Rituals and Theologies of Baptism: From the New Testament to the Council of Trent (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 134–43; Altvater, “In Fonte Renatus,” ch. 2; See Marcia Colish, Faith, Fiction, and Force in Medieval Baptismal Debates (Washington, DC: the Catholic University of America Press, 2014).
Dorothy M. Owen, “Chapelries and Rural Settlement: An Examination of Some of the Kesteven Evidence,” in Medieval Settlement: Continuity and Change, ed. Peter H. Sawyer (London: Edward Arnold, 1976), 67. See also Janet E. Burton, The Monastic Order in Yorkshire, 1069–1215 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) and Burton, “Monasteries and Parish Churches.”
Richard Morris, “Baptismal Places 600–800,” in People and Places in Northern Europe 500–1600, ed. Ian Wood and Niels Lund (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1991), 15–24; Blair, “Prehistory”; Sarah Hamilton, “Rites of Passage and Pastoral Care,” in A Social History of England, 900–1200, ed. Julia C. Crick and Elisabeth M. C. van Houts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 297–99; and Carolyn Twomey, “Living Water, Living Stone: The History and Material Culture of Baptism in Early Medieval England, c. 600–c. 1200” (Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Boston College, 2017).
Lawrence Butler, “Medieval Gravestones of Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, and the Soke of Peterborough,” Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 50 (1957): 99; Finch, Church Monuments, 28; Elisabeth Zadora-Rio, “The Making of Churchyards and Parish Territories in the Early Medieval Landscape of France and England in the 7th–12th Centuries: A Reconsideration,” Medieval Archaeology 47 (2003); For the later development of effigial and brass commemoration in churches see Nigel Saul, English Church Monuments in the Middle Ages: History and Representation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 63–82.
Spinks, Early and Medieval Rituals, 122–23, 127–28; Helen Gittos, “Is There Any Evidence for the Liturgy of Parish Churches in Late Anglo-Saxon England? The Red Book of Darley and the Status of Old English,” in Tinti, Pastoral Care, 63–82; Sarah Hamilton, Church and People in the Medieval West, 900–1200 (London: Routledge, 2013), 76–77 and 182–85. These rubrics outlined the scrutinies, blessings of the font and materials, profession of the Creed and Paternoster, renunciation of Satan, triune baptism, and confirmation. See Twomey, “Living Water, Living Stone,” ch. 1.
Sarah Larratt Keefer, “Manuals,” in The Liturgical Books of Anglo-Saxon England, Old English Newsletter, Subsidia 23, ed. Richard W. Pfaff (Kalamazoo, MI: Richard Rawlinson Center for Anglo-Saxon Studies, 1995), 99–110. Hamilton, “Rites of Passage,” 296–97; Spinks, Early and Medieval Rituals, 156.
Victoria Thompson, Dying and Death in Later Anglo-Saxon England (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2004), 57–59; See also Frederick S. Paxton, Christianizing Death: The Creation of a Ritual Process in Early Medieval Europe (London: Cornell University Press, 1990).
For 24 of the 125 pre-1100 sites we must rely solely on documentary evidence for their existence. By c. 1200 only seventeen of the 198 are restricted to documentary evidence—the rest are marked by the presence of stone in some form (architecture, font, monument). Over 60 percent (125/198) of churches have surviving evidence for investment in stone architectural fabric by c. 1200, compared to just under a quarter (30/125) in the eleventh century.
Eric C. Fernie, The Architecture of Norman England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 20; Carol Davidson Cragoe, “Written in Stone: Architecture, Liturgy, and the Laity in English Parish Churches, c. 1125–c. 1250.” Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of London, 1998.
Roberta Gilchrist, “Medieval Archaeology and Theory: A Disciplinary Leap of Faith,” in Reflections: 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology 1957–2007, eds. Roberta Gilchrist and Andrew Reynolds (Leeds: Maney, 2009), 395; Richard Morris, “Local Churches in the Landscape,” in The Oxford Handbook of Archaeology, ed. Helena Hamerow, David A. Hinton, and Sally Crawford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 185.
The existence of a church at a particular period is inferred from a range of material or documentary evidence. For the pre-1100 period: a church and/or priest recorded in Domesday Book, excavated or standing evidence of architecture stylistically or stratigraphically dateable to before c. 1100, and/or the presence of Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Scandinavian, or Saxo-Norman commemorative sculpture. For the pre-1200 period: all of the above, plus the presence of twelfth-century sculpture, architecture, or fonts.
This is a pattern likely to be seen nationwide. All but a few parish churches existed by the second quarter of the twelfth century, and most were in place before 1100, as argued in Morris, Churches in the Landscape, 276.
