Part of the Rood Screen at Exeter Cathedral

The focal point was the altar, raised on a foot-board and adorned with its lavish frontal against the eastern wall…It was railed off from the rest of the chancel to denote it was sanctum Sanctorum. …….. On the altar were two candlesticks with tapers, basin for the oblation, and a cushion of violet and crimson damask which matched the altar frontal, for the service book. When the Eucharist was celebrated a chalice, paten, and tricanale for mixing the wine with the water were also placed upon it, whilst on the credence table were the silver and gilt canister for the wafers like a wicker-basket and lined with cambric laced…On an additional small table in the sanctuary was place a “navicula” (ie boat-shaped vessel) from which frankincense is poured into a triquestral censer for censing at the appropriate places in the Liturgy. This censer hung in the chancel behind the lectern during the services to symbolize the offering of worship to God. In the center of the chancel on a pedestal was the lectern with its great Bible, and in front of it was a faldstool, that is, a small desk for praying the Litany. There were also seats for the bishop (his seat was canopied), the chaplain, for ordinands ……. On the eastern wall above the altar there was a…hanging depicting the story of Abraham and Melchizedek emphasizing no doubt both the blessing and sacrificial ministries of the latter. The pulpit also was richly covered with a matching cloth of crimson and violet damask.   Description of an Altar in England in the late 1500s.

An example of a very small church Rood Screen

Late Sarum Rood Screen with the Doors closed

Village Sarum – as it used to be – and still can be in Orthodoxy

Looking through the Rood Screen at the very old iconography at Saint Mary’s church Copford

Here is a rare photo of a Rood Screen with its curtain

Note the Easter Sepulchre on the left side

In the above picture, the former upper icons are long since disintegrated, although vestiges can be seen on the lower rank.

Rood Screens, properly, have iconography:

And of course, being a Rood Screen, it should be surmounted by the Holy Rood:

many of which were iconic – not relief as here.




The classic Altar of the northern European church during the first millennium was quite plain.  TheAltar was against or very close to the east wall of the sanctuary – in some cases it was the enlarged sill of an east window.   It had neither candles nor cross on it.  The cross was usually fixed to the wall above it, and the candles were either on tall candlesticks standing to either side of the Altar – or fixed to the wall nearby.


Pre-Norman Altar style