The Chancel area of the church consists of everything on the east side of the church where the choir and clergy sit during services. This area includes various woodwork and artistic depictions of biblical history.
On the north side of the choir area is the E. M. Skinner/ N.P. Mander organ which contains 98 stops over six manual divisions and two pedal divisions. The console is housed in a handsomely carved chest of the Arts and Crafts style on the South side of the church.
On each side of the chancel there are wooden choir stalls where the choir sits. On the ends of the stalls are delightful carvings of the heads of choir boys. One boy is singing, another is napping and perhaps another is plotting mischief. Behind the choir, decorative woodwork beautifies the wall.
When we think of churches like Christ Church Cranbrook, we use terms such as beautiful, majestic and awe-inspiring. We do not often use words like humorous. Traditionally, the misericords, carvings under the seats, focused on secular images but ours prompt humor and fun.
Misericords were created so that priests in the Middle Ages had a place to rest during the long services because they were expected to stand during the entire mass. The underside of the raised hinged seat provided a ledge on which one could rest while appearing to stand. The term “misericord” comes from the Latin words miseri meaning merciful and cord meaning heart.
The plain and austere top of the seat, when flipped up, reveals a variety of amazing carvings. There are a total of fourteen misericords located in the back row of the choir area of the church. The north side carvings show four of the seven deadly sins: gluttony, covetousness, anger and sloth. The south side carvings illustrate lust and charlatanism (deception) in art, politics, machinery, jazz, prize fighting transportation, big business, and prohibition along with founder George Booth and architect Oscar Murray engaged in lengthening the church. Each misericord uniquely depicts an aspect of the 1920’s, each with a main carving in the center and small carvings on either side.
The altar rail, which separates the Chancel from the Sanctuary, is a richly rendered wood carving. An inscription which begins “I am the true vine” continues across the whole length of the rail.
Above the altar is the reredos. Below in the center is the Presentation of the Child Christ in the Temple with Zacharias holding the infant Jesus with Mary and Joseph on either side of him. The other figures represent the Crown of Virtues including gifts such as faith, virtue, knowledge and patience, godliness and brotherly kindness. The female figure “Patience” can be seen trying to untangle a skein of yarn.
The top figure, Christ Triumphant, was carved by John Kirchmeyer (German-American, 1860-1930).
The general theme of the fresco surrounding the High Alter is the building of the Christian Church throughout the world and this narrative is told through figures from the Old and New Testament and from both ancient and modern-day church history. The design ascends from the assemblage of figures at the base representing the earthly church to the celestial choirs above.
The fresco was designed and executed from 1925-28 by Katherine McEwan (English American).
Learn more about the Fresco