Paul Barnwell cautions against using the presence of a font to date baptismal rights, as other forms such as portable wooden vessels might have been used previously. Paul S. Barnwell, “The Cure of Souls in England, c. 950–c. 1130,” in Places of Worship in Britain and Ireland 950–1150, ed. Paul S. Barnwell (Donington, Lincolnshire: Shaun Tyas, 2016), 172–73.
Blair, Church in Anglo-Saxon Society, 462–63; Hamilton, Church and People, 197; Though prohibited in canon law, baptism likely involved unofficial gift giving between celebrant, family, and godparents as a form of social cohesion and possibly more formal fees in some cases. See Hugh M. Thomas, The Secular Clergy in England, 1066–1216 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 27–28; Susan Wood, The Proprietary Church in the Medieval West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 459, 478–86; and Francesca Tinti, “The ‘Costs’ of Pastoral Care: Church Dues in Late Anglo-Saxon England,” in Tinti, Pastoral Care, 27–51.
Nikolaus Pevsner, Yorkshire: The North Riding, 1st ed. (London: Penguin, 1966), 384. For elaborate iconography on Romanesque fonts, see Bond, Fonts and Font Covers, 144–205; Drake, Romanesque Fonts, 9–37.
For early medieval examples of polychromy see Dominic Tweddle, “Paint on Pre-Conquest Sculpture in South-East England,” in Early Medieval Wall Painting and Painted Sculpture in England, ed. Sharon Cather, et al. (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1990); and Warwick Rodwell, “Appearances Can Be Deceptive: Building and Decorating Anglo-Saxon Churches,” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 165 (2012): 22–60. For the reconstruction of the original color scheme of the Deerhurst (Glos) font, see Richard Bryant, Making Much of What Remains: Reconstructing Deerhurst’s Anglo-Saxon Paint and Sculpture (Deerhurst: Friends of Deerhurst Church, 2015).
“Cross slab” is a generic term encompassing a variety of monumental styles dating to the eleventh to sixteenth centuries which were primarily non-effigial, recumbent, and decorated with a central stone cross. For an overview see Peter Ryder’s catalogues, such as The Cross Slab Grave Covers of Cumbria (Oxford: Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2005).
Sword emblems are generally interpreted to indicate men of elite status, shears to indicate women, and chalices and other religious accoutrements to represent priests. See Aleksandra McClain, “Medieval Cross Slabs in North Yorkshire: Chronology, Distribution, and Social Implications,” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 79 (2007): 172–78.
David Stocker, “Fons et Origo: The Symbolic Death, Burial and Resurrection of English Font Stones,” Church Archaeology 1 (1997): 17–25; Helen Gittos, Liturgy, Architecture, and Sacred Places in Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 273–74.
David Stocker and Paul Everson, Summoning St Michael: Early Romanesque Towers in Lincolnshire (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2006), 79–91; Cragoe, “Written in Stone,” 261–63. For baptism in church porticus in general, see Barnwell, Place of Baptism; for St. Peter’s Church, Barton-upon-Humber (Lincs), see Warwick Rodwell with Caroline Atkins, St Peter’s Church, Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire: A Parish Church and Its Community, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2011), 299–302, and figs. 336–39.
By the thirteenth century, responsibility for the maintenance of the chancel and nave had been divided between the clergy and laity respectively. Mason, “Role of the English Parishioner,” 23–25; Carol Davidson Cragoe, “The Custom of the English Church: Parish Church Maintenance in England Before 1300,” Journal of Medieval History 36:1 (2010): 20–38.
A 1292 Chichester statute declared that burial inside the church was reserved for lords of the manor, church patrons, and the parish clergy, suggesting that demand for internal burial was growing, and threatening what had been the preserve of the elite. Christopher Daniell, Death and Burial in Medieval England, 1066–1550 (London: Routledge, 1997), 96.
G. W. O. Addleshaw, Rectors, Vicars, and Patrons in Twelfth and Early Thirteenth Century Canon Law (York: St. Anthony’s Press, 1956), 18. E.g., Andrew Boddington, Raunds Furnells: the Anglo-Saxon Church and Churchyard (London: English Heritage, 1996), 11; and David Stocker, “Pre-Conquest Stonework: The Early Graveyard in Context,” in Wharram, a Study of Settlement on the Yorkshire Wolds IX: The Churchyard, ed. Simon Mays, Charlotte Harding, and Carolyn Heighway (York: University of York Press, 2007), 271.
