Early Anglo-Saxon churches in the UK often had a north door entrance to the nave of the church. Although not considered to be significant at the time, later medieval superstitions led to the north door of a church being known as “The Devil’s Door.”
The Devil’s Door was intended to be left open during any infant baptisms in the church, so that any evil spirits could escape as the child was christened. In medieval times, the north side of the church was considered to be the “sinister” side (Latin: sinestre = left), the side where the evil spirits could hide in the shadows of the building. Following the Reformation (1530s), many of these doors were removed or blocked up.
The north side of a church yard had similar connotations, as it was sometimes used for the burial of suicides, criminals, and infants who had not been baptised.
I learned all of this while visitng Escomb Saxon Church near Bishop Auckland, England. Escomb Church is considered to be the best preserved Anglo-Saxon church in England. The following images of the church are my contribution to this week’s Thursday Doors blog, published by Norm Frampton.
Five years ago we walked the Cotswold Way in the west of England. We hiked the route at a leisurely pace, taking 13 days to travel from Chipping Campden to Bath. The footpaths were varied and undulating and there were some great vistas along the way.
I have added some enhancements to these photos using my ON1 Photo Raw processing software to evoke the mood of each day.
Our recent trip to the UK included visits to many older churches. One of our first stops was at the Kilmartin House Museum, located south of Oban on the west coast of Scotland. This museum displays some of the 5,000 years of human history in this area, and is well worth a visit. The Kilmartin Parish Church is next door to the museum. The purple church doors were attractive, while the sign “To the Stones” was intriguing. Alas, not the Rolling Stones, but the stones that were on display in the graveyard included a well-preserved collection of early grave slabs. Two late-medieval grave slabs with interesting geometric designs are illustrated here.
Travelling north-west from Oban we visited the island of Iona and the Iona Abbey. The abbey is located on the site of the original monastery established by Columba, who arrived here from Ireland in AD 563. The Book of Kells was started by the monks of Iona, before they had to retreat to Ireland to escape Viking raids.
Next door to the abbey is St. Oran’s Chapel, a simple church structure that was orignally built around 1150. The Romanesque arched doorway is original, although the chapel was abandoned for 100’s of years, and was only recently restored at the same time as the abbey. Surrounding the chapel is Relig Odhráin (Gaelic for Oban), which is a graveyard that has been used for over 1,400 years. Iona is the symbolic centre of Scottish Christianity, and many Scottish kings have been buried in this graveyard.
Hexham Abbey is another site of an early Anglo-Saxon monastery, founded in the old Kingdom of Northumbria in AD 674-8 by St. Wilfrid. The abbey is located in Hexham, England, in proximity to Hadrian’s Wall. The only remaining portion of the original monastery is the crypt, which is lined with stones recycled from a nearby abandoned Roman fort.
Hexham Abbey doorway
Hexham Abbey doorway
This is my contribution to Norm’s Thursday Doors for the week of October 18. To see what other contributors have posted, check out Norm’s blog post here.
I have been waiting for an opportunity to post a couple of images that include people and columns. Columns are obviously an essential element in the design of structures. In classical and neo-classical architecture, decorative columns were used to identify the main entry to a building, which was usually raised above street level, requiring steps to reach the entrance. The steps and the spaces beneath and between the columns have become places for people, who are often dwarfed by the scale and immensity of the columns. These are great places for people to gather and people-watch.
I have recently returned from a month of travels in the UK. In addition to the many new experiences we enjoyed on this trip, I have a new collection of doors to share with others who participate in Norm’s Thursday Doors every week.
Holy Island – also known as Lindisfarne – is a tidal island located off the east coast of Northumberland. Being a tidal island means that it is accessible by car over a one-mile long causeway during low tides, but otherwise only accessible by boat. The Holy Island HM Coastguard is kept active by having to rescue motorists from their stranded cars when they attempt to make the crossing during high tides. About a dozen cars have been stranded during the summer months over the past three years.
The Holy Island Coastguard are a team of eight volunteers. Their all-terrain vehicle and equipment are stored in this shed, which is located near the harbour.
There are many boats in the harbour and along the shoreline, including several fishing boats. Some of the older boat hulls have been repurposed as sheds, such as this one with the lucky horseshoe on the door.
Lindisfarne is best known as an important historic monastic site. The first monastery was founded here in 635 AD when King Oswald invited an Irish monk named Aidan to travel east from Iona to introduce Irish Christianity to the northern kingdoms of the resident Anglo-Saxons. A cult later developed around the relics of St. Cuthbert, who served as the bishop of Lindisfarne in the late 7th Century. The Lindisfarne Gospels were created by the monks of Lindisfarne in the early 8th Century, but Viking raids beginning in 793 reduced the prominence of the church on the island.
The church regained its stature on the island after the Norman conquest of 1066, and Lindisfarne Priory was constructed about 1150. In 1537, about 400 years later, the priory was closed on the orders of King Henry VIII, and was abandoned. The ruins of the priory are a popular tourist destination, and the site is managed by English Heritage. You can imagine that there may have been a pair of impressive doors located in the archway that now serves as the entrance to the priory grounds.
Central Technical School is located on Bathurst Street in downtown Toronto. The school was opened in 1915 as the Toronto School Board’s flagship technical school.
The front entry has some interesting features. There are three pairs of oak doors at the front entrance to the school. Above the doors is a stone archway with some carved features. These include two sculpted gargoyles that represent industry and science, or technical and academic, depending on how you wish to interpret the two educational streams.
Featured above the archway is the original City of Toronto coat of arms, with the motto “Industry, Intelligence, Integrity”. It is the only school in Toronto to display this coat of arms, because the school was fully funded by the municipal government. It is also an early version of the City’s coat of arms. The shield consists of four quadrants, depicting the following: three lions, alluding to the coat of arms of England; a beaver (a symbol of the City’s history for industry and activity); a ship; and a sheaf of wheat. Standing on either side of the shield are an indigenous chief, with an axe and a bow; and Britannia, bearing a trident. A crown and another beaver are positioned above the shield.
Some of the doors at other entrances are painted blue – the official school colours are blue and white.
This is my second post dedicated to old school doors – to see my previous article, please check this link. Like all of my other posts on doors, this is my contribution for Norm’s Thursday Doors this week.