Pulpitum Steps

The Pulpitum Screen by DAVID ILIFF (2014). Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0

Western Nave

<q>Fire Watchers Memorial</q><br><q>Font</q><q>Great West Window</q>

Eastern Nave

<q>Pulpit</q> <q>Altar</q><br><q>Compass Rose</q>

Western Crypt (South Aisle)

<q>Huguenot Chapel</q><br><q>Our Lady Undercroft</q><br><q>St Gabriel Chapel</q>

Eastern Crypt

<q>Watching Chamber</q><br><q>"Transport"</q><br><q>Jesus Chapel</q>

Western Crypt (North Aisle)

<q>Ch. of Holy Innocents</q><br><q>St Nicholas Ch.</q><br><q>St Mary Magdalene Ch.</q>

Martyrdom

<q>Altar of the Sword Point</q><br><q>The Deans' Chapel</q>

Pulpitum Steps

<q>Royal Window </q><q>Bell Harry</q><q>Great South Window</q>

Choir

<q>Parclose Screen</q><br><q>Archbishop's Throne</q><br><q>St Augustine's Chair</q>

North Choir Aisle

<q>Chichele Tomb</q><br><q>Bible Windows</q><br><q>Northeast Transept</q>

Trinity Chapel North

<q>Opus Alexandrinum</q><br><q>Miracle Windows</q><br><q>Henry IV Tomb</q><br><q>Becket Shrine</q>

Trinity Chapel South

<q>Corona Chapel</q><br><q>Black Prince</q><br><q>Miracle Windows</q>

South Choir Aisle

<q>St Anselm's Chapel</q><br><q>Bossanyi Windows</q><br><q>Southeast Transept</q>

Southwest Transept

<q>St Michael's Chapel</q><br><q>Whall Window</q><br><q> Crypt access & Exit</q>

Great Cloister

<q>Heraldic shields</q><br><q>South, East, North & West panes</q><br><q>Cloister Garth</q>

Chapter House

<q>Wagon Vault</q><br><q>Victorian stained glass</q>

 Hint. View the map ‘landscape’ on small screens.

MapThis is the focal point of the Cathedral and, from the foot of the steps leading into the Choir, it is the ideal place to view the Nave below, the magnificent fan vault  above your head and, though the Pulpitum arch, into the Choir and Trinity Chapel beyond. Two significant stained glass windows – the (north) Royal Window (c. 1480) and the Great South Window (c.1428) – can also be viewed from here.

access.  The top platform of the Pulpitum steps can be reached from the Choir side of the Pulpitum arch.

This part of the Cathedral was subject to energetic rebuilding and remodelling between c.1420 and 1508, the end result of which was, in greater part, the Cathedral that you see today.

  • Height of fan vault above floor:  38 metres (125 feet)
  • Overall height of “Bell Harry” tower: 71 metres (235 feet)
  • Width across NW-SW Transept: 38 metres (125 feet)

Note the contrasting styles of Gothic architecture visible from here. The Nave and SW Transept are built in the Perpendicular style whereas the Choir (1174-1180) is a fine example of the Early English style.

What's here?

Orientation. Facing east, the Pulpitum Screen is front of you, the (north) Royal Window is to your left and the Great South Window is to your right.

On either side of the Pulpitum arch there are statues of six “kings” – though recent research suggests that the second figure from the left is not, as previously thought, Richard II, but Queen Bertha, wife of King Ethelbert of Kent, who at the end of the sixth century played a key part in the restoration of Christianity to the kingdom, and to the foundation of the Cathedral itself. The identification of the statues at either end of the six as Henry V and Henry VI has also be re-assessed – see note below.

  • Henry VI 1422-1461
  • Queen Bertha, and
  • King Ethelbert 580-616 – holding a small cathedral

then…

  • Edward the Confessor 1042-1066
  • Henry IV 1399-1413 – his tomb is in the Trinity Chapel
  • Henry V 1413-1422

Note. The fleurs de lys in the crown of the leftmost royal statue suggest that this is Henry VI and not his father Henry V as previously assumed. Whilst Henry V’s famous victory over the French at Agincourt in 1415 entitled him (under the 1420 Treaty of Troyes) to inherit the French crown on the death of the French king Charles VII, he did not live long enough to claim it (both died in 1422). In the event, it was Henry V’s infant son, Henry VI who became King of France – thus the fleurs de lys in his crown. 

The Yorkist Royal Window, was made at the height of the Wars of the Roses (1455-87). When it was completed, c. 1480 it was named “Our Lady’s Window” as it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and contained images of Christ and the 12 Apostles, seven panels  depicting the Virgin Mary, as well as Thomas Becket ‘in full proportion’. The window was a gift of Edward IV. It is said to have been “one of the most magnificent stained glass windows in England”.

In December 1642 the Rev. Richard Culmer – “Blue Dick” – at the head of a group of Puritan zealots arrived at the Cathedral with ladders and pikes and, declaring, “I am doing the work of the Lord”, set about smashing as much of the sacred stained glass, statuary and other “papist” artefacts as he and his followers could reach.

The lower register (row of glass) containing the portraits of Edward IV and his family was spared significant damage. It was subsequently moved up by one register to fill the space left behind by the broken glass.

From left to right, the royal figures are –

  • Prince Richard of York (1473-83)
  • Edward (V) Prince of Wales (1470-83)
  • King Edward IV (1471-1483)
  • His wife, Queen Elizabeth Woodville (m. 1464)
  • Princesses Ann (1475-1511), Catherine (1479-1527), Bridget (1480-1517), Elizabeth of York (1466-1503) and Cecily (1467-1509)

On Edward IV’s death in 1483, Parliament annulled the marriage and declared their children illegitimate. Edward IV’s brother, Richard III (1483-1485), took power. The two young Princes were imprisoned in the Tower of London and never seen again.

In 1485 Henry Tudor – Henry VII – defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, and, in 1486, Princess Elizabeth of York married Henry VII, thereby bringing to an end the struggle between the Houses of Lancaster and York.

Please exercise caution when looking up -stand clear of the edge of the steps.

Soaring 39 metres (128 feet) above the Pulpitum platform is John Wastell`s magnificent fan vault, completed in 1504. The circular wooden centrepiece bearing the arms of Christ Church Priory (a white cross on a blue background) is a trap door, 2 metres (6.5 feet) wide, through which building materials could be hoisted from the floor below.

The hoist, housed inside the bell chamber was powered by the Great Treadwheel (c. 1495) operated by two men, with a third on the brakes. Though no longer used, it is still in working order after 500 years!

A genealogical window – “The Ancestors of Christ”

This impressive window, the widest in the cathedral at 7.6m (25ft) wide and almost 17m (55ft) high, dates from the remodelling of the Southwest Transept in the Perpendicular style in 1428. Almost all of the original 15th century glass was smashed by Puritan iconoclasts in 1642/3. The ancient glass you see here today, depicting 24 ancestors of Christ (as named in the gospels of Luke and Matthew), was relocated here in the 1790s – 22 of them are original and date from 1130-1220, 2 are copies.

After the Puritan destruction of 1642/3, the window was eventually reglazed in the1660s, following the Restoration of Charles II, though the glass was of poor quality. By 1790, the replacement glass and the original 1428 stonework had deteriorated to the extent that extensive repairs were needed so, in1799, it was decided to relocate a number of the “genealogical” glass panels from their positions high up in the clerestories of the Choir and Trinity Chapel to the South and West windows, where they could be more easily appreciated.

The genealogical glass that is now in the Great South and West windows has been dated to between 1178 and 1220 –the period of 42 years, covering the reconstruction of the Choir following the disastrous fire of 1174, to the grand opening of the new Becket Shrine, Trinity and Corona Chapels in 1220.

In the 1980s, the art historian Prof Madeline Caviness suggested that four of the ancestors’ portraits, including the two central panels in the top row of this window depicting King David and his son, the prophet Nathan, appeared to be from an even earlier period, as they are stylistically different from the others in the series.

In 2021, this hypothesis was tested by researchers from University College London (UCL) using a custom-built, handheld spectrometry device that they called a Windolyser, which dated the portrait of Nathan to around 1130, forty years before the Becket murder, making it the oldest surviving stained glass anywhere in the world.

Among the more familiar Old Testament ancestors in the window (to the contemporary eye) are Abraham (second row, left), Noah (bottom row, 2nd left) and Methuselah (bottom row, 5th left).

In June 2009 a structural inspection revealed that a major overhaul of the 18th century metal reinforcing bars inserted into the window was required. The complex restoration project, carried out between 2013 and 2016, involved sourcing 40 tons of compatible limestone from Lavoux in central France and the painstaking restoration and re-assembly of the stained glass.

To the right of the Pulpitum arch, looking through into the Choir, is a stone bench known as the Seat of the Ostiarius. The Choir was reserved for the sole use of the monks of the adjoining Christchurch Priory (dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540). The Ostiarius Chori (“the Guardian of the Choir”) was the monk charged with ensuring that only those connected with the Priory entered.

Collapse all

Where next?

 Continue through the Pulpitum arch into the X Choir