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Is it a leper's squint (an opening that enabled lepers and other non-desirables could see the service without coming into contact with the other congregants)?


YES! Heavenlyjane got it right off. It's a "leper's squint" also known as a hagioscope.


Hmmmm. For some reason that makes me a little sad.


It should, Pixie. Lepers led terrible lives. I'll blog about leprosy in the Middle Ages some time -- it's interesting and very tragic. But unfortunately LOTS of people lived terrible lives back then. Thank God for antibiotics.


Gail - with the exception of the Anchorites / Anchoresses with cells in the church, I wonder if they were ever considered / rumored to be "witches" because of the hermit existence?


Witchcraft wasn't a really big thing in the Middle Ages. My guess is that medieval people would have thought of hermits as holy and/or crazy. It wasn't until the 16th century that the arguments developed in the Malleus Maleficarum (1487) began to gain widespread acceptance.

Fr. Paul

I have found the exchange very interesting, regarding lepers and anchorites, however, I don't think that the hole in the wall in the east of of the church is a leper's squint. There is a lot of speculation about such things but lepers were 'secluded', forced to live in communities together, in the mediaeval period, so it is not really very likely that they would have been able to approach a church. Secondly, the Mass was seen as something which was to be 'kept from' lay people - hence the erection of screens in churches behind which the Sacrament was celebrated, away from the gaze of ordinary people. It seems unlikely that they would make a hole in the East wall to allow people to view that which was hidden from the view of those in the church.


Can someone please identify the church in this photo? I am doing research on leper's squints and would like to include this one in my discussion. Thanks!


Susannah - I have just visited the church at Grinton near Richmond North Yorks and that has a leper's squint which is a window in this case set at an angle. The literature in the church said that it was very important in the middle ages for people to actually see the host being consecrated and this was a way for lepers even though many may not have leprosy but another skin disorder.

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