The Alignment and Location of Medieval Rural Churches BAR 560

di Ian Hinton

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    It has been variously considered that churches faced east for liturgical reasons or reasons of Christian religious belief; that they faced Jerusalem; that they faced sunrise on the day that building work started; or that they faced sunrise on their patronal-saint’s feast day, and, in the cases where nave and chancel were aligned differently, that this represented religious symbolism; etc. This study investigates the many reasons for alignment variances in medieval English churches and explores whether the differing alignments have any specific meaning and the scope of the survey allows statistically significant conclusions to be drawn from the results. A further element of the study considers the location of rural churches. In the past it has always been assumed that a church was built in, or close to, the village or estate that it served, but as a secondary action. This work explores the timing of the adoption of the sites that now contain village churches, particularly in relation to the processes of settlements fixing their position in the Saxon period, and settlement nucleation. This offers the possibility that some church sites may have determined the location of the settlement that they now serve rather than vice versa. Contents: Chapter 1: Historiography of church alignment studies; Chapter 2: Alignment; Chapter 3: Survey method and basic results; Chapter 4: Survey results applied to earlier theories; Chapter 5: Variation in church alignment across the country; Chapter 6: Relationship between slope and church alignment; Chapter 7: Historiography of church location, church origin and rural settlement; Chapter 8: Location of churches; adoption of local church sites; development of local burial; Christian substitution; Chapter 9: Conclusions; 17 Data Appendices