In his novel The Spire (1964), William Golding tells the story of a medieval building patron driven to the brink of madness by his desire to complete a massive architectural commission.1 The patron, Jocelin, believes he has been divinely chosen to build a crossing tower over a cathedral whose slight piers and shallow foundations are wholly inadequate to the task of supporting such a structure. Numerous complications ensue. The cathedral chapter roils as disruptions multiply and expenditures mushroom. The building workshop rebels as the danger of the undertaking becomes apparent. But Jocelin, unmoved, presses onward. Indeed, he comes to identify with the project to such an extent that when the crossing piers threaten to buckle under the weight of the rising tower, he undertakes an unusual course of action:

He went … into the choir, and knelt in a stall as nearly under the key of the arch as he could get. … His will began to burn fiercely and he thrust it into the four pillars, tamped it in with the pain of his neck and his head and his back. … He felt confusedly and mutinously; It is a kind of prayer! … At last, when he understood nothing else at all, he knew that the whole weight of the building was resting on his back.2

Jocelin's intervention, simultaneously holy and profane, dissolves the boundary between subject and object, body and building, man and monument. This confusion of categories eventually leads to a series of tragic decisions, devastating Jocelin and those around him. The spire does get built, but, perched perilously above the cathedral, its meaning—a symbol of birth or death? a product of faith or insanity?—remains troublingly elusive.

Golding's fiction mobilizes an idea with a long pedigree in architectural historiography: that large-scale building is a process driven by singular human exertion.3 The notion that big projects and big patrons go hand in hand is not unfounded. Many of the world's great monuments, from the sepulchers of ancient kings to the skyscrapers of modern corporations, celebrate the status of select individuals or institutions. Imposingly large and/or impressively lavish, such architectural creations imply not only megalomaniacal ambition but also power and prestige, qualities that, in most societies, have typically belonged to the few versus the many.

And yet there are exceptions. The present inquiry examines one such case, the medieval parish church, focusing on a collection of formally integrated English churches built during the two centuries between the Black Death (1348–49) and the Henrician Reformation (1534–47)—a paradigmatic example being the grand market church of St. Peter Mancroft in Norwich (ca. 1440–65) (Figures 1, 2, 3). These buildings, with flexible arrangements comparable to modern “open” or “free” plans, were unusual in two respects. First, unlike higher-level churches throughout Europe, they were built by and for the people who regularly used them. Second, unlike lower-level churches in Britain, they were built according to a formal configuration that dissolved traditional spatial and visual boundaries. Consequently, in terms of process and product, these churches were collaborative undertakings that empowered individuals of various standing to negotiate their place in wider society.

Figure 1

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, tower ca. 1390–1430, nave, chancel, and aisles ca. 1440–65, midrestoration view looking northwest, photo ca. 1900 (Edward A. Tillett, Norwich Scrapbooks, vol. 24 [ca. 1900], fol. 7r, Norfolk Heritage Centre, Norwich).

Figure 1

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, tower ca. 1390–1430, nave, chancel, and aisles ca. 1440–65, midrestoration view looking northwest, photo ca. 1900 (Edward A. Tillett, Norwich Scrapbooks, vol. 24 [ca. 1900], fol. 7r, Norfolk Heritage Centre, Norwich).

Figure 2

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, ca. 1440–65, interior view looking east (author's photo).

Figure 2

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, ca. 1440–65, interior view looking east (author's photo).

Figure 3

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, ca. 1440–65, plan, with reconstruction of destroyed liturgical screenwork indicated by solid lines 1–5 (David King, The Medieval Stained Glass of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich [Oxford: British Academy, 2006], xxvii; author's reconstruction of screenwork).

Figure 3

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, ca. 1440–65, plan, with reconstruction of destroyed liturgical screenwork indicated by solid lines 1–5 (David King, The Medieval Stained Glass of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich [Oxford: British Academy, 2006], xxvii; author's reconstruction of screenwork).

Medieval Architectural Production: A Historiographical Review

Unsurprisingly, and perhaps inevitably, historians' approaches to medieval ecclesiastical architectural production vary widely. Nevertheless, two methodological trends predominate, both of which take as their point of departure the cathedrals, monastic churches, and collegiate churches built in the Gothic style across northern Europe between about 1150 and 1500.4

Older accounts tend to frame large-scale medieval church building in terms of abstract agency. Some, focusing on issues of faith and mental practices, see it as the purview of clerical “clients.”5 Others, focusing on issues of reason and manual practices, see it as the domain of lay “designers.”6 In both cases, the agents remain largely anonymous, their roles determined by their status less as individuals and more as ideal types. A related, more generalizing, art historical approach, inflected by Hegelian methods that flourished during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, attributes the creation of grand ecclesiastical monuments to nebulous forces of style, spirit, or national character.7 In each case, the result is an architectural history “without names,” implying the involvement of a relatively narrow constituency.8

Newer accounts, by contrast, tend to frame large-scale medieval church building in terms of concrete agency. Discarding the airtight categories of designer and client, these studies treat architectural production as a dynamic process involving tight-knit groups of actively engaged individuals, often seen through the lens of patronage.9 This shift in orientation has substantially altered perceptions of well-known figures in the history of medieval architecture. A cleric like Abbot Suger (d. 1151), once celebrated as a theologian-cum-designer, is now seen as a shrewd administrator whose awareness of emerging architectural, artistic, political, liturgical, and theological developments enabled him to procure the talent, money, and materials required to renovate the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis.10 Meanwhile, lay figures such as Henry III of England (r. 1216–72), Louis IX of France (r. 1226–70), and Charles IV of Bohemia (r. 1346–78), once viewed as mere building donors, have come to be seen as exercising not only financial but also formal and functional control over the architectural projects they commissioned.11 Less focused on specific individuals are those Marxist-oriented studies that highlight the ways that cathedral authorities utilized church building to impose political, social, and economic order over broad swaths of medieval society.12 Indeed, as studies of the financial management of ecclesiastical building projects have made clear, even initiatives funded by voluntary donations or involuntary rents, tithes, and taxes were controlled by relatively small groups of clerical representatives.13 Thus, while recent research has shed light on the human dimension of medieval architectural production, it remains common for scholars to view church building as a highly centralized phenomenon characterized by narrow, top-down processes.

The Medieval Parish Church: A Collaborative Venture

Disrupting this paradigm of architectural production, however, is another often overlooked but once ubiquitous building type: the parish church. Although sometimes mentioned in multivolume national building surveys or in monographs dealing with specific places, periods, or styles, parish churches rarely appear in pan-European accounts.14 Indeed, it is only with respect to England that one finds an established tradition of scholarly writing on the medieval parish church, the focus of which has gradually shifted from issues of form and style to matters of function, space, and society.15 Such work has done much to reveal the complexity of the parish as a political, economic, and socioreligious phenomenon. Yet few studies have examined parochial building initiatives in relation to the larger historiography of architecture.16

Unlike cathedrals, monastic foundations, and collegiate foundations, parish churches were lay-oriented institutions, providing individuals of various ranks access to the sacraments and sacramentals of the established church—the most important of which, aside from the Eucharist, related to birth (baptism), death (burial), and ritual blessing.17 Emerging in many places as successors to the semiprivate chapels of feudal lords, parish churches served specific geographic areas of relatively limited size, thereby enhancing the formation of both urban and rural communities. Indeed, because they accommodated public rituals ranging from religious services, liturgical processions, and ceremonial pageants to secular assemblies, alms distribution, and tax collection, parish churches were a sine qua non of local life.

Further enhancing this sense of shared belonging were the customs surrounding the maintenance of parochial space.18 By the thirteenth century, in many parts of Europe it was routine for a parish church to be sustained multilaterally. The clergy, represented by the incumbent priest or the ecclesiastical institution to which the parish's greater tithes were appropriated, were responsible for maintaining the eastern area: the choir or chancel. The laity, represented by all those living within the parish's boundaries, were responsible for maintaining the western area: the nave. The result was that in a large number of late medieval parishes, building works of various scales—from minor renovations to major reconstructions—were conceived, arranged, financed, supervised, and even completed by and for members of the local community, both clergy and laity.19 Such projects were remarkable in two ways. First, they were collective enterprises, drawing support from both higher- and lower-level donors. Second, they were collaborative enterprises, leveraging, reinforcing, and generating both open and closed social networks. Naturally, working arrangements varied greatly from location to location, and scholars continue to debate the level of social differentiation that existed within parochial communities of divergent sizes, settings, and social compositions (particularly in late medieval England).20 Nonetheless, by greatly expanding the number of stakeholders in the building process, these projects could not have been further from the model that had long characterized the construction of monumental churches throughout medieval Europe.

The broadly cooperative nature of many parish church-building initiatives becomes even more remarkable when seen against the architectural traditions of other major religions in premodern Eurasia. Some overlap can be discerned in Buddhist contexts in South and East Asia, where donations to religious institutions were vital to the acquisition of salvific merit. Earlier, and closer to the model of the parish church (given the minor role of religious authorities), were the collectively financed stupas inscribed with the names of their middle-class urban patrons built in early historic India (ca. 300 BCE–300 CE).21 Later, and further from the model of the parish church (given the major role of religious authorities), were temple-building projects supported by the upper classes of Ming China (1368–1644 CE) and Muromachi Japan (1338–1573 CE).22 Examples in other religious contexts, by contrast, are less reminiscent of the medieval parish church: the construction of large Hindu temples was a tightly regulated process that drew sharp distinctions between priests, donors, and artisans of different social castes, and the building of large Muslim mosques tended to rely on the patronage of high-ranking individuals.23 In neither of these cases, then, was the act of building a publicly self-regulated initiative. Thus, both inside and outside the Latin West, the simultaneously collective and collaborative way in which medieval parish churches were built was exceptional.

The Open-Plan Parish Churches of Late Medieval England

In few places are the dynamics characterizing parish church-building projects more apparent than in late medieval England. At its peak, the region was home to perhaps ten thousand parochial places of worship—an overwhelming number of which were substantially altered between 1350 and 1550.24 Surviving documentary evidence takes several different forms.25 More detailed but less common are accounts compiled by elected lay representatives documenting the administration of repairs, renovations, and reconstructions. Less detailed but more common are probate records drawn up for both clergy and laity documenting the allocation of gifts for building, furnishing, and decorating. Still other forms of written evidence include guild accounts, civic registers, and legal contracts.26 Such a wealth of material, both architectural and archival, is invaluable for determining the dates and lengths and, in some cases, the orchestration of building initiatives within parochial communities throughout the kingdom.

