The Nave

For the People

The English medieval church was a mysterious succession of self-contained boxes. The nave and chancel, for instance, were far more separate than they are today The word chancel comes from the Latin "cancellus" meaning screen, and described that part of the church which was screened off, exclusively for the clergy's use.

The nave, in contrast, belonged to the people. "Navis" in Latin means ship; the nave carried the people safely across the seas of life: it was an Ark of Salvation.

It was Sir Hugh de Calveley's money, with timely diocesan help, that had paid for the 14th-century rebuilding of the church. In its new form the church incorporated a college, the responsibility of whose chantry priests it was to sing requiem masses for the soul of the founder.

Other patronage was to follow. Look above you at the frieze of angels supporting the roof beams. The painted shields they hold display the arms of prominent local families.

The three calves of the de Calveleys

The six bees of the Beestons

The lion rampant with three arrows of the Egertons of Ridley

Each is a lasting reminder of local power and generosity. Even so, the upkeep, redecoration and any alterations to the nave remained the responsibility of the parish. Raising this money was the job of the churchwardens, who had also to provide many of the church furnishings, such as bells, bell ropes, a bier for the dead, and a font with a cover and lock.

It was an expensive business. But the strength of the parishioners' commitment to their church was demonstrated when, in about 1490, the nave and aisles at Bunbury were remodelled.

The oak of the main, west door is 600 years old: it is as hard as iron.

Services in the Middle Ages
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