A glazed piscina – Dorchester-on-Thames

Dorchester, Oxon, Sedilia, 1a, originally uploaded by Vitrearum.

Dorchester Abbey in Oxfordshire was formerly an Augustinian Abbey. In the monastic chancel, which dates from the second quarter of the fourteenth century is a glorious sedilia and piscina. They are unusual in that they have their own glazing, the sedilia pierced with three and the piscina with a single tiny window. The sedilia windows are filled with glazing depicting seated bishops, but the sedilia has this interesting panel. It is a scene from a High Mass, a solemn celebration of the Eucharist. A seated priest, holding a missal, is assisted by a deacon and subdeacon who offer him the eucharistic oblations, a host on a paten and wine and water cruets.

Dorchester, Oxfordshire

The sedilia is no longer used by the Anglican establishment at Dorchester, but it was used by the Roman Catholics at a recent requiem mass. Photo by Lawrence OP.

6 thoughts on “A glazed piscina – Dorchester-on-Thames

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  1. Dorchester’s glazed sedilia is a glorious rarity and I hadn’t realised how spectacular the glass was. Thank you for this!


  2. It is very glorious. I will endevour to post some photos of the rest of the glazing in due course. It is interesting how the Gilbert Scott restoration of the Presbytery at Dorchester disregarded the medieval floor levels. The sedilia has been made impractical by the presence of the altar steps.


  3. I wondered if the raising of chancel floors relative to the sedilia might in part be a consequence of the gradual raising of the floor level by frequent interments inside the church – a can of worms, perhaps sometimes literally, the Victorians did not want to get in to.Assume,from the position of the amices and from the fact that they’re being worn at all, that a monastic rite is being followed. Dominican?Was this the sequence in which priest, deacon and sub-deacon would have sat in the Middle Ages, or would the priest have been in the highest seat?


  4. I don’t think so in this case. I have a print dating from 1824 which show that the floor of the sanctuary on one level, two steps above the pavement of the quire The altar steps that raise the altar above the level of the Sacrarium are pure Gilbert Scott. In the south nave aisle at Dorchester the side altar is raised quite significantly above the level of the aisle floor due to the presence of a vaulted charnel house below.I believe Mary Berry’s funeral was according to the Usus Antiquior of he Roman Rite. The celebrant was an Oratorian I believe, Lawrence OP would confirm. In the Middle Ages the priest would have occupied the eastern seat as you suggest, Pugin attempted to revive that use at places such as St Giles Cheadle by labelling the seats.


  5. They look very Anglican and medieval except for the ugly biretta. And it would have been much nicer if they had arranged themselves in the medieval way. But then neither Anglicans or Romans generally realize how drastically Roman ceremonial was changed in the century preceding the council of Trent.


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