Frequently renovated, expanded, or rebuilt, English parish churches assumed a wide variety of architectural configurations throughout the medieval period, responding to ever-changing factors such as demography, ritual, tradition, fashion, and economic conditions. Modern scholars have used numerous criteria to classify these heterogeneous buildings. Some have focused on size and shape. Others have focused on architectural style. Yet all agree that one condition was universal by the thirteenth century: every parish church, from the smallest and most spartan to the largest and most luxurious, possessed a nave maintained by the laity and a chancel maintained by the clergy.

Architectural approaches to this division of sacred space were of two kinds. First, and more commonly, the nave and the chancel could be built or rebuilt as semiautonomous structural volumes divided by a lateral arch, a transept, or a central tower; characteristic of this approach are the churches of Shillington All Saints in the eastern county of Bedfordshire, Bristol St. Mary Redcliffe in the South West, and Hull Holy Trinity in the North (Figures 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). Second, and less commonly, the nave and the chancel could be built or rebuilt as a single integrated volume of continuous extent and congruent design; characteristic of this approach is the church of St. Peter Mancroft in Norwich (see Figures 1, 2, 3).

Figure 4

Parish church of All Saints, Shillington, Bedfordshire, England, nave, chancel, and aisles ca. 1300–50, interior view from the south chancel looking northwest through the chancel arch (© Historic England).

Figure 4

Parish church of All Saints, Shillington, Bedfordshire, England, nave, chancel, and aisles ca. 1300–50, interior view from the south chancel looking northwest through the chancel arch (© Historic England).

Figure 5

Parish church of All Saints, Shillington, Bedfordshire, England, nave, chancel, and aisles ca. 1300–50, plan (G. H. Cook, The English Mediaeval Parish Church [London: Phoenix House, 1954], 102).

Figure 5

Parish church of All Saints, Shillington, Bedfordshire, England, nave, chancel, and aisles ca. 1300–50, plan (G. H. Cook, The English Mediaeval Parish Church [London: Phoenix House, 1954], 102).

Figure 6

Parish church of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, England, nave, transept, and choir ca. 1350–1400, interior view from the north nave aisle looking southeast toward the south transept arm (© Historic England).

Figure 6

Parish church of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, England, nave, transept, and choir ca. 1350–1400, interior view from the north nave aisle looking southeast toward the south transept arm (© Historic England).

Figure 7

Parish church of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, England, nave, transept, and choir ca. 1350–1400, plan (G. H. Cook, The English Mediaeval Parish Church [London: Phoenix House, 1954], 118).

Figure 7

Parish church of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, England, nave, transept, and choir ca. 1350–1400, plan (G. H. Cook, The English Mediaeval Parish Church [London: Phoenix House, 1954], 118).

Figure 8

Former chapel of ease (now minster church) of the Holy Trinity, Kingston-upon-Hull, England, transept ca. 1300–20, choir ca. 1340–70, nave ca. 1380–1420, tower ca. 1490–1520, view of the choir and south transept looking northwest toward the crossing tower (photo by Richard Locket, with alterations by author).

Figure 8

Former chapel of ease (now minster church) of the Holy Trinity, Kingston-upon-Hull, England, transept ca. 1300–20, choir ca. 1340–70, nave ca. 1380–1420, tower ca. 1490–1520, view of the choir and south transept looking northwest toward the crossing tower (photo by Richard Locket, with alterations by author).

What determined a parochial community's choice between these two options? The archaeologist and historian Alexander Hamilton Thompson, focusing on formal issues, attributed the suppression of any structural division between nave and chancel to a desire for roomier settings for carved wooden roofs and painted wooden screens.27 The architectural historian Francis Bond, focusing on functional issues, attributed the creation of integrated spaces to a preference for accommodating greater numbers of individuals, altars, guilds, confraternities, and chantry foundations.28 Variations on both theories have enjoyed wide currency in studies of parish church architecture for almost a century.29 Less noted, however, is the fact that the choice was far from neutral, since chancel arches were fundamentally liminal elements marking important socioliturgical divisions between clergy and laity, sacred and secular, holy and profane. Indeed, the idea of separation was embedded in the term chancel—the medieval Latin word for which, cancellus, was derived from the partial-height screens (cancelli) used to enclose sacrosanct areas in ancient temple complexes, late antique synagogues, and late antique churches.30

In multicell parish churches in post-Conquest England, several means were used to differentiate nave and chancel, including alterations in flooring, roofing, or vaulting and variations in articulation, fenestration, or decoration. Especially common, however, was the introduction of a lateral wall punctured by an arched opening.31 This mediating feature performed several functions. As a boundary, it provided physical separation between nave and chancel. As a frame, it lent spatial and visual distinction to the high altar. And, from the early thirteenth century onward, it may have differentiated spheres of financial responsibility within the parish, since it was during this time that synodal legislation shifted the duty of maintaining the nave from the clergy to the laity—a move likely resisted by the clergy (who feared for the sanctity of ecclesial space) and embraced by the laity (who feared for the security of the fabric, fittings, and furnishings paid for by their obligatory tithes).32 Concomitantly, chancel arches underwent a threefold evolution in form, increasing in width and height, decreasing in embellishment, and, in some cases, becoming sites for wooden beams or screens surmounted by monumental crucifixes (roods).33

Period sources say little about the agents or agendas that motivated these changes, and even in ecclesial legislation, it is unclear whether upkeep of the area between nave and chancel would have fallen to clergy or laity.34 Was the “softening” of the division via the expansion of the chancel arch motivated by lay interest in obtaining better visual access to the Eucharist?35 Was the “hardening” of the division via the insertion of screenwork motivated by clerical interest in creating greater division between sacred and secular spheres?36 Would either goal have been objectionable to the other side? Similarly difficult to resolve, given the patchy survival of material evidence from before 1400, is the extent to which a desire for religious imagery on screens, beams, and other partitions affected these matters.37

In any event, the line between nave and chancel was a highly charged one, and mediating arches were the most overt means of articulating spatial, social, and spiritual hierarchies. Buildings in which they were present played up difference; buildings in which they were absent played down difference. Recognizing this spatial/social dynamic raises tantalizing questions about the intersection of form, function, and meaning in parochial building initiatives, though any attempt to answer such questions must address two methodological challenges. First, there does not yet exist a full census of fully aisled English parish churches lacking any structural division between nave and chancel.38 Those currently known, however, can be divided into four major groups: two-story structures in Norfolk and Suffolk; one-story structures in Devon and Cornwall; churches of both formats in Cheshire, Lancashire, and Cumbria, and in the Welsh county of Clwyd; and a dozen or so churches in larger cities such as Coventry, York, and London (Figures 9 and 10).39 Second, there is no consensus regarding what buildings of this kind should be called. Thompson and Bond, along with their contemporary Charles Cox, showed little interest in coining such a term. Even a great standardizer like Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, who likely visited every surviving iteration as he compiled his book series The Buildings of England (1951–74), utilized a variety of formulations. Some emphasized the shape of the plan (“unmitigated parallelogram”).40 Others emphasized the design of the elevations (“the arcades run to the very E[ast] end without any halt”).41 In such passages, Pevsner clearly struggled to identify the essence of the type without resorting to rigid classifications, possibly out of deference to the concrete and particular rather than the abstract and universal.42

Figure 9

Parish church of St. Margaret, Lowestoft, Suffolk, England, ca. 1420–50, interior view looking east (author's photo).

Figure 9

Parish church of St. Margaret, Lowestoft, Suffolk, England, ca. 1420–50, interior view looking east (author's photo).

Figure 10

Parish church of St. Olaf, Poughill, Cornwall, England, ca. 1350–1400 and ca. 1450–1500, interior view looking east (author's photo).

Figure 10

Parish church of St. Olaf, Poughill, Cornwall, England, ca. 1350–1400 and ca. 1450–1500, interior view looking east (author's photo).

One way to overcome these methodological challenges and foster a more systematic account of parish churches lacking structural divisions between nave and chancel is to focus on a representative group of buildings. East Anglian iterations, whose architectural context is well documented, are ideal candidates for several reasons.43 First, they appear to be among the earliest surviving examples of the type in Britain, with churches such as North Walsham St. Nicholas in Norfolk (ca. 1340), Beccles St. Michael in Suffolk (ca. 1370), and King's Lynn St. Nicholas in Norfolk (ca. 1400) predating the efflorescence of the type in other areas. Second, unlike their counterparts to the west or north, eastern churches are relatively small in number; surviving examples, around two dozen, constitute only 2 percent of all medieval parish churches in Norfolk and Suffolk. Third, unlike their counterparts in major cities, eastern churches are widely distributed; surviving examples can be found in population centers of varying size throughout Norfolk and Suffolk.

Moreover, because they possess the lateral quality of one-story churches and the longitudinal quality of two-story churches, eastern examples highlight the problematics of architectural classification. Pevsner refrained from utilizing a catchall term for such structures, but more recent scholars have been less reticent. Some call them “hall churches.”44 Others call them “through-built churches.”45 But neither term is entirely satisfactory—the former because it contradicts normative art historical practice by conflating one-story “hall” churches (i.e., those without clerestories) and two-story “basilican” churches (i.e., those with clerestories), and the latter because it implies, incorrectly, that these buildings were always erected in a series of unbroken constructional campaigns.46

I therefore propose a new term: open-plan churches. This appellation emphasizes the distinctive spatiality of these structures by appropriating a term frequently encountered in the historiography of modern architecture to describe the free-flowing interior arrangements of many factories, offices, and houses built since the late nineteenth century.47 Specifically, I want to mobilize the paradigm of the “free plan” outlined by Le Corbusier in his “Five Points of a New Architecture” (1926), which describes an architectural system of thin structural supports rather than thick walls—the result being airy enclosures punctuated by permeable partitions defining individual zones combined into a cohesive whole (Figure 11).48 Conscious of its jarring anachronism, I believe the concept of the free plan captures a key characteristic of the churches considered here: their ability to negotiate spatial and social binaries via unified enclosures subdivided by partial-height screens. In the words of architectural historian and theorist Christian Norberg-Schulz:

The free plan serves the purpose of making us experience the “simultaneity of places.” … Physically we are, of course, in one place at a time, but existentially we may be in several places simultaneously. The free plan makes this experience possible through a “virtual openness,” that is, a spatial organization that implies interaction rather than self-sufficiency.49

It was this dynamic of “virtual openness,” I suggest, that made the integrated-nave-and-chancel type such a powerful tool for community building in late medieval England.

