Church porches are important in historical romances set in the Middle Ages. The church porch is often where the hero and heroine end up to get married. Stupidly, for someone who grew up and lives in a country where there are plenty of medieval churches, I always assumed that this meant they were married outside the church, more or less in the open air, with only a small porch to cover them. It was only when I saw a photograph of a medieval church porch that I realised how wrong my image of it was.
A couple of weeks ago I was at Boxgrove Priory near Chichester. It was a lovely day and I took some photographs. The priory was built from the end of the eleventh century to the beginning of the twelfth century. The porch was built in the thirteenth century. It’s not on the same level as the rest of the church and there are six or seven steps down to the church door.
As you can see from the photograph, it’s certainly large enough to hold bride, groom and witnesses, even a priest, if necessary. Although a priest wasn’t, strictly speaking, required in order for a marriage to be binding, the church encouraged it.
Next time you read a novel in which the hero and heroine marry in the church porch, this is the kind of thing you should have in your mind’s eye.
Here’s a bonus photograph of the ruins on the other side of the church.