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Home » Books » Nonfiction » Social Sciences » Archaeology

Stairway to Heaven

The Functions of Medieval Upper Spaces

By Toby Huitson

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Format: Paperback, 264 pages
Other Information: b/w & colour throughout
Published In: United Kingdom, 26 March 2014
Spiral stairs, galleries and upper chambers in medieval cathedrals, abbeys and parish churches have been an enduring source of fascination to scholars since the eighteenth century. But what were these secret stairs, mysterious galleries and hidden upper rooms actually used for - and how can we know? This book presents the evidence for the practical functions of ecclesiastical upper spaces from c. 1000-1550 as revealed through the widest selection of medieval visual, documentary, and artistic media ever assembled for the purpose, taking in treasuries to dovecotes, libraries to lights, and secret games of skittles over the vaults to the daring exploits of the twelfth-century 'Flying monk'. Toby Huitson considers these topics with many others, offering a radically new understanding of medieval high-level function. Dr Toby Huitson teaches at the University of Kent, Canterbury.

Table of Contents

1. The Architecture of Medieval Upper Spaces 2. Devotional Spaces Holy Spaces Sacred Sights 3. Performing the Liturgy Lights Sound Drama 4. Supporting the Liturgy Organising the Liturgy Intellectual Life 5. Behind the Scenes Accommodating the Community The Building Fabric Hidden Assets 6. Beyond the Everyday Dangerous Men Experiment and Entertainment 7. Forms and Functions 8. Conclusions


One evening not so long ago, Toby Huitson clambered up the 58 steep spiral steps to the clerestory passage in the church of St Leonard, Hythe, in Kent, laden with good fat beeswax candles. The result of his labours is shown in a photograph in his splendid new book, Stairway to Heaven (Oxbow, GBP35) ... a thorough and fascinating exploration of it, with the role of lights, music, ceremony and dramatic special effects exemplified from medieval sources, with plenty of colour illustrations to show what is meant. If I hadn't got a copy already, I'd have asked for one for Christmas. -- The Telegraph The Telegraph This is a well-written and authoritative contribution to a relatively neglected area of ecclesiastical architecture. Beautifully illustrated and competitively priced, this will appeal to anyone interested in medieval churches. -- Journal of Kent History Journal of Kent History This is a ground-breaking study, packed with fascinating information: it opens our eyes to many largely forgotten aspects of life and work in the upper parts of medieval religious buildings. -- Warwick Rodwell Warwick Rodwell

EAN: 9781842176658
ISBN: 184217665X
Publisher: Oxbow Books
Dimensions: 24 x 17 centimetres (0.77 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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