Figure 11

Le Corbusier, illustration of the free plan, 1926, showing the characteristically independent arrangement of supports and partitions (Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, “Les 5 points d'une architecture nouvelle,” in Oeuvre complète, vol. 1, ed. Willy Boesiger and Oscar Stonorov [Zurich: Girsberger, 1929], 129).

Figure 11

Le Corbusier, illustration of the free plan, 1926, showing the characteristically independent arrangement of supports and partitions (Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, “Les 5 points d'une architecture nouvelle,” in Oeuvre complète, vol. 1, ed. Willy Boesiger and Oscar Stonorov [Zurich: Girsberger, 1929], 129).

This interpretive model offers an alternative to two others more common to studies of late medieval England. The first tends to frame cohesive environments as manifestations of structural rationalism.50 The second tends to treat collective enterprises as manifestations of religious enthusiasm.51 Neither narrative—the first more spatial, the second more social—is incorrect in drawing attention to technical or devotional considerations. But both are limiting insofar as they reduce the open-plan church to a by-product of larger cultural trends.

More advantageous, I would argue, is a method that conceptualizes church-building projects as primary, active, and constitutive—an approach inflected by the recent “spatial turn” in the humanities.52 Indeed, it is only outside deterministic frameworks that one can make sense of the paradoxical nature of open-plan parish church design. Consideration of two buildings that retain some of their original interior furnishings, Totnes St. Mary in Devon (a one-story structure rebuilt ca. 1400–50) and Southwold St. Edmund in Suffolk (a two-story structure rebuilt ca. 1430–60), is instructive (Figure 12 and 13).53 Because they lack structural division between nave and chancel and feature tall aisles that reduce the distinction between central and lateral vessels, their interiors seem relatively open and homogeneous. Because they feature central partitions between nave and chancel and side partitions between nave aisles and chancel chapels, their interiors appear relatively closed and heterogeneous. The result in each case is an integrated series of liturgical areas—a more accessible nave, a less accessible chancel, and a set of semipublic or semiprivate chancel chapels (originally for guilds, confraternities, or chantry foundations)—whose boundaries, though fixed, are spatially fluid and socially flexible.

Figure 12

Parish church of St. Mary, Totnes, Devon, England, ca. 1400–50, interior view looking east and plan (author's photo and drawing).

Figure 12

Parish church of St. Mary, Totnes, Devon, England, ca. 1400–50, interior view looking east and plan (author's photo and drawing).

Figure 13

Former chapel of ease (now parish church) of St. Edmund, Southwold, Suffolk, England, ca. 1430–60, interior view looking east and plan (author's photo and drawing).

Figure 13

Former chapel of ease (now parish church) of St. Edmund, Southwold, Suffolk, England, ca. 1430–60, interior view looking east and plan (author's photo and drawing).

The effort of conceiving, creating, and utilizing such a visually and spatially ambivalent architectural environment aided the formulation of parochial community in at least three ways. First, in terms of process, it enlisted many parties in a single building initiative (a trait of parish churches in general). Second, in terms of product, it incorporated multiple zones into a single “virtually open” structure (a trait of open-plan parish churches in particular). And third, it facilitated the broader reconciliation of friend and enemy, living and dead, heaven and earth by providing space for the celebration of the Mass, which, as historian John Bossy has demonstrated, constituted a powerful “social institution” that united ecclesial communities as a simultaneous sacrifice of one and sacrament for many.54 That this integrative function was not lost on medieval parishioners is demonstrated by the popularity of several auxiliary ceremonies, incorporated into High Mass on Sundays or on major feast days, that further articulated the spatial, social, and temporal dimensions of the parish—the most notable being an opening procession around the church interior, the saying of the bidding prayer (a communal petition for members living and dead), and the kissing of the paxbred (a communal procession, in order of rank and/or wealth, to caress a sacred image in lieu of receiving communion).55

Viewed in this context, open-plan parish churches may be understood in terms of what political geographer Edward Soja called “thirdspaces”: lived environments that, combining aspects of the real and the imagined, enfold ontological, epistemological, and phenomenological categories.56 That is to say, in these buildings, there existed a homologous relationship between their real arrangement as one-and-many spatial enclosures and their ideal arrangement as one-and-many social entities. Affirming the notion of the parish as one body, on the one hand, was the disposition of architectural features. The elision of chancel and nave relaxed the distinction between clergy and laity. The elision of side chapels and central vessel relaxed the distinction between those inside and outside various guilds, confraternities, or chantry foundations. Affirming the notion of the parish as many members, on the other hand, was the disposition of architectural furnishings. Rood screens and parclose screens enclosed the chancel. Aisle screens and parclose screens enclosed various side chapels. And specially assigned seats, pews, or benches in the nave reinforced local hierarchies by differentiating men and women, rich and poor, higher-class and lower-class.57 In most cases, this work was undertaken voluntarily by the local parish, with varying levels of participation depending on context. Far from simply reproducing preexisting social conditions, then, these contradictory spaces reinforced, resisted, and negotiated the ties that bound ever-shifting networks of individuals and communities in late medieval culture.

The Reconstruction of Norwich St. Peter Mancroft: A Case Study

The spatial and social qualities of open planning are vividly illustrated by the church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, a massive structure completely rebuilt, with the exception of its west tower, ca. 1440–65 (see Figures 1, 2, 3).58 This well-documented and well-preserved building ranks among the most impressive parish churches erected in late medieval England.59 Home to a powerful contingent of merchants and tradespeople, many of whom profited from the region's lucrative wool trade, St. Peter Mancroft advertised the ascendant fortunes of Norwich and East Anglia during the two centuries between the Black Death and the Reformation.60 Indeed, even within an urban environment abounding in ecclesiastical institutions, the building stood apart by virtue of its length, height, and architectural ostentation.61 What the following overview of its realization demonstrates, via a fresh analysis of surviving textual and physical evidence, is that the project was not only fundamentally communal but also, contra previous scholarly accounts, relatively continuous and remarkably coordinated.62

St. Peter Mancroft stands in the heart of Norwich. Founded in the decade following the Norman Conquest by Ralph de Gael, the Earl of East Anglia, as the market church for the so-called French Borough, a new urban area established by the colonizing Normans, it occupies a square site flanked by two large public spaces: the Market Place to the north and the Old Hay Market to the south. Almost 200 feet long, the limestone-faced building extends the full east–west dimension of the churchyard and features a series of eight large aisled bays, a pair of nave porches, and a pair of transept-like chapels (see Figure 1). At the west end is a substantial tower with an open-vaulted porch. At the east end are a projecting sanctuary bay over a barrel-vaulted passageway and a two-story treasure house over a barrel-vaulted chamber. The interior of the church, rising to almost 55 feet, is both lofty and luminous—a paragon of Perpendicular Gothic aesthetics (see Figure 2). Tall arcades on lean piers create lateral expansion; large windows in long bands create longitudinal expansion. A shallow-pitched timber roof over the central vessel, supported by concealed hammer beams and distinguished by corbeled wall posts, false vaulting, and abundant sculptural decoration, provides a stunning visual climax to the otherwise spare interior.

Critical for understanding this building is recognizing the extent to which it differs from its predecessor—a structure whose probable arrangement I address in detail elsewhere.63 Few traces of the earlier church remain visible today, but those portions that do survive—the responds embedded in the eastern buttresses of the west tower, the crypt concealed under the western bay of the north chancel chapel, a pair of respond plinths recently excavated in the south nave aisle—provide sufficient evidence for a tentative reconstruction of the site on the eve of its rebuilding. This older church appears to have possessed a single-vessel chancel, a central tower, a transept, a north chancel chapel, a slightly shorter aisled nave, and the surviving (though initially freestanding) western tower (Figure 14).64 The chancel, central tower, and transept likely belonged to an earlier series of building campaigns that probably began in the late eleventh or early twelfth century. The chancel chapel, nave, and west tower likely belonged to a later series of building campaigns that probably began in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century. Thus, when the reconstruction effort got under way during the mid-fifteenth century, the building was a patchwork ensemble comprising numerous semi-independent formal and functional zones.

Figure 14

Hypothetical reconstruction of the pre-1440 layout of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England (author's drawing).

Figure 14

Hypothetical reconstruction of the pre-1440 layout of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England (author's drawing).

Documentary evidence indicates that the rebuilding of the church took place between about 1440 and 1465.65 The effort involved both clergy and laity. The oversight of the clergy—represented by the church's patron, the College of St. Mary in the Fields in Norwich, which had appropriated the parish in the 1380s—is borne out in the 1439 will of William Fen, which left ten marks toward building work in the chancel, but only “if the rectors of the said church [i.e., the college] are willing to build—and from new—opposite the new chancel [i.e., the nave].”66 The oversight of the laity is evidenced by the 1445 will of Robert Pert, which left thirty marks toward building work in the chancel—specifically the construction of the east gable wall—with the understanding that the funds should be dispersed in three equal installments to the yconomis, or churchwardens.67 These references indicate that clerical and lay authority were not necessarily confined to their respective liturgical enclaves.

