Thursday, November 27, 2014
The Story of Pews
A pew is something to sit upon, in a church mostly. It is my understanding that for the first millenium of Christian evolution, most churches did not include pews. People stood or sat on the floor. It wasn't until the 12th century that stone benches began to appear, and only later that these were affixed to the floor. By the 14th century and into the 15th, wooden benches were substituted for stone ones.
But it was the Reformation and the growing emphasis on sermons, those long, dull pastoral expositions, that led to a real need for congregants to have a place to sit. You didn't want people passing out onto stone or tile floors which was always a danger when a clergyman had a captive audience and no good reason to stop blathering.
Later, in some areas congregants had to buy their own pews. And in other places pews were available to rent. The point was to allow people to sit down before they fell down.
I've been in European Cathedrals which still have no permanent pews, but chairs which can be arranged for a variety of purposes.
The other day I read about "born again" pews. I'm not sure how they are any different from non-born again pews. Maybe they have little electric buzzers to give you a jolt if you start to drift off.
The pew in the picture above reminds me of pews I've seen in older Protestant churches in the U.S. It's quite plain, simple, utilitarian. The little carving on the ends indicates it's for religious use and not for a theater or some such. But I didn't find it in a church. I mean, really, what church would have a faux palm plant at the end of a pew? No, I found this in a fancy thrift store. I sat on it so I know it works, but I didn't buy it. What would I do with a pew?
I haven't been inside of a religious structure for some time, so I'm not sure if churches are still using pews or not. Perhaps they're installing theater seats which are cushioned and have little crevasses in the arms to put drinks. It would sure make it easier to get through a service if that were the case. Heck, if I were a church-goer, I might even buy one!