C. Pamela Graves, “Social Space in the English Medieval Parish Church,” Economy and Society 18 (1989): 314. Fifty-seven churches and chapels in the North Riding have surviving evidence for one or more aisles by c. 1200, and nineteen of these had both north and south aisles by this time. Many aisles which currently appear to be of late-medieval date were originally added to the church in the twelfth century, but this evidence is obscured by later medieval rebuilding.
Eleven North Riding chapels have architectural, sculptural, or Domesday Book evidence pre-dating 1100, demonstrating a likely pre-Conquest existence, and there are thirty-five chapels featuring stone architectural fabric, font, or funerary evidence from before the end of the twelfth century.
Reginald Lennard, Rural England 1086–1135 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), 299; Blair, Church in Anglo-Saxon Society, 444; the laws on church dues were re-formulated from King Edgar’s tenth-century law codes by Archbishop Wulfstan, with the four-fold hierarchy of churches first appearing in 1014. Dorothy Whitelock, Martin Brett, and Christopher N. L. Brooke, eds., Councils and Synods with Other Documents Relating to the English Church, vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 352.
Mason, “Role of the English Parishioner,” 18; Limitations were placed on new foundations of chapels at Anselm’s Council at Westminster in 1102. Whitelock, et al., Councils and Synods, 676. See also Edward L. Cutts, Parish Priests and Their People in the Middle Ages in England (London: SPCK, 1898), 113.
Aleksandra McClain, “Patronage in Transition: Lordship, Churches, and Funerary Monuments in Anglo-Norman England,” in Churches and Social Power in Early Medieval Europe: Integrating Archaeological and Historical Approaches, ed. José Carlos Sánchez-Pardo and Michael Shapland (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), 197–98.
Lesley Abrams, “Conversion and Assimilation,” in Cultures in Contact: Scandinavian Settlement in England in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries, ed. Dawn M. Hadley and Julian D. Richards (Turnhout: Brepols, 2000), 142–43. See also Hadley, Northern Danelaw and Burton, Monastic Order, 2–3.
Bond, Fonts and Font Covers, 144; Faith Mann, Early Medieval Church Sculpture: A Study of 12th Century Fragments in East Yorkshire (Beverley: Hutton, 1985), 9; Blair, Church in Anglo-Saxon Society, 462 n. 164; Hamilton, Church and People, 38.
In contrast to the workshops of the south (e.g., Purbeck and Sussex fonts) and the imported Tournai fonts near Winchester distributed by Bishop Henry of Blois, most fonts in Yorkshire were from local quarries and not from identifiable workshops. See Drake, Romanesque Fonts, 22–29; Bond, Fonts and Font Covers, 204–05; George Zarnecki, “Henry of Blois as a Patron of Sculpture,” in Art and Patronage in the English Romanesque, ed. Sarah Macready and F. H. Thompson, Society of Antiquaries Occasional Papers 8 (London, 1986), 159–60; and C. S. Drake, “The Distribution of Tournai Fonts,” The Antiquaries Journal 73 (September 1993): 11–26.
See Blakely, Brus Family, appendices 1 and 2 for the de Brus landholdings. For the origins of the de Brus from the estates of earlier subtenants, see Peter King, “The Return of the Fee of Robert De Brus in Domesday,” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 60 (1988): 25–29; D. M. Palliser, The Yorkshire Domesday (London: Alecto Historical Editions, 1992), 305v, 320, and, for the fief of Robert de Brus in Domesday Book, see 332v–333.
After construction of the new Church of St. Mark in 1820, the St. Germain font was used as a water trough at a nearby farm and a flower pot in the vicarage garden before being relocated into the new church in 1901. VCH NR II, 399–405.
Symeon of Durham, Libellus de Exordio Atque Procursu Istius, Hoc Est Dunhelmensis, Ecclesie. Tract on the Origins and Progress of This the Church of Durham, ed. David Rollason (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), c. xiv.
BL MS Cotton Cleopatra D. II, fols. 112–332, printed in William Brown, Cartularium Prioratus de Gyseburne, vol. 1, Surtees Society 86 (Durham: Andrews & Co., 1889), i and ii, 1–5. See Burton, Monastic Order, 77.
The Upleatham font was moved to the new church of St. Andrew Upleatham in the modern period before being relocated to its current location inside a Georgian box pew in the old church of All Saints in Skelton-on-Cleveland, another church also originally owned by de Brus.
Brown, Cart. Guis., 1:i and ii. 1–5, and see 3, n. 4; Burton, Monastic Order, 77–79 and 189–90; Burton suggests that the two foundation charters (i, 1–3, and ii, 4–5) may be of dubious origin, but notes that the land holdings are confirmed by de Brus’s grandson Adam II de Brus in Cart. Guis, 1, no. 13, 11–12.