Similarly bipartite was financial investment in the project. The college, for its part, gave twenty-six pounds, eight shillings, and seven pence—a sum equivalent to a full year's profits—toward building the chancel in 1441.68 Parishioners, meanwhile, made numerous donations toward work in both the chancel and the nave. William Fen's gift of 1439 is the earliest recorded. Emma Halden's bequest of fifty-five marks toward “the fabrication of a screen [reredoris] about to be made at the seam between the chancel and the opposite church [i.e., the nave]” suggests that the central area of the chancel was approaching completion by 1444.69 Thomas Bumpstede's bequest of ten pounds toward “the glazing of the east window of the Chapel of St. Nicholas” suggests that the peripheral areas of the chancel were approaching completion in 1445.70 Pert's bequest toward the east gable wall suggests that the projecting sanctuary bay was done by the later 1440s. And John Causton's bequest toward the completion of either a new baptismal font or “some work of greater necessity” suggests that building activities in the nave were winding down by 1463.71

One explanation for the notably uneven evidence for building works in the two halves of the structure is that the project may have experienced a financial setback, caused by a national recession, as it got under way in the early 1440s; this would have required extraordinary lay intervention to keep momentum going on the chancel.72 Lending weight to this theory is Pert's stipulation that his donation be disbursed not in one large sum but in three smaller ones: a third when construction had risen above the churchyard, a third when it had risen to the sill of the great window, and a third when it had risen to the apex of the great window.73 The result was a kind of matching grant that encouraged greater financial participation within the wider parochial community.

Architectural evidence demonstrates that the rebuilding of the church proceeded in three relatively quick stages. The first stage, undertaken during the first half of the 1440s, involved the construction of the eastern three bays of the aisles and their adjoining transept-like chapels (Figure 15, A). Several details suggest that the two sides were built at slightly different dates and, possibly, by different teams of masons. The north side features four-light windows with asymmetrical upper sublights and interior window shafts with flared bases (Figure 16). The south side features four-light windows with symmetrical upper sublights and interior window shafts with double torus bases (Figure 17). The chronological order of these two areas is suggested by their relation to the adjacent sanctuary bay at floor level near the eastern arcade responds (Figure 18). The disposition of the base of the north respond, buried below the sanctuary steps, indicates that the north side was built before the sanctuary was envisioned. The disposition of the base of the south respond, elevated above the sanctuary steps, indicates that the south side was built after the sanctuary was envisioned.

Figure 15

Reconstruction of the three major phases of the rebuilding of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England: A, ca. 1440–45; B, ca. 1445–50; C, ca. 1450–65 (author's drawings).

Figure 15

Reconstruction of the three major phases of the rebuilding of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England: A, ca. 1440–45; B, ca. 1445–50; C, ca. 1450–65 (author's drawings).

Figure 16

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, ca. 1440–65, north chancel chapel, east window, north shaft base (author's photo).

Figure 16

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, ca. 1440–65, north chancel chapel, east window, north shaft base (author's photo).

Figure 17

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, ca. 1440–65, south chancel chapel, east window, south shaft base (author's photo).

Figure 17

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, ca. 1440–65, south chancel chapel, east window, south shaft base (author's photo).

Figure 18

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, ca. 1440–65, view of the sanctuary looking east, with the north arcade respond at far left and the south arcade respond at far right (author's photo).

Figure 18

Parish church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, England, ca. 1440–65, view of the sanctuary looking east, with the north arcade respond at far left and the south arcade respond at far right (author's photo).

The second stage of building, undertaken during the second half of the 1440s, involved the addition of the sanctuary bay, presumably with the adjacent treasure house, and the erection of the chancel clerestory (see Figure 15, B). The fact that the sanctuary's four-light window tracery, interior window shafting, and arcade niches match those not of the north chancel but of the south chancel confirms the earlier date of the former and the later date of the latter.

The third stage of building entailed the completion of the nave during the 1450s and early 1460s (see Figure 15, C). The fact that the unvaried window tracery matches that of the north chancel and the unvaried window shafting matches that of the south chancel suggests that the nave was begun shortly after the chancel and, further, that the nave was conceived as a refined version of the east end, combining elements from earlier building campaigns. What makes this final stage of the reconstruction project particularly remarkable is that it involved the wholesale replacement of a large aisled nave that may have been no more than a century old—a likely indication of the overwhelming appeal of the open-plan format.74

As was typical of many, if not most, parish churches of the period, St. Peter Mancroft featured a series of wooden partitions demarcating major ritual boundaries.75 The rood or chancel screen, located just east of the step into the aisled chancel, must have been completed shortly after Halden's bequest of 1444, since donations made a half century later indicate that it was in need of restoration (see Figure 3, line 1). Two bequests, both made in 1490, mention repairs to the screen and to the candle or taper that burned atop it before the rood.76 A third bequest, made in 1506, left money for the painting of the rood loft (the platform installed above the screen proper).77 The aisle screens that continued the line of this central partition may have been erected slightly later. The earliest reference to the one on the south side dates to 1479 (see Figure 3, line 2).78 The earliest reference to the one on the north side dates to 1505 (see Figure 3, line 3).79 No portion of these three partitions survives, but their enormous size can be inferred from the height of the doorways, still visible in the aisle walls, that led out from the rood stair turrets nestled between the transept-like chapels and the chancel aisles onto the rood loft.80 Likely completing the ensemble was a series of parclose screens: four on either side of the chancel, separating it from the adjacent aisles or chancel chapels, and two across the entrances to the transept-like chapels at the east end of the nave aisles (see Figure 3, lines 4 and 5).81

References in wills and in an extensive early sixteenth-century inventory of the church's liturgical holdings permit a reliable reconstruction of the resulting ritual topography.82 The aisle screens and the eastern parclose screens would have enclosed two chancel chapels. That on the north side, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, served the confraternity of the Mass of the Name of Jesus (first documented in 1457). That on the south side, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, served the guild of Saint Anne (first documented in 1489). Both lay associations were popular with multiple classes of donors throughout the later fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.83 The parclose screens likely installed in the entrances to the transept chapels would have enclosed chantry spaces whose foundation went back to the early fourteenth century. The northern one, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, housed the single chantry of John Cosyn.84 The southern one, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, housed the double chantry of Letice Payne.85 Both commemorative foundations, augmented at later points, remained active until their dissolution at the Reformation.86 Thus, both spatially and socially, the church operated as a hybrid one-and-many institution.

Further enhancing this dynamic were the diverse sources of revenue that supported the revitalization of the parish from the 1430s to the 1530s. A review of all known probate records containing bequests to the church—nearly one hundred—reveals that both clergy and laity contributed to building, furnishing, and decorating.87 Roughly sixty of these bequests were from laymen whose vocations ranged from higher-status merchants to lower-status tailors and butchers.88 A sizable portion of this group, almost half, held posts in municipal government. Fourteen rose through the ranks to become mayors, sheriffs, or aldermen.89 Fourteen served simply as councillors or constables.90 Notably, only two documented benefactors, Dame Katerina Felbrigg and Lady Isabel Morley (both widows who resided in Norwich), were members of the landed aristocracy, proving that investment in the church came mostly from nontitled sources.91 Such patronage patterns suggest that the fifteenth-century reconstruction of the church was a broad-based undertaking that allowed many members of the parochial community—clerical and lay, higher- and lower-class, male and female—to have a tangible role in fashioning their local place of worship.

The motivations for this extraordinary reconstruction effort seem to have had less to do with practical issues and more to do with concerns over appearance, ambiance, and prestige. There is certainly no obvious evidence that the church was suffering serious structural problems. Portions of the eastern half may have dated back to the late eleventh or early twelfth century, but most other areas were considerably newer. Neither can a need for greater space have been a major factor, since the fifteenth-century reconstruction did little to expand the footprint of the edifice beyond the modest extension of the east and west ends and the addition of the south chancel chapel (compare Figures 14 and 15, C). It therefore appears that the decision to rebuild the church was driven by a simple, if overwhelming, desire for a grander building.

The new open-plan edifice met this desire in several ways. The absence of a chancel arch made it feel bigger. The presence of continuous bands of fenestration made it feel brighter. And the formal integration of west and east ends enhanced sensory access to the liturgies celebrated in the chantry and guild chapels and the elevated church sanctuary, thereby meeting one of the chief demands of late medieval lay piety: visual access to the Eucharistic Host during Mass.92

Moreover, the undertaking of such an architecturally distinctive project proclaimed the preeminence of the parish, both inside and outside the city. Relevant in this regard are the contexts of the other open-plan parish churches built in East Anglia in the decades before 1450—all six of which were erected in “boomtowns” in neighboring Suffolk.93 Bildeston St. Mary Magdalene (ca. 1420) was located in an inland settlement in the western half of the county specializing in cloth production.94 Blythburgh Holy Trinity (ca. 1410), Lowestoft St. Margaret (ca. 1420), Southwold St. Edmund (ca. 1430), Walberswick St. Andrew (ca. 1430?), and Woodbridge St. Mary (ca. 1430) were located in coastal settlements in the eastern half of the county that exported woolen textiles, leather goods, and dairy products while importing fish from Iceland.95 St. Peter Mancroft's relative isolation and late date suggest that its construction may have been fueled by a desire, especially on the part of local merchants, to reassert the city's superiority to upstart communities in other parts of East Anglia.96 This would help explain the utilization of quatrefoil arcade piers and two-per-bay clerestory windows—distinctive architectural elements absent from the city's recently completed large-scale parish church, St. Giles (ca. 1415), but present in all but one of the roughly contemporary open-plan churches of Suffolk.97 It also suggests that, by the middle of the fifteenth century, the open-plan configuration had assumed prestige status among urban patrons throughout late medieval East Anglia.

