*  Of interest to Family Historians - Hertfordshire Church of England Parish Registers from 1538 are now available online - only most recent registers are held at the church   *
The Decalogue Board


You can see one in St Mary’s, high up on the east wall of the chancel. The Decalogue (a word derived from the Greek) is the term for the Ten Commandments. The Decalogue Board is a large board upon which the Commandments are written. These became a regular part of church furnishings in the reign of Elizabeth I, when it was state policy to clear churches of the decorations and adornments, which were regarded as 'popish’.

Medieval churches had a rood screen, that is a screen between the chancel and the nave. There was a beam, or rood, on which were statues of Jesus Christ in the centre, with the Virgin Mary and St John on either side. Sometimes there was a rood loft, from which the gospel and epistle were read. Nearly all of these were removed after the Reformation, though in some parts of the country they may still be found, as can a few modern versions. Blocked up doors are often visible in old churches.

In 1560 Elizabeth ordered Archbishop Parker to see ‘that the tables of the Commandments be comely set or hung up in the east end of the chancel’. The Creed and Lord’s Prayer were not necessarily required to be displayed, but were felt to be ‘very fit companions’ for the Commandments. Decalogues were also set up on the tympanum - panelling which filled the curve of the chancel arch to replace the discarded roof loft.

In most churches today, the Decalogue boards have long since been removed from their position behind the altar and are usually displayed on a convenient wall of the nave or aisles. In St Mary’s the Commandments, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are visible in the chancel, having been cleaned a few years ago.
Do look at them!


Some years ago, Patricia Cook, a former Churchwarden at St. Mary's, wrote a series of informative articles on interesting aspects of the fabric of St. Mary's for the Parish Magazine. These are reproduced here, together with line drawings by Jean Atkinson, a well known local artist, who has been closely involved with St. Mary's for many years, including serving on the PCC.

The Amber Tankard Holy Water Stoup The Mass Dial
Seating over the years A hidden gem Gargoyles, Corbels or Label-stops?
Decalogue Board A rare tomb Elephants and Royal Arms
Pulpit Kesteven Brass The Somers Memorial
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