Hagioscopes
Squint Church Definition

Hagioscopes Squint Church Definition, Research on Anchorhold Squint Church Styles. During my pilgrimages and particularly research on anchorites in medieval Britain I came across many different types of hagioscopes, some especially designed for the anchoress or anchorite to use , some for the general church congregation to use and some for specific priest's use . Here I hope to share some of my findings

Medieval Church Art and Features in churches of the middle ages. What is a squint in medieval times ? There are quite a few varieties of squints , some are hagioscopes some are just simple viewing squints. Have you ever been able to see a squint in your local church ? It depends what part of the world you have access to and whether it has a history of medieval churches as most of those seem to have survived from that age onward.

Hagioscopes
Squint Church Definition

What is a Hagioscope ?

What is a Church Squint ?

Hagioscope Definition

Squint Definition ?

Leper's Squint

Anchorite Squint

Church Congregation Squint

Priest Squint


What is an Anchorite Squint Hagioscope ?

Hagioscope Squint Church Definition

  • In the Middle Ages and mostly found in medieval churches small cells called " anchorhold"  were built against walls of a particular church
  • Anchorhold cells were usually build against the north side of a church, but evidence of other church walls with anchorlhold cells has been found
  • A squint or " hagioscope" would be a feature of the cell . This is literally an internal opening/window which would enable an anchorite or anchoress to view the main altar of the church. 
  • Many different styles and shapes of hagioscopes are in existence, quatrefoil windows are common as are hagioscopes openings in the shape of a cross.
  • The anchorhold cell would also most often contain another window to the outside through which food could be given, and the congregation and pilgrims could address and anchoress or anchorite and plead for help. ( not all anchorholds had the same setup and there are many differences so this is a generalisation)
  • This are then church squints or church hagioscopes designed for an anchorite or anchoress

What is an Elevation Squint Hagioscope ?

Hagioscope Squint Church Definition

  • Elevation squints are usually carved into obstructions like rood screens to allow those kneeling behind the screen to see the Sacred Host being elevated by the priest during Mass.
  • There are loads of different types of elevation church squints and they are of all shapes and sizes. The simplest ones are crudely cut into wood in the shape of arrow slits or small basic holes, others are elaborately carved to match the style of the medieval church art of the screen . 
  • The simple ones are thought to have been added by the congregation members themselves to afford them a better view, the more elaborate ones in keeping with the medieval church art style are thought to be added on purpose by the designer.

What is a Priest Squint Hagioscope ?

Hagioscope Squint Church Definition

  • Angled squints pointing in from the side chapel of a church are often found in larger churches of this style
  • these types of squints are angled allowing the priest attending the side chapel to observe the activities happening at the main altar

What is a Leper Squint in Church ?

Hagioscope Squint Church Definition

  • a different type of openings coming in from the outside of the church to the inside is often known as leper's squints
  • Research has shown that they were not as many lepers as would warrant squints just for them, so today the explanation leans toward the idea that general " undesired" people who had the wish to attend church services for a variety of reasons were able to do so via these openings. These could have been lepers, those people serving a conditional penance etc
  • The location of this squint windows or even larger style windows was usually within sighting of the rood screen of at times even the altar so that worship could be done by outsiders.  
  • When traveling on a pilgrimage to visit churches look out for these, often today bricked up but visible when walking around the outside of a church. The identity of such "leper squints" is often debatable, so as always see what resonates with you and check local historic evidence possible in the parish church archives.

Churches in England with known Hagiocopes

  • St Bees Priory, St Bees, Cumbria
  • St Mary’s Church, Easington, County Durham
  • St Nicholas' Church, Berden
  • St Nicholas Church, Westgate Street Gloucester, Gloucestershire
  • St Martin's Church in Wareham, Dorset
  • St Mary's, Lytchett,Matravers
  • St. Laurence and All Saints Church, Eastwood, Essex
  • St Andrew and St Bartholomew's in Ashleworth, Gloucestershire
  • Church of the Holy Rood, Holybourne, Hampshire
  • Holy Trinity Church in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire
  • St. Cuthbert's Church, Aldingham, Lancashire
  • St James' The Less in Sulgrave, Northamptonshire
  • The Church of St. James, Shere, Surrey
  • St Nicholads Church, Compton, Surrey
  • St Mary's Church, Grendon, Northamptonshire
  • St Cuthbert’s Church, Beltingham, Northumberland
  • St Aidan Bamburgh Northumberland
  • St Oswald's in Sowerby, North Yorkshire
  • St Peter's in Upton, Nottinghamshire
  • St Nicholas' in Old Marston, Oxfordshire
  • St Nicholas' in Kenilworth, Warwickshire
  • St Mary and St Cuthbert in Chester-le-Street
  • St Marys Bridge Chapel, Derby

Church Glossary Terms


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