The Parish in Perspective: Architecture, Identity, and Community

A growing body of scholarly literature on late medieval England has drawn fresh attention to the manifold ways in which parish-based initiatives allowed people of various backgrounds to define, negotiate, and reconfigure the web of relations that determined their place in the wider world.98 Parish assemblies enabled tithe-paying members to elect churchwardens, approve accounts, and discuss matters of income and expenditure.99 Parish guilds and confraternities enabled dues-paying members to worship, socialize, and care for associates living and dead via financial subventions and ritual commemorations.100 Even perpetual chantries, often characterized as highly individualistic, had broadly corporate functions, allowing individuals of means to purchase regular liturgical intercession while also fulfilling the material needs of the clergy, the spiritual needs of the laity, and the aspirations of parishes eager to provide expanded sacramental offerings.101

All these activities were voluntary, self-regulated, and, with some exceptions, little affected by the rigid class barriers that governed other aspects of late medieval life. So strong was the participatory nature of the parish that, even after the upheavals of the Reformation, it remained a locus of wide-ranging communal action well into the early modern period.102 At least one scholar has thus argued that the institutional parish was nothing less than “an empowering force in European history” and one of “the chief frameworks for the articulation of interests by burghers and peasants until the rise of general enfranchisement in the modern period.”103

Parish church-building projects provided yet another avenue for social interaction in late medieval England. Frequently invoked in the literature are acts of patronage that led to the expansion, elaboration, and ritual augmentation of parochial space. Generally overlooked, however, is the extent to which architectural undertakings were coextensive with larger collaborative processes.104 In other words, the physical structure of the church was an instrument for figuring out, in real time, what the parish was all about. Literary historian Ellen Rentz has recently argued that the image or idea of the parish served as a prism through which late medieval people could work out complicated issues of identity, community, and belonging.105 I contend that the material environment of the parish had much the same capacity. And nowhere was this potential put to more effective use than in churches lacking structural divisions between nave and chancel, where traditional spatial and social distinctions—nave versus chancel, laity versus clergy, public areas versus private areas—were rendered simultaneously more palpable and more pliable.

Thus, viewed within a critical framework that foregrounds the instrumentality of architectural space, the open-plan format can be seen as a flexible configuration that registered the paradoxical one-and-many nature of the parish. Unfortunately, at St. Peter Mancroft, the paucity of surviving records inhibits detailed analysis of how this dynamic played out. The absence of churchwardens' accounts obscures the activity of parochial authorities; the lack of guild accounts, the operations of parochial confraternities; and the dearth of parish building accounts, the incomes and expenditures related to church construction. And yet the variety of bequests made toward building work, the alacrity of the process, and the unity of the product imply a highly organized initiative involving a substantial portion of the parish—parallels for which can be found in better-documented arrangements at Swaffham (Norfolk), Saffron Walden (Essex), and Westminster St. Margaret, where dogged fund-raising schemes (donations, monthly collections, feast day celebrations, pew rentals, funeral services) involved the vast majority of parishioners between 1487 and 1523 (Figure 19).106

Figure 19

Parish church of St. Margaret, Westminster, England, 1487–1523, interior view looking east (© Dean and Chapter of Westminster).

Figure 19

Parish church of St. Margaret, Westminster, England, 1487–1523, interior view looking east (© Dean and Chapter of Westminster).

Thus, even without more comprehensive documentary evidence, it can be argued that the open-plan format of St. Peter Mancroft helped create, express, and expand community in two ways. First, by integrating formal and functional zones financed by various donors and used by different groups, it highlighted the parish's role as a collective religious body. Second, by facilitating the creation of a building that was bigger, brighter, and more visually arresting than a traditional bipartite nave-and-chancel alternative, it highlighted the parish's role as a collective socioeconomic body.

Corroborating this dual theory was the political situation that obtained in Norwich as building work began at St. Peter Mancroft around 1440. A long-standing series of disputes between the city and the cathedral priory over local property rights, ignited by the municipality's receipt of a royal charter granting self-governance in 1404, flared into public disturbances in 1437 and 1443.107 Two of the accused ringleaders, Robert Toppes and William Ashwell, were wealthy merchants who, being parishioners at Mancroft, went on to contribute to its reconstruction.108 Indeed, given their standing within the community (both men served multiple terms as mayor from the 1430s through the 1450s), either or both may have played a central role in reconstruction efforts.109 This raises the possibility that one objective of the church-building project was to create a monument to civic autonomy at a moment of acute political conflict. Seen in this light, the contrasts between the old cathedral church and the new parish church—the former heavy and cruciform, the latter light and open-plan—take on new meaning, alluding to opposing spheres of influence in and around the city (Figure 20; see Figure 2).110 What all this evidence suggests is that, during the mid-fifteenth century, St. Peter Mancroft was an important staging ground for a multilateral effort to achieve broader forms of participation inside and outside the parochial sphere—one in which the distinctive open-plan format played a prominent role.

Figure 20

Norwich Cathedral, England, ca. 1100–45, nave with vault of ca. 1454–60 (author's photo).

Figure 20

Norwich Cathedral, England, ca. 1100–45, nave with vault of ca. 1454–60 (author's photo).


The example of the medieval parish church demonstrates that, contra the dramatic spire-building project conjured by Golding, large-scale premodern architectural undertakings could be both top-down and bottom-up. Indeed, in the case of the open-plan parish churches of late medieval England, collective and collaborative processes led to the creation of a distinctive building configuration that allowed an unprecedented number of patrons to pursue both individual and communal agendas.

The implications of this scenario are several. First, it expands traditional accounts of the history of architecture, which tend to focus on the patronage of elite individuals or institutions. Second, it lends credence to the idea, increasingly endorsed by historians, that the parish was a critical forum for association, collaboration, and social mobilization in late medieval and early modern Europe. Third, and perhaps most interesting, medieval parish church-building initiatives resonate with recent calls—propelled by crises in late capitalist culture—to forge new modes of architectural production that promote broader forms of community participation. Relevant examples range from “open building,” an inclusive method of multifamily housing design pioneered in the 1970s, to contemporary discourses on digital architecture, open-source architecture, and social architecture.111 What all of these movements share—along with their rejection of the architect-as-author, their anxiety over socioeconomic inequality, and their enthusiasm for the transformative capacity of collaborative digital technology—is a vision of building that incorporates a wider assemblage of designers, makers, and users.

It would be too great a leap to suggest that the medieval parish church, developed within a very different cultural milieu, be adopted as a model for contemporary architectural practice. But, as several recent art historical efforts have demonstrated, thoughtful comparisons between medieval and modern material culture can generate two-way revelations, with each era informing our understanding of the other.112 At the very least, such a transtemporal perspective highlights the status of the medieval parish church, and the medieval open-plan parish church in particular, as a major architectural achievement, thereby demonstrating, in concrete terms, the capacity of large-scale building projects to serve the interests of both one and many.



I conducted much of the research for this article while completing my PhD dissertation under the invaluable direction of Stephen Murray at Columbia University, the final year of which was generously supported by a Robert H. and Clarice Smith Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. Subsequent research was carried out with the aid of grants from the American Philosophical Society and the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. I would like to thank JSAH editor Keith Eggener and the anonymous readers for their productive questions and comments. Others to whom I am grateful for their perspectives on issues discussed herein include Katherine Morris Boivin, Lindsay Cook, Lloyd de Beer, Amy Gillette, Richard Halsey, Sandy Heslop, Helen Lunnon, and Robert Swanson. All transcriptions and translations are my own.


William Golding, The Spire (London: Faber and Faber, 1964), 81–82.


Exemplary is the contention that “the history of architecture is primarily a history of man shaping space,” as articulated in Nikolaus Pevsner, An Outline of European Architecture (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1948), xix. Traditionally this “master role” has been assigned to the architect. Over the past several decades, however, scholars have identified an ever-growing number of individuals and institutions as architectural agents. See Kathleen James-Chakraborty, Architecture since 1400 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014), xviii.


See Paul Frankl, The Gothic: Literary Sources and Interpretations through Eight Centuries (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1960); Michael T. Davis, “Sic et Non: Recent Trends in the Study of Gothic Ecclesiastical Architecture,” JSAH 58, no. 3 (Sept. 1999), 414–23; Paul Crossley, introduction to Gothic Architecture, by Paul Frankl, rev. Paul Crossley (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000), 7–31; Stephen Murray, “The Study of Gothic Architecture,” in A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe, ed. Conrad Rudolph (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2006), 382–402.


See Frankl, The Gothic, 544–53; Mitchell Schwarzer, “Origins of the Art History Survey Text,” Art Journal 54, no. 3 (Autumn 1995), 24–29.


See Frankl, The Gothic, 557–62, 564–74; Nikolaus Pevsner, Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc: Englishness and Frenchness in the Appreciation of Gothic Architecture (London: Thames and Hudson, 1969).


Notable examples include Wilhelm Worringer, Formprobleme der Gotik (Munich: R. Piper, 1911); Hans Sedlmayr, Die Entstehung der Kathedrale (Zurich: Atlantis, 1950); Erwin Panofsky, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism (Latrobe, Pa.: Archabbey Press, 1951); Otto von Simson, The Gothic Cathedral: Origins of Gothic Architecture and the Medieval Concept of Order, 2nd ed. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1962).


Heinrich Wölfflin introduced the turn of phrase “Kunstgeschichte ohne Namen,” or “art history without names,” in Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Das Problem der Stilentwicklung in der neueren Kunst (Munich: F. Bruckmann, 1915), vii.


See Jill Caskey, “Whodunnit? Patronage, the Canon, and the Problematics of Agency in Romanesque and Gothic Art,” in Rudolph, Companion to Medieval Art, 193–212; Holly Flora, “Patronage,” Studies in Iconography 33 (2012), 207–18; Colum Hourihane, ed., Patronage: Power and Agency in Medieval Art (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013).


The portrait of Suger as a brilliant polymath was enshrined in Erwin Panofsky, Abbot Suger on the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis and Its Art Treasures (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1946). A synthesis of the revisionist literature is found in Stephen Murray, Plotting Gothic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 73–95.


Christopher Wilson, “Calling the Tune? The Involvement of King Henry III in the Design of the Abbey Church at Westminster,” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 161 (2008), 59–93; Meredith Cohen, The Sainte-Chapelle and the Construction of Sacral Monarchy: Royal Architecture in Thirteenth-Century Paris (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); Jan Royt, The Prague of Charles IV, trans. Derek Paton and Marzia Paton (Prague: Karolinun, 2016).


Dieter Kimpel and Robert Suckale, Die gotische Architektur in Frankreich 1130–1270 (Munich: Hirmer, 1985); Barbara Abou-El-Haj, “The Urban Setting for Late Medieval Church Building: Reims and Its Cathedral between 1210 and 1240,” Art History 11, no. 1 (Mar. 1988), 17–41; Jane Welch Williams, Bread, Wine, and Money: The Windows of the Trades at Chartres Cathedral (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).


