Hagioscope

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A partially blocked squint at Grendon church

A hagioscope (from Gr. άγιος, holy, and σκοπός, to see) or squint, in architecture, is an opening through the wall of a church in an oblique direction, to enable the worshippers in the transepts or other parts of the church, from which the altar was not visible, to see the elevation of the host.

Hagioscopes were also sometimes known as "leper windows" wherein a squint was made in an external wall so that lepers and other non-desirables could see the service without coming into contact with the rest of the populace.

Squint or Leper window at St. Martin's Church Liskeard, Cornwall, England.

In medieval architecture hagioscopes were often a low window in the chancel wall and were frequently protected by either a wooden shutter or iron bars. Hagioscopes are found on one or both sides of the chancel arch; in some cases a series of openings has been cut in the walls in an oblique line to enable a person standing in the porch (as in Bridgwater church, Somerset) to see the altar; in this case and in other instances such openings were sometimes provided for an attendant, who had to ring the Sanctus bell when the Host was elevated.
At St Bees Priory a purpose-built squint was included in the wall of the 14th-century chapel to give a view of the high altar. The window is low enough to allow a person to kneel whilst looking through the aperture. It is now infilled.

The hagioscope at St Mary the Virgin, Lytchett Matravers is unusually large; although unknown in origin it provides a view to the communion table from the 16th-century north aisle. It is large enough that it is often used as a corridor for access to the chancel.

Though rarely encountered in continental Europe, they are occasionally found e.g. to allow a monk in one of the vestries to follow the service and to communicate with the bell-ringers.

Sometimes squints were placed to enable nuns to observe the services – without having to give up their isolation. At the church of St Helen's in Bishopsgate, London, which is one of the largest surviving ancient churches of London, its interesting design arose from it once having been two separate places of worship. The first was a 13th-century parish church and the second was the chapel of a Benedictine convent.

Here on the convent side of the church one can find an ancient "squint", which allowed the nuns to observe the parish masses; church records show that the squint in this case was not enough for the nuns who were eventually admonished to "abstain from kissing secular persons," a habit to which it seems they had become "too prone".[citation needed]

Germany[edit]

The hagioscope of St. Clemens Bad Iburg

In Germany a number of hagioscopes still exist or were rediscovered in the 19th and 20th century. They are found mainly in Lower Saxony which had a small population in the Middle ages and only a few bigger cities. In cities lepers lived together in housing estates which often had their own chapels. In Georgsmarienhütte the hagioscope of church St. Johann which belonged to the former Benedictine convent Kloster Oesede, founded in the 12th Century and reconstructed in the early 1980s. Nearby in Bad Iburg a hagioscope was rediscovered at St. Clemens, church of former Benedictine monastery in the castle and monastery complex Schloss Iburg. Other hagioscopes in Lower Saxony are found in Bokelesch, Westoverledingen, Dornum, Midlum, Kirchwahlingen (Gemeinde Böhme) and Hankensbüttel.

In Northrhine-Westphalia St. Antonius-Kapelle in Gescher-Tungerloh-Capellen has a hagioscope. St. Antonius is used as Autobahn chapel at Bundesautobahn 31. Another hagioscope is found in St. Ulricus in Börninghausen. In Rhineland-Palatinate the church of St. Eligius-Hospital in Neuerburg has a hagioscope. In Baden-Württemberg there is a hagioscope in St. Peter und Paul, the Old Cemetery Church of Nusplingen.

Sweden[edit]

In Sweden Bro church near Visby on Gotland has a cross shaped hagioscope. Other hagioscopes are at the church of Vreta Abbey near Linköping, Granhult Kyrka in Uppvidinge and Husaby Kyrka in Götene. The wooden church in Granhult (Småland) has a hagioscope which can be closed.

Finland[edit]

Hagioscope in Olavinlinna castle in Eastern Finland

There is only one hagioscope in Finland. It is located in Olavinlinna castle (St. Olaf's castle), in the town of Savonlinna.

Netherlands[edit]

St. Vitus in Wetsens, and Jistrum, both in Friesland, have hagioscopes.

France[edit]

Hagioscope, old church of Saint-Maurice, Freyming-Merlebach

In France the hagioscope of Notre Dame in Dives-sur-Mer, Normandy, has the inscription trou aux lépreux (leper window). Another hagioscopes are known at St. Laurent in Deauville, Normandy and at the old church of St. Maurice in Freyming-Merlebach, Lorraine.

England[edit]

St Bees Priory: Squint window in the wall of chapel built 1270-1300. Window is infilled, but outline is shown, and cross hatch shows wall and floor abutments

Churches in England with hagioscopes include:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Great Ormside - St James' Church
  2. ^ LEPER'S SQUINT?
  3. ^ [St Mary's church website|http://www.stmarys-lytchett.org.uk/page6.html StMary's Website]
  4. ^ "History Part Two". St Laurence & All Saints, Eastwood, Essex. 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  5. ^ "The hagioscope". St Laurence & All Saints, Eastwood Church. Essex churches. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  6. ^ St Andrew and St Bartholomew Church
  7. ^ Church of The Holy Rood The Holybourne Village Magazine Spring Issue 2009
  8. ^ What is it? A leper's squint
  9. ^ THE CHURCH OF ST. JAMES THE LESS, SULGRAVE
  10. ^ Ridley, Nancy (1966). Portrait of Northumberland. London: Robert Hale. pp. 66–67. 
  11. ^ History of St Oswald and St Oswald's Church, Sowerby
  12. ^ MR. HARRY GILL Upton (part 1)
  13. ^ Church of St Nicholas, Elsfield Road, Old Marston
  14. ^ St Nicholas & St Barnabas Churches Kenilworth
  15. ^ "St Mary and St Cuthbert, Ankers House". 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hagioscope". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.