VCH NR II, 524, 529, 532–34; John Christopher Atkinson, ed., Cartularium Abbathiae de Whiteby, vol. 1, Surtees Society 69 (Durham: Andrews & Co., 1879), nos. 1, 1–7; Abbot Benedict of Whitby (1139–1148) confirmed John de Arundel’s rights to the chapel in 1148. Cart. Whitby, 1, no. 180, 144–45; Alan Thacker, “Monks, Preaching, and Pastoral Care in Early Anglo-Saxon England,” in Blair and Sharpe, Pastoral Care Before the Parish, 145 and 151; McClain, “Patronage, Power, and Identity,” 164–65; For the “uneasy tenure of [Whitby’s] endowments” and competition with York, see Janet E. Burton, “The Monastic Revival in Yorkshire: Whitby and St. Mary’s, York,” in Anglo-Norman Durham, 1093–1193, ed. David W. Rollason, Margaret Harvey, and Michael Prestwich (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 1998), 50.
Mann, Early Medieval Church Sculpture, 7; William Dugdale, Monasticon Anglicanum, ed. John Caley, Henry Ellis, and Bulkeley Bandinel, vol. 1 (London, 1817), 628–29, cited in K. J. Allison, ed., Victoria County History, East Riding, vol. 2 (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 309.
These twelfth-century sculptural fragments are all dated between c. 1135 and 1165 and are currently located at the Helmsley Archaeological Store. D. H. Heslop, “Excavation Within the Church at the Augustinian Priory of Guisborough,” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 67 (1995): 106–11, 116–24; For the stone source of the priory at the nearby Guisborough Woods, see British Geological Survey and Historic England, “Building Stone | Strategic Stone Study,” accessed March 29, 2017, http://mapapps.bgs.ac.uk/buildingStone/BuildingStone.html.
In the later Middle Ages, building campaigns at Guisborough stimulated the production of effigial sculpture in the surrounding region. Brian Gittos and Moira Gittos, “The Ingleby Arncliffe Group of Effigies: A Mid-Fourteenth Century Workshop in North Yorkshire,” Church Monuments 17 (2002): 26.
Burton, “Monasteries and Parish Churches”; Burton, Monastic Order, 89, 92–95, and 237–42; Burton, “Priory and Parish”; Rita Wood has argued for the Augustinian patronage of the fonts at Kirkburn and Everingham (East Yorkshire) due to their iconographic themes and proximity to priories. Wood, “The Augustinians and the Romanesque Sculpture at Kirkburn Church,” East Yorkshire Historian: The Journal of the East Yorkshire Local History Society 4 (2003): 3–59; and “The Augustinians and the Romanesque Font from Everingham, East Riding.” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 83 (2011): 112–47.
Burton, “Monasteries and Parish Churches,” 50; Kemp, “Monastic Possession of Parish Churches,” 144–46; D. J. A. Matthew, The Norman Monasteries and Their English Possessions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962); Marjorie Chibnall, “Monks and Pastoral Work: A Problem in Anglo-Norman History,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 18 (1967): 165–72.
“[E]a conventione, ut in præe. ecclesia de Midlesburc quidam monachi sint, qui Deo et S. Hyldæ de Wytebi deserviant.” Atkinson, Cart. Whitby, vol. 1, no. 111, 95, see also xliii–xlviii; Summarized in VCH NR II, 268–73.
Ibid., xlvii. Here Atkinson argues that no. 25, p. 28 in the Cart. Whitby records the original donation of Middlesbrough and that it had been recorded as Flamborough in error. This would indicate that the later grants of de Brus to Whitby were confirmations of the donations of church and land that had already occurred. However, Atkinson leaves open the possibility that de Brus made the first donation of Middlesbrough to Whitby Abbey.
The Whitby monks objected that their original claims to the church were being overridden by the Guisborough canons: “Sciendum quoque quod praed. Monachi clamaverunt quietum et solutum praed. Canon. quicquid poterant calumpniari adversus parrochias illorum propter donum Hugonis Cestrensis Comitis.” Atkinson, Cart. Whitby, vol. 1, no. 271, 216; See also Burton, “Monasteries and Parish Churches,” 49.
Documentary studies of other regions of England support the idea that the eleventh century was central to parochialization on a national scale. E.g., Neil S. Rushton, “Parochialization and Patterns of Patronage in 11th-Century Sussex,” Sussex Archaeological Collections 137 (1999): 133–52. It is less clear whether the tenth-century stages of parochial development visible in northern England occurred nationwide, or were a distinct feature of the region. See Hadley, Northern Danelaw.