Louis Francis Salzman, Building in England down to 1540: A Documentary History, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967); Henry Kraus, Gold Was the Mortar: The Economics of Cathedral Building (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979); Wolfgang Schöller, Die rechtliche Organisation des Kirchenbaues im Mittelalter, vornehmlich des Kathedralbaues (Cologne: Böhlau, 1989); Wim Vroom, Financing Cathedral Building in the Middle Ages: The Generosity of the Faithful, trans. Elizabeth Manton (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010); Katja Schröck, Bruno Klein, and Stefan Bürger, eds., Kirche als Baustelle: Grosse Sakralbauten des Mittelalters (Cologne: Böhlau, 2013).


See Paul Frankl, Gothic Architecture, trans. Dieter Pevsner (Baltimore: Penguin, 1962); Louis Grodecki, Anne Prache, and Roland Recht, Gothic Architecture, trans. I. Mark Paris (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977); Christopher Wilson, The Gothic Cathedral: The Architecture of the Great Church, 1130–1530 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1990). Marginally more inclusive is Rolf Toman, ed., The Art of Gothic: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting (Cologne: Könemann, 1999). The only multinational survey of the parish church is Justin E. A. Kroesen and Regnerus Steensma, The Interior of the Medieval Village Church, 2nd ed. (Leuven: Peeters, 2012).


See A. Hamilton Thompson, The Ground Plan of the English Parish Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911); Charles Cox, The English Parish Church: An Account of the Chief Building Types and of Their Materials during Nine Centuries (London: Batsford, 1914); F. E. Howard, The Mediaeval Styles of the English Parish Church: A Survey of Their Development, Design and Features (London: Batsford, 1936); G. H. Cook, The English Mediaeval Parish Church (London: Phoenix House, 1954); Colin Platt, The Parish Churches of Medieval England (London: Secker & Warburg, 1981); C. Pamela Graves, “Social Space in the English Medieval Parish Church,” Economy and Society 18, no. 3 (Aug. 1989), 297–322; Beat A. Kümin, The Shaping of a Community: The Rise and Reformation of the English Parish, c. 1400–1560 (Farnham: Ashgate, 1996); Katherine L. French, Gary G. Gibbs, and Beat A. Kümin, eds., The Parish in English Life 1400–1600 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997); Paul Binski, “The English Parish Church and Its Art in the Later Middle Ages: A Review of the Problem,” Studies in Iconography 20 (1999), 1–25; N. J. G. Pounds, A History of the English Parish: The Culture of Religion from Augustine to Victoria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Katherine L. French, The People of the Parish: Community Life in a Late Medieval English Diocese (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001); Carol Davidson Cragoe, “Belief and Patronage in the English Parish Church before 1300: Some Evidence from Roods,” Architectural History 48 (2005), 21–48; Clive Burgess and Eamon Duffy, eds., The Parish in Late Medieval England: Proceedings of the 2002 Harlaxton Symposium (Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2006); Carol Davidson Cragoe, “The Custom of the English Church: Parish Church Maintenance in England before 1300,” Journal of Medieval History 36, no. 1 (Mar. 2010), 20–38; Gabriel Byng, Church Building and Society in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017); Nigel Saul, Lordship and Faith: The English Gentry and the Parish Church in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017); Helen E. Lunnon, East Anglian Church Porches and Their Medieval Context (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2020); Meg Bernstein and James Alexander Cameron, eds., Towards an Art History of the English Parish Church, 1200–1399 (London: Courtauld Books Online, forthcoming).


Period surveys with sections on parish church architecture include Francis Bond, An Introduction to English Church Architecture from the Eleventh to the Sixteenth Century, vol. 1 (London: Oxford University Press, 1913), 177–277; Geoffrey Webb, Architecture in Britain: The Middle Ages (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1956), 170–92; Eric Fernie, The Architecture of Norman England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 208–32; Peter Draper, The Formation of English Gothic: Architecture and Identity (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006), 175–95.


See Kevin Madigan, Medieval Christianity: A New History (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2015), 80–94.


See Beat Kümin, “The English Parish in a European Perspective,” in French et al., Parish in English Life, 24–25; Cragoe, “Custom of the English Church.”


Byng, Church Building and Society, 51–245. Instances in which elite individuals or elite institutions dominated parochial building initiatives tended to be confined to smaller projects such as aisles, chapels, or towers. Perhaps only two dozen churches were single-handedly rebuilt by gentry families during the late medieval period, including, most prominently, those at Wingfield (Suffolk), Tong (Shropshire), and Catterick (North Yorkshire). See Saul, Lordship and Faith, 213–14.


The contours of the debate over inclusivity versus exclusivity are traced in Clive Burgess, “Pre-Reformation Churchwardens' Accounts and Parish Government: Lessons from London and Bristol,” English Historical Review 117, no. 471 (Apr. 2002), 306–32; Beat Kümin, “Late Medieval Churchwardens' Accounts and Parish Government: Looking beyond London and Bristol,” English Historical Review 119, no. 480 (Feb. 2004), 87–99; Clive Burgess, “The Broader Church? A Rejoinder to ‘Looking beyond,’” English Historical Review 119, no. 480 (Feb. 2004), 100–116. A critical analysis of the issue of “community” is presented in Robert N. Swanson, “Parish Communities in Late Medieval England,” in Pfarreien in der Vormoderne: Identität und Kultur im Niederkirchenwesen Europas, ed. Michele C. Ferrari and Beat Kümin (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2017), 95–136.


Akira Shimada, Early Buddhist Architecture in Context: The Great Stūpa at Amarāvatī (ca. 300 BCE–300 CE) (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 147–69.


Elizabeth Kindall, “Envisioning a Monastery: A Seventeenth-Century Buddhist Fundraising Appeal Album,” T'oung Pao 97 (2011), 104–59; Talia J. Andrei, “Ise Sankei Mandara and the Art of Fundraising in Medieval Japan,” Art Bulletin 100, no. 1 (Mar. 2018), 68–96.


George Michell, The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 49–57; Robert Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture: Form, Function and Meaning (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 42, 44, 62–63.


This total includes churches and chapels of ease. See Richard Morris, Churches in the Landscape (London: J. M. Dent, 1989), 276, 350–76.


Byng, Church Building and Society, 45–47. The most informative, and rarest, of these sources are fabric rolls, only five sets of which survive from parochial contexts. See Byng, 52, 185–204.


Particularly useful are the transcriptions of dozens of building contracts in Salzman, Building in England, 413–584.


Thompson, Ground Plan, 124–25.


Bond, Introduction to English Church Architecture, 193–95.


See, for instance, Cox, English Parish Church, 67–69; Howard, Mediaeval Styles, 80–81; Cook, English Mediaeval Parish Church, 101, 103, 120; Platt, Parish Churches, 135; Pounds, History of the English Parish, 448–49.


Joan R. Branham, “Sacred Space under Erasure in Ancient Synagogues and Early Churches,” Art Bulletin 74, no. 3 (Sept. 1992), 375–94.


See P. S. Barnwell, “The Laity, the Clergy and the Divine Presence: The Use of Space in Smaller Churches of the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries,” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 157 (2004), 41–60.


Cragoe, “Custom of the English Church,” 28–37.


Draper, Formation of English Gothic, 189–90, 200–201. See also Cragoe, “Belief and Patronage,” 30–40.


In the influential directives of two successive archbishops of Canterbury, John Pecham (r. 1279–92) and Robert Winchelsey (r. 1295–1313), the dividing line between lay space and clerical space remains vague, with the laity being held responsible for “the repair of the nave of the church, inside and outside” (reparatio navis ecclesie interius et exterius) or “the repair of the nave of the church in length and in breadth, inside and outside” (reparationem navis ecclesie in longitudine et latitudine interius et exterius) and the clergy being held responsible for “the repair of the chancel … inside and outside” (in reparatione cancelli … interius et exterius). Neither statute refers to chancel arches, screens, or roods. See F. M. Powicke and C. R. Cheney, eds., Councils and Synods with Other Documents Related to the English Church, vol. 2, A.D. 1205–1313 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), 1123, 1385–86.


Barnwell, “Laity, the Clergy and the Divine Presence,” 56.


Cragoe, “Belief and Patronage,” 35–36; Cragoe, “Custom of the English Church,” 34–37.


See Jacqueline E. Jung, The Gothic Screen: Space, Sculpture, and Community in the Cathedrals of France and Germany, ca. 1200–1400 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); Richard Marks, “Framing the Rood in Medieval England and Wales,” in The Art and Science of the Church Screen in Medieval Europe: Making, Meaning, Preserving, ed. Spike Bucklow, Richard Marks, and Lucy Wrapson (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2017), 7–29.


The question of the origin of the type is further hampered by the rearrangement, enlargement, and enrichment of many parish buildings during the late medieval period. Among the earliest examples to survive intact is the large church of Northampton St. Peter (ca. 1120–50). But it is likely that the structure originally served as a minster church rather than a parish church. See Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, vol. 5, Archaeology and Churches in Northampton (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1985), 371–78; John Blair, “Palaces or Minsters? Northampton and Cheddar Reconsidered,” Anglo Saxon England 25 (1996), 107–8. Of a more firmly parochial character, however, are the churches of Tilney All Saints (Norfolk), Kirkby Lonsdale St. Mary (Westmorland), and Kendal Holy Trinity (Westmorland). Each assumed the form of three continuous longitudinal vessels over multiple campaigns: Tilney by the late twelfth century, Kirkby Lonsdale by the early thirteenth century, and Kendal by the mid-thirteenth century. See Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson, Norfolk 2: North-West and South (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999), 732–33; Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1936), 119, 133.


Thompson, Ground Plan, 124–25; Bond, Introduction to English Church Architecture, 193, 275; Edward Hubbard, Clwyd (Denbighshire and Flintshire) (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), 31–34.


Nikolaus Pevsner, Suffolk (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961), 29.


Nikolaus Pevsner, Cheshire (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), 16–17.


See Dana Arnold, Reading Architectural History (London: Routledge, 2002), 183–85. The distinctive granularity of the Buildings of England series receives little attention in the otherwise excellent collection edited by Peter Draper, Reassessing Nikolaus Pevsner (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004).


An unusually thorough architectural analysis is presented in two richly illustrated volumes by Birkin Haward: Suffolk Medieval Church Arcades, 1150–1550 (Ipswich: Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 1993); Norfolk Album: Medieval Church Arcades (Ipswich: Birkin Haward, 1995).


Haward, Suffolk Medieval Church Arcades, 35–37.


Francis Woodman, “The Rebuilding of St. Peter Mancroft,” in East Anglian Studies: Essays Presented to J. C. Barringer, ed. Adam Longcroft and Richard Joby (Norwich: University of East Anglia, 1995), 292.


The idea of the hall church was first developed by Wilhelm Lübke (1826–93). For an overview, see The Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture, ed. Colum P. Hourihane (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), s.v. “hall church.” Two examples of churches whose present all-in-one configurations are products of start-and-stop building campaigns involving relatively late implementations of the format are Norwich St. Laurence and Walberswick St. Andrew (Suffolk).


See, for instance, the prototypical definition of the open plan as a “space in a building undivided by means of walls or partitions,” in James Stevens Curl and Susan Wilson, The Oxford Dictionary of Architecture, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), s.v. “plan.”


Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, “Les 5 points d'une architecture nouvelle,” in Oeuvre complète, vol. 1, ed. Willy Boesiger and Oscar Stonorov (Zurich: Girsberger, 1929), 128–29. For a fascinating exploration of the prehistory of the free plan, see Pedro Guedes, “Free Plan for the 1850s: Forgotten Imagined Architectures from Mid-century,” Architectural History 57 (2014), 239–75.


Christian Norberg-Schulz, “Free Plan and Open Form,” Places 1, no. 2 (Oct. 1983), 15.


John Harvey, The Perpendicular Style, 1330–1485 (London: Batsford, 1978).


A. G. Dickens, The English Reformation (London: Batsford, 1964); J. J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English People (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984); Christopher Haigh, The English Reformation Revised (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580, 2nd ed. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2005); G. W. Bernard, The Late Medieval English Church: Vitality and Vulnerability before the Break with Rome (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2012).


See Barney Warf and Santa Arias, eds., The Spatial Turn: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (London: Routledge, 2009). The text most widely credited with effecting this paradigm shift is Henri Lefebvre, La production de l'espace (Paris: Anthropos, 1974), trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith as The Production of Space (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1991).


Documentary evidence for the two buildings is discussed in C. F. Rea, “The Building of Totnes Parish Church,” Transactions of the Devonshire Association 57 (1925), 281–83; Judith Middleton-Stewart, Inward Purity and Outward Splendour: Death and Remembrance in the Deanery of Dunwich, Suffolk, 1370–1547 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2001), 27, 228–29. See also F. Bligh Bond, “Devonshire Screens and Rood Lofts, Part II,” Transactions of the Devonshire Association 35 (1903), 490–91; W. W. Lillie, “Screenwork in the County of Suffolk, Part IV: Southwold,” Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History 22, no. 1 (1934), 120–26.


John Bossy, “The Mass as a Social Institution 1200–1700,” Past and Present 100, no. 1 (Aug. 1983), 29–61.


Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, 123–26.


Edward W. Soja, Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1996).


Margaret Aston, “Segregation in Church,” in Women in the Church: Papers Read at the 1989 Summer Meeting and the 1990 Winter Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society, ed. W. J. Sheils and Diana Wood (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 237–94. The broader issue of the relationship between spatial boundaries and social boundaries is addressed in Saul, Lordship and Faith, 299–326.


The most recent published analysis of the church is Francis Woodman, “St Peter Mancroft and Late Medieval Church Building in Norwich,” in Norwich: Medieval and Early Modern Art, Architecture and Archaeology, ed. T. A. Heslop and Helen E. Lunnon (Leeds: Maney, 2015), 267–82. (This account supersedes Woodman's “Rebuilding of St. Peter Mancroft.”) Select features of the building are further addressed in Helen E. Lunnon, “Defining Porches in Norwich, c. 1250–1510,” in Heslop and Lunnon, Norwich, 298; and Katherine M. Boivin, “The Chancel Passageways of Norwich,” in Heslop and Lunnon, Norwich, 310–15, 319–20. An indispensable antiquarian account is Francis Blomefield and Charles Parkin, An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, vol. 4 (London, 1806), 184–223. See also Jonathan Finch, “The Churches,” in Medieval Norwich, ed. Carole Rawcliffe and Richard Wilson (London: Hambledon and London, 2004), 49–72; and the forthcoming work of the Medieval Churches of Norwich project based at the University of East Anglia, “The Medieval Churches of Norwich: City, Community and Architecture,” (accessed 7 May 2020).


See Christopher Wilson, “‘Excellent, New and Uniforme’: Perpendicular Architecture c. 1400–1547,” in Gothic: Art for England 1400–1547, ed. Richard Marks and Paul Williamson (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2003), 113.


It has been estimated that Norfolk and Suffolk were home to six of the twenty richest towns in early sixteenth-century England. Norwich, for its part, grew from the fifth to the second most populous city in the kingdom in the period between the poll tax of 1377 and the subsidy of 1524–25. See Alan Dyer, “Ranking Lists of English Medieval Towns,” in The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, vol. 1, 600–1540, ed. D. M. Palliser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 758, 761, 765.


For an efficient survey of the city during this period, see Elizabeth Rutledge, “An Urban Environment: Norwich in the Fifteenth Century,” in The Fifteenth Century XII: Society in an Age of Plague, ed. Linda Clark and Carole Rawcliffe (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2013), 79–99. More general histories include Malcolm Atkin, Norwich: History and Guide (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1993); Frank Meeres, A History of Norwich (Chichester: Phillimore, 1998); Brian Ayers, Norwich: Archaeology of a Fine City (Stroud: Amberley, 2009).


My case for attributing the church to the workshop of James Woderofe, one of the leading master masons at Norwich Cathedral from ca. 1420 to 1450, is made in Zachary Stewart, “The Integrated Interior: Parish Church Architecture in Eastern England, c. 1330–c. 1550” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 2015), 186–91.


Zachary Stewart, “‘A Parish Church Par Excellence’: The Architecture and Arts of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich, from the Conquest to the Reformation,” in The Baptismal Font Canopy of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich: Interdisciplinary Studies of a Medieval Monument over Four Centuries, ed. Amy Gillette and Zachary Stewart (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).


The theory that the pre-reconstruction church featured a crossing tower was first suggested in Woodman, “Rebuilding of St. Peter Mancroft,” 290–91.


See David King, The Medieval Stained Glass of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich (Oxford: British Academy, 2006), 145–54. The vast majority of relevant wills are held at the Norfolk Record Office, Norwich (hereafter NRO). Blomefield alleged, based on what would appear to have been a cursory examination of these sources, that the present church was erected between 1430 and 1455. See Blomefield and Parkin, Essay towards a Topographical History, 191.


NRO, NCC, Doke 140: “It[e]m lego novo cancello in ead[e]m ecc[les]ia S[an]c[t]i Petri erigend[o] x marc[as] si rectores dict[e] ecc[les]ie volunt c[on]struer[e] et de novo erga novu[m] cancellu[m] ib[ide]m et si volu-[eru]nt volo q[uo]d ille dicte m[a]rc[e] dispen[s]a[n]t[ur] p[er] executor-[es] me[os].” Also see King, Medieval Stained Glass, 146 (no. 17).


NRO, NCC, Wylbey 58: “It[e]m lego ad edificat[i]onem cui[us] nove gabule in p[ar]te orient[e] cancelli d[ic]te eccl[es]ie construend[e] xx libras yconomis d[ic]te eccl[es]ie …” Also see King, Medieval Stained Glass, 146 (no. 21).


Blomefield and Parkin, Essay towards a Topographical History, 186.


NRO, NCC, Wylbey 9: “It[e]m [lego] ad facc[i]o[n]em uni[u]s reredor[i]s in sutur[a] eregend[e] [sic] int[er] cancellu[m] et dive[rs]a[m] eccl[es]ia[m] lv marc[as].” Also see King, Medieval Stained Glass, 146 (no. 19).


NRO, NCC, Wylbey 29: “It[e]m lego ad vitrat[ion]em fenestr[e] orient[e] capelle s[an]c[t]i nich[ola]i in eccl[es]ia s[an]c[t]i petri de mancroft in nor-[wi]co ex p[ar]te eiusd[em] eccl[es]ie s[an]c[t]i petri fundat[e] x li infra quatuor annos p[ro]p[e] sequen[tes] post obitu[m] meu[m] ib[ide]m forma p[rae]missa p[er] execut[ores] meos aut eorum execut[ores] distributur[os].” Also see King, Medieval Stained Glass, 146 (no. 20).


NRO, NCC, Betyns 161: “It[e]m leg[o] emendac[i]o[n]i d[ic]te ecc[les]ie ad fontem Baptismalem in ead[e]m de novo faciend[um] v[e]l ad aliud opus maior[em] necessar[ii] et ap[er]tum in ead[e]m ecc[les]ia faciend[um] iux[t]a arbitriu[m] et discrec[i]o[n]em executor[um] meor[um] x m[a]rc[a]s.” Also see King, Medieval Stained Glass, 147 (no. 34). Subsequent bequests left money not for construction work but for furnishings, ornaments, and liturgical objects. See King, Medieval Stained Glass, 147 (no. 35), 148 (nos. 39, 43). Other legacies for “repairs” to the building, made sporadically until the Reformation, should be interpreted as referring to small-scale versus large-scale undertakings.


On the effects of the recession in the city, see Penelope Dunn, “Trade,” in Rawcliffe and Wilson, Medieval Norwich, 213–14, 234; Ruth H. Frost, “The Urban Elite,” in Rawcliffe and Wilson, Medieval Norwich, 236; Penny Dunn, “Financial Reform in Late Medieval Norwich: Evidence from an Urban Cartulary,” in Medieval East Anglia, ed. Christopher Harper-Bill (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2005), 99–114, esp. 113. St. Peter Mancroft is exceptional in that, during the mid-fifteenth century, declining economic fortunes caused a notable reduction in parish church-building projects across the kingdom. See Byng, Church Building and Society, 39–40, 44–45.


NRO, NCC, Wylbey 58: “It[e]m lego … xx libras yconomis d[ic]te eccl[es]ie qui p[ro] temp[or]e fu[er]int forma sequent[e] soluend[i] videlicet in p[ri]ma edificac[i]one dict[e] gabule linialit[er] p[er] terra[m] cimit[er]ij ec cl[es]ie p[re]dict[e] erigend[e] decem marcas et in construct[i]o[n]e ped[is] magne fenestr[e] in p[ar]te orient[e] eiusd[em] gabule erect[e] x marcas ac in edificac[i]o[n]e sup[er]ioris p[ar]tis d[ic]te m[a]gne fenestr[e] x marcas et non antea.” Also see King, Medieval Stained Glass, 146 (no. 21).


Evidence for the relative heights of the two naves can be found in the refashioned arcade responds embedded in the east buttresses of the west tower. The former nave featured piers just over 13 feet tall. The present nave features piers just over 23 feet tall. Thus, the height of the nave grew by a factor of roughly 1.8. That the church had an aisled nave no later than the late twelfth or early thirteenth century is indicated by the pair of respond plinths recently excavated in the south aisle. For a fuller analysis, see my forthcoming essay “‘A Parish Church Par Excellence.’”


See Simon Cotton, “Medieval Roodscreens in Norfolk—Their Construction and Painting Dates,” Norfolk Archaeology 40, no. 1 (1987), 44–54.


King, Medieval Stained Glass, 149 (nos. 50, 51). Also see Cotton, “Medieval Roodscreens in Norfolk,” 50.


King, Medieval Stained Glass, 151 (no. 70). Occasionally, the term rood loft was used to refer to the entire screen, not just its superstructure. See Marks, “Framing the Rood,” 9, 21.


King, Medieval Stained Glass, 148 (no. 43). Also see Cotton, “Medieval Roodscreens in Norfolk,” 50.


King, Medieval Stained Glass, 151 (no. 68). Also see Cotton, “Medieval Roodscreens in Norfolk,” 50.


The thresholds of these doors are located more than 16 feet above the present church pavement.


Both the eastern arcade piers and the chapel entrance responds feature scarring that may be evidence of attachments associated with larger timber screens.


See King, Medieval Stained Glass, liv–lx.


Thirty-two wills contain bequests to the confraternity of the Mass of the Name of Jesus. See King, 147–54 (nos. 27, 29, 30, 36, 37, 40, 41, 48, 50, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 62, 63, 67, 69, 79, 81, 82, 84, 85, 86, 87, 91, 92, 94, 96, 97, 99, 100). Seventeen wills contain bequests to the guild of Saint Anne. See King, 149–54 (nos. 48, 50, 51, 54, 55, 62, 63, 69, 75, 79, 81, 82, 84, 85, 86, 92, 96). The classic study of the preeminent guild of the city, based at the nearby cathedral, is Mary Grace, Records of the Gild of St. George in Norwich, 1389–1547: A Transcript with an Introduction (London: Fakenham and Reading, Wyman and Sons, 1937).


See Calendar of the Patent Rolls: Edward II, A.D. 1313–1317 (London, 1898), 301.


See Calendar of the Patent Rolls: Edward II, A.D. 1321–1324 (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1904), 301; Calendar of the Patent Rolls: Edward II, A.D. 1324–1327 (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1904), 151.


Valor ecclesiasticus temp. Henr. VIII. auctoritate regia institutus, vol. 3 (London, 1817), 294.


See King, Medieval Stained Glass, 145–54.


King, 149 (no. 53), 151 (nos. 69, 70). The professions of the tailor William Grime and the butcher Thomas Snellyng, not included in King's catalogue, are cited in the opening clauses of their wills. See NRO, NCC, Ryxe 251, 381.


King, Medieval Stained Glass, 146–55 (nos. 12, 24, 27, 38, 39, 51, 53, 54, 62, 71, 74, 86, 90, 101). See also Benjamin R. McRee, “The Mayor's Body,” in The Ties That Bind: Essays in Medieval British History in Honor of Barbara Hanawalt, ed. Linda E. Mitchell, Katherine L. French, and Douglas L. Biggs (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 39–54.


King, Medieval Stained Glass, 146–55 (nos. 30, 32, 33, 34, 40, 43, 47, 69, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 92). See also Samantha Sagui, “Mid-level Officials in Fifteenth-Century Norwich,” in Clark and Rawcliffe, Fifteenth Century XII, 101–17.


King, Medieval Stained Glass, 147 (nos. 31, 37).


Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, 95–102. For an extended account of the embodied aspects of late medieval and early modern worship, see Matthew Milner, The Senses and the English Reformation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011).


This fact goes unmentioned in Haward, Suffolk Medieval Church Arcades, 35–37. On the socioeconomic context, see Mark Bailey, Medieval Suffolk: An Economic and Social History, 1200–1500 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007), 264–89.


Haward, Suffolk Medieval Church Arcades, 168–69, 300–303; Bailey, Medieval Suffolk, 272–74.


Haward, Suffolk Medieval Church Arcades, 170–73, 304–5, 336–39, 364–66, 382–84; Bailey, Medieval Suffolk, 282–84.


See Chris King, “The Interpretation of Urban Buildings: Power, Memory and Appropriation in Norwich Merchants' Houses, c. 1400–1660,” World Archaeology 41, no. 3 (Sept. 2009), 471–88, esp. 481–82.


The outlier is the poorly dated church of Lowestoft St. Margaret. For an overview of pier design in the region, see Haward, Suffolk Medieval Church Arcades, 119–44; Haward, Norfolk Album, 8–13. The leading status of St. Peter Mancroft and St. Giles in late medieval Norwich is demonstrated by the fact that when the early antiquarian William Worcester visited the city in 1478–80, they were the only parochial churches whose measurements he recorded. See John Harvey, ed., Itineraries of William Worcestre (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 186–87, 234–39, 254–57.


See Duffy, Stripping of the Altars; Kümin, Shaping of a Community; French, People of the Parish; Clive Burgess, “The Right Ordering of Souls”: The Parish of All Saints' Bristol on the Eve of the Reformation (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2018).


J. Charles Cox, Churchwardens' Accounts from the Fourteenth Century to the Close of the Seventeenth Century (London: Methuen, 1913); Charles Drew, Early Parochial Organisation in England: The Origin of the Office of Churchwarden (London: St. Anthony's Press, 1954); Burgess, “Pre-Reformation Churchwardens' Accounts”; Kümin, “Late Medieval Churchwardens' Accounts”; Burgess, “Broader Church?”


H. F. Westlake, The Parish Gilds of Mediaeval England (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1919); Barbara A. Hanawalt, “Keepers of the Lights: Late Medieval English Parish Gilds,” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 14 (1984), 21–37; Gervase Rosser, The Art of Solidarity in the Middle Ages: Guilds in England 1250–1550 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).


The classic account is K. L. Wood-Legh, Perpetual Chantries in Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965). See also Clive Burgess, “Chantries in the Parish, or ‘Through the Looking-Glass,’” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 164 (2011), 100–129.


See Andrew Spicer, ed., Parish Churches in the Early Modern World (Farnham: Ashgate, 2016).


Beat Kümin, The Communal Age in Western Europe, c. 1100–1800: Towns, Villages and Parishes in Pre-modern Society (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 1. The concept of “communalism” that undergirds Kümin's approach is explicated in Peter Blickle, Kommunalismus: Skizzen einer gesellschaftlichen Organisationsform, 2 vols. (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 2000).


Exceptions include Graves, “Social Space”; French, People of the Parish, 142–74; Byng, Church Building and Society, 3–10, 242–44, 278–81.


Ellen K. Rentz, Imagining the Parish in Late Medieval England (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2015).


T. A. Heslop, “Swaffham Parish Church: Community Building in Fifteenth-Century Norfolk,” in Harper-Bill, Medieval East Anglia, 246–71; Gabriel Byng, “Modelling Patronage: The Chronology and Financing of the Perpendicular Work at St Mary, Saffron Walden,” Transactions of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History 6 (2016), 329–43; Katherine L. French, “Rebuilding St. Margaret's: Parish Involvement and Community Action in Late Medieval Westminster,” Journal of Social History 45, no. 1 (Fall 2011), 148–71.


For an overview of the conflict, see Norman Tanner, “The Cathedral and the City,” in Norwich Cathedral: Church, City and Diocese, 1096–1996, ed. Ian Atherton, Eric Fernie, Christopher Harper-Bill, and Hassell Smith (London: Hambledon, 1996), 255–69. For a searching analysis of the disturbances of 1437 and 1443, see Philippa C. Maddern, Violence and Social Order: East Anglia, 1422–1442 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 175–205.


Maddern, Violence and Social Order, 175–76, 190–94, 196–99, 204. Toppes paid for the glazing of the east window of the north chancel chapel in the mid-1450s; Ashwell left a bequest of a hundred shillings for repairs in 1458. See King, Medieval Stained Glass, lxxviii, 147 (no. 27), 148 (no. 38).


Basil Cozens-Hardy and Ernest A. Kent, The Mayors of Norwich, 1403 to 1835, Being Biographical Notes on the Mayors of the Old Corporation (Norwich: Jarrold and Sons, 1938), 23, 24.


Lending weight to this reading is David King's sensitive interpretation of the aforementioned stained glass window commissioned by Toppes, more than thirty panels from which are preserved ex situ in the main east window of the church, which likely served as a partial commemoration of the cessation of hostilities in Norwich in 1452 (the year in which Toppes served his third mayoral term). See King, Medieval Stained Glass, clix–cxcvii.


See Koos Bosma, Dorine van Hoogstraten, and Martijn Vos, Housing for the Millions: John Habraken and the SAR (1960–2000) (Rotterdam: NAi, 2000); Mario Carpo, The Alphabet and the Algorithm (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2011); Carlo Ratti with Matthew Claudel, Open Source Architecture (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2015); Andres Lepik, ed., Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010); Nina Gribat and Sandra Meireis, “A Critique of the New ‘Social Architecture’ Debate,” City 21, no. 6 (Dec. 2017), 779–88.


See Alexander Nagel, Medieval/Modern: Art out of Time (London: Thames and Hudson, 2012); Amy Knight Powell, Depositions: Scenes from the Late Medieval Church and the Modern Museum (New York: Zone Books, 2012); Roland Betancourt and Maria Taroutina, eds., Byzantium/Modernism: The Byzantine as Method in Modernity (Leiden: Brill, 2015).