Friday, November 4, 2011

Did Paul's Cross Have a Pulpit?

One of the challenges of reconstructing Paul's Churchyard has been to figure out how to use the evidence that survives from the 17th century.

We have learned, again, what others have said, which is that -- even in the Renaissance -- artists did not have the same notions of verisimilitude in representation that we do. Especially after the camera has accustomed us to images that at least seem to show us what we would see if we were in the spot from which the photograph was taken.

One of our questions right now -- as we begin to model the Paul's Cross preaching station itself -- is where the preacher delivering the Paul's Cross sermon stood when preaching.

Did the preacher stand inside the structure, underneath the roof, with a rostrum to hold his notes? Or did he stand in a pulpit-like structure that extended out in front of the Cross?

In that case, he was physically out from under the ceiling of the Cross structure, as shown in this image:

If we move closer in, we see this configuration, and its supporting structure, more clearly.

If Paul's Cross were configured this way, it would have replicated pulpit design familiar from existing furniture inside cathedrals and parish churches. The preacher would have been clearly visible to a large crowd and would have had space around him for a free range of arm motions to add emphasis to his vocal delivery.

When we examine Gipkin's painting more closely, however, a structure like this is not what we see. Gipkin shows us this detailed image, in which one can see the hourglass and other details, but we do not see a structure like the one in the engraving above.

Given Gipkin's tendency to combine multiple perspectives in the one image, we are not clear as to exactly what we are seeing, but we do not see the extended pulpit structure shown in the engraving.

Either the preacher is standing under the roof of the Cross structure or he is standing on a small platform that places him slightly in front of the larger structure of the Cross.

In either case, he is standing at a small shelf on which he is resting a book bound in black.

An arrangement of space in which the preacher stands underneath the roof of the Cross structure seems to be the arrangement at one of the few surviving outdoor preaching crosses, still standing outside the ruins of the Dominican Friary in Hereford.

This is also the case at the Iron Acton Cross, in Gloucestershire.

Both these are stone structures, with little flexibility in their design or construction. Paul's Cross, built in the late 15th century of timber set on stone steps with a lead-covered roof, was both larger in size and made out of materials more accommodating to variation in design.According to 19th century archaeological research, the stone base of the Cross was 37 feet across and the structure itself was 17 feet across.

A design in which the preacher stands slightly in front of the Cross structure (but not substantially out from under its roof line) seems to have been the arrangement of things at another preaching station in London, also used on occasion by  John Donne. this was the outdoor preaching station at Westminster Palace.

Here, we see an engraving of Hugh Latimer preaching from this outdoor pulpit to Edward VI in the mid-16th century.

Is this what Gipkin is trying to show us in his painting of Paul's Cross?

Stay tuned.

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