Rude Screening at Hubberholme

At Hubberholme Church in the Yorkshire Dales, it is dark and mysterious. Although the electricity supply has reached these parts, the church’s chandeliers hold wax candles and the building feels like it might have in the twelfth century when it was constructed. Modest windows, low stone arches and the grey skies without all make it relatively gloomy within. The pictures below have been ‘improved’ to make them several times brighter. 

Between the nave and the chancel is a wooden barrier. It originally preventing the worshippers from seeing what went on at the altar and was called a rood screen. It helped make the Mass a particularly mysterious event, one which mortal eyes and unlearned folk could not come close enough to see. As the priest mumbled his Latin formula from behind the rood, truly a piece of magic was being worked.

 

At the Reformation, these barriers were quite rightly dismantled. Some were given as firewood for the poor, others were denuded of panels to allow the worshipper to gaze at the church’s east end. Rood screens remind us of God’s holiness and our inability to look upon Him. But they fail to remind us that Christ has broken every barrier between sinful man and holy God. The thick curtain in the temple is torn in two, the gulf between heaven and earth is bridged by a cross.

Some bemoan the loss of the rood screen from our ancient churches. I rejoice in its absence.

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.

Ephesians 2:14