Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Eagle Lecterns in the Church of England

Unfortunately, I recently attended a funeral at an Episcopal church in New England, and I noticed the beautiful lectern with a shiny metal eagle holding the bible on its backs with its wings spread. Being Lutheran by birth, I had not noticed a similar one until a 1997 trip to England, where all the parishes I visited in Norfolk had a similar “bookstand.” I decided to find out about the history and symbolism.

According to Stephen Friar, there are three types of lecterns in use in the Church of England. The first is a two- to four-sided revolving stand supported by a pillar. The second is a modern version of the first – a one-sided desk made in the 19th or 20th century.
The third and most often found is an eagle with outstretched wings made of wood or brass, the symbol of St. John who used the words ‘soared up into the presence of Christ’ in the New Testament books attributed to him. The bird’s open wings are functional for holding the bible or other liturgical books, but also symbolize carrying forth the word of God. Its feet are often resting on a globe or orb. Rarely, the bird might be a pelican, the mythical symbol of Christ.  

Medieval eagles are rare but Victorian Eagles are plentiful. Because of my Norfolk roots, I was happy to note that there was a fifteenth century East Anglican ‘school’ of artists who exported eagles to other parts of Britain and the continent. Here is a wooden example from St. Lawrence's Church, Biddulph, Staffordshire:
Source: Friar, Stephen. The Companion to the English Parish Church. London: Chancellor Press, 2000.

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