The term is derived via Old French from the Latin paradisus meaning "paradise". This in turn came via Ancient Greek from the Indo-European Aryan languages of ancient Iran, where it meant a walled enclosure or garden precinct.
Parvis of St Paul's Cathedral
In London in the Middle Ages the Serjeants-at-law practised at the parvis of St Paul's Cathedral, and there clients could seek their counsel. In the 14th century Geoffrey Chaucer referred to "A sergeant of the laws ware and wise/ That often hadde yben at the paruis...". Later, ecclesiastical courts developed at Doctors' Commons on the same site.
Late English use
In England the term was much later used to mean a room over the porch of a church. The architectural historians John Fleming, Hugh Honour and Nikolaus Pevsner, and the theologians Frank Cross and EA Livingstone all say this usage is wrong. The Oxford English Dictionary records this use as being "historical", and current in the middle of the 19th century. It may stem from an earlier misuse in F Blomefield's book Norfolk, published in 1744.
In some churches these rooms were used for school rooms, and in Castle Ashby the parvise was the home of a woman - who saved the manor house from burning when she saw the fire taking hold from the room.
Examples of English parvises
Sources and further reading
- Brown, Lesley, ed. (1993) . The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles II (3rd ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 2112. ISBN 0-19-861134-X.
- Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Clerkes Tale". The Canterbury Tales. verse 8396.
- Cross, FL; Livingstone, EA, eds. (1997) . The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 1224. ISBN 0-19-211655-X.
- Fleming, John; Honour, Hugh; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1980) . The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 238. ISBN 0-14-051013-3.
- Hoad, TF, ed. (1996). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Oxford University Press.
- Soanes, Catherine; Stevenson, Angus, eds. (2005). Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd, revised ed.). Oxford University Press.