Elevation torches at Friskney in Lincolnshire

Friskney, Lincolnshire

Look carefully at the photo above, in fact click through to Flickr and look at the image in its original size. Down at the bottom of the window, flanking the altar on either side you will see two crouching figures. Here is a detail of the one to the left. He appears to be in early fifteenth century civilian dress, and is holding what looks to be a candlestick.

Friskney, Lincolnshire

What is he? Well, in the late medieval period is was customary during mass for civilians to come close to the altar and raise large candles or torches at the moment of the elevation of the sacred species. A clerk holding a torch of this sort at the elevation of the Host, is portrayed in the Seven Sacrament window at Doddiscombsleigh in Devon (see below). And I suppose that the two little figures at Friskney represent this liturgical custom. Odd aren’t they.

Doddiscombsleigh, Devon, nII, 3a, Eucharist
Doddiscombsleigh, Devon. Photo by Gordon Plumb

6 thoughts on “Elevation torches at Friskney in Lincolnshire

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  1. My view of the late medieval English parish church is now very much filtered through the lens of Sir Christopher Trychay. Would it be fair to assume that the lay-folk carrying elevation candles at specific masses might well be members of guilds associated with a particular altar or with devotion to a particular saint?


  2. Roger, that certainly seems to be my understanding too. Those who paid for the torches, whether individually or collectively had the right to carry these additional lights. The added bonus was greater access to Our Lord in the sacrament. I agree that window is a monstrosity. This church suffers badly on two counts, from clutter and from furnishings that are simply not worthy of the setting.


  3. But if you will notice in the window, the torch seems neither to be lighted nor is it being elevated. Perhaps a look at the rubrics for the period of the window might give us something other than a post 1570 view of what is happening.


  4. Dear Allan, I was very interested to come across your blog. I am researching my ancestor, Henry John Cheales (1829-1910) – he was the Vicar of Friskney from around 1869 and rural dean from 1882. Do you by chance know if the vicarage is still standing – I don't suppose you have any picutres of it by chance? Best wishes, Alex


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