Illustrated Dictionary of British Churches - Gallery Definition

History and Architecture

Gallery

Generically speaking a gallery is a platform, raised above the church floor. Galleries were often located at the west end of the church, over the west door, and used to house musicians or singers performing during church services. For this reason they are sometimes called minstrel's galleries or musician's galleries. Uncommon during the medieval period, galleries came into use in the late 17th century. During Cromwell's Commmonwealth the playing of organs or similar instruments in churces was banned, and many organs were destroyed.

When singing and music was reintroduced during the Restoration period under Charles II, there was a shortage of organs, so local musicians joined forces and played during services. Galleries were built for the use of these musicians, often using wood from dismantled rood lofts and screens. When these musicians played, the congregation would turn to face the gallery. Organ playing once more gained popularity in the 18th century and many minstrel galleries were simply used as extra seating.

Related: Rood   Organ  

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