HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, LONG MELFORD, INTERIOR.

Clopton Chantry, detail, squint in back, chancel seen through opening over Clopton's tomb, 1450-1500.

 

 

1. Painted inscriptions of poetry by John Lydgate. Click for close-up view and explication.

2. Arms of Clopton impaled with those of allied families. Click for close-up view and explication.

3. Clopton's tomb -- also the Easter Sepulchre.

John Clopton's tomb is placed between the church's chancel and the chantry. Clopton was among other wealthy lay donors who contrived to have their tombs set next to the high altar of their church, with a chapel to one side. The tomb sat under an open arch and was used for the Passion week ritual of the Easter Sepulcher. The ceremony involved "burying" the host on Good Friday by putting it in a special place and bringing it out for the "Resurrection" on Easter Sunday. Nightly vigils continued for the faithful from the time of the host's disappearance to its retrieval. By designing a personal tomb that would also function as the Easter Sepulcher, the donor achieved the additional strategy of focusing attention to his or her gift, and also insuring that the most poignant and intense prayers connected with the belief in the Resurrection would "wash over" the tomb itself. On the underside of the arch over the tomb, as if the deceased could 'see,' is an image of the resurrected Christ. For the Easter Sepulchre see Pamela Sheingorn, The Easter Sepulchre in England (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publ. WMU, 1987).

 

4. Squint to allow view of the high altar.

At the rear of the Clopton Chantry is found a squint, a viewing aperture for those outside the worship space. This was a common architectural element in the later middle ages when the laity evidenced a signal desire to see the host, the sacramental body and blood of Christ. The viewer would actually have to look through the chantry and across the opening above the tomb for the sight of the priest at Mass on the high altar. Click to see floor plan. Many of the wooded chantry spaces at Long Melford (as well as other sites) are also provided with squints, accessible to the eye level of a kneeling person. Margery Kempe attests to the centrality of the sight of the Eucharist when she tells that once at the moment of the elevation, she was granted a miraculous vision of the host fluttering as a dove (1078-86). For further explanation of seeing the host and squints, Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (New Haven, 1992), 97-107, figs. 44-46.

 

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