It should not be omitted here, that the triforium arcading (also the work of Stapledon) immediately above the sedilia, contains a manifest repetition, in form of hood-terminations, of the royal and episcopal heads below. These then, being in excellent preservation, would furnish the motif for the restoration of those heads, and of the statues in the canopies. The head of the Confessor is encircled by the simple circle or "diadem" of the Saxon Kings for a crown, an indication, perhaps, of its being a traditionally preserved effigy. The head of the ascetic Confessor is that of "a lean and gnarled man." The countenance of the queen is more remarkable for vigour than for beauty.
Altogether there are few more curious and remarkable monuments in England than our present sedilia. We should be glad to know the name of the artist to whom we are indebted for the carving of the canopies: and though we have no direct evidence of it, it is probable that it was a Frenchman, William de Monta-cute. To him we certainly owe, among other work, carved doors (1302) for the Choir (now lost, unless the existing wooden ones are meant), and brackets and bosses, etc, in 1313.
Concurrently with the sedilia work, that of the triforium-arcading of the entire presbytery - Staple-don's supplement, it will be remembered, to Bitton's arcading of the chorus cantorum, - was going on. The "thirty-eight marble columns for the