The Church Porch

Church Porch at Boxgrove Priory

Church Porch, Boxgrove Priory

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.

Boxgrove Priory

Boxgrove Priory

 

 

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26 Comments

Filed under Church

26 responses to “The Church Porch

  1. Why didn’t they marry in the actual church? I love old churches April, we never tire of looking at them. That is something I never knew, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m trying to think how many people could fit into the entrance to our local church. Six of eight on the stone benches on either side, I’d guess. Maybe the same number standing, although it might be crowded. We’ve never tried packing it, but if we popularize it, it might replace packing people into telephone boxes now that they’ve all but disappeared.

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  3. Lovely photos…I also never knew that’s what church porch meant or why they wouldn’t get married inside the church…thanks April! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is really interesting, I would have thought the same as you, small porch that’s covered. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That is a large porch! I too always pictured people standing just outside the church door in a small porch.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. angelanoelauthor

    So, if a priest wasn’t necessary who officiated? I think I have a whole lot of assumptions about marriage customs in the medieval age probably from movies with Richard Gere pretending he has a British accent. Set me straight please–maybe you already have a blog post on this?

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  7. I’ve actually never heard the term, “church porch” before (not that I can recall, anyway). What a cool bit of trivia!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful, April; I shall never look at a church porch in the same way again. Love the flint on the buildings in that neck of the woods.

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  9. Thanks for this. I would have made the same assumption you did. I always like to learn about the ways words have come to mean different things over time.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Beautiful! I’m not religious but I adore the history and atmosphere of old churches – so much living has happened within their walls!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Medieval marriage | A Writer's Perspective

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