The Sanctuary
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The Sanctuary

The sanctuary is at the east end of the church, separated from the chancel by a step and altar rail. The sanctuary is the most sacred part of the church around its high altar.

Sanctuary was also the right to be safe. This was recognised by English law from the 4th to the 17th century. A person was safe from arrest in the sanctuary of a church or temple.

The Altar

The high altar is in the sanctuary. It is a raised table used for the celebration of the Eucharist/Holy Communion. It is sometimes called the 'Lord's Table' or the 'Communion Table' because it represents the table where Jesus shared the last supper with his disciples.

A cross and two candlesticks always stand on the altar. Sometimes the bookstand is also there.
The High Altar

The Altar Cross
Altar stand
Candle stick
Altar cross
Candle stick

The Altar Reredos

The Altar Reredos

The space between the top of the altar and the window-sill above has a beautifully carved stone ornamental screen called a reredos.

The two main carvings show grapes with a chalice of wine (left) and wheat with bread (right). In the middle of the centre carving is a dove.

Stone carvings on the Altar Reredos
Stone carvings on the Altar Reredos
Stone carvings on the Altar Reredos
Stone carvings on the Altar Reredos
Stone carvings on the Altar Reredos
Stone carvings on the altar reredos

The Niche and Sedilia

Sedilia are two stone canopied seats on the south side of the sanctuary. Within this space are two stained glass windows: The Last Supper 'Love One Another' and The Stoning of Stephen 'Faithful unto Death'.

The niche is a cut out place in the north sanctuary wall. Next to this is an aumbry which is a locked cabinet or safe in the wall to hold the consecrated (made sacred) bread and wine that is not used during the normal communion. This can then be taken to the ill or housebound who have asked for communion to be given to them at home. A wax sanctuary lamp stands in the niche next to the aumbry as a sign that this sacrament is stored here. The lamp is always burning to remind us that Christ is always present.

The sedilia
The Sedilia in the Sanctuary
A niche in the Sanctuary
The niche

The aumbry
The Aumbry

The Lamp
The lamp
The Sanctuary Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass has been used for hundreds of years to add beauty and colour to our churches. Many of our windows show biblical scenes, and these helped to teach the people about religion in the days when most of them could not read.

The separate pieces of glass each have their own colour and are set into strips of lead. The colours in early stained glass were each thought to have a meaning; for instance, red meant divine love, white - divine wisdom, yellow - faith, and so on.

See our Sanctuary/Chancel Stained Glass Windows page.

The Sanctuary Stained Glass Windows

St James's Church Quizzes

• Print out and fill in our St James's Sanctuary Quiz

Further Information

More detailed information can be found in the main site on the page Inside the church.

The Parish Church of St James, Hampton Hill, TW12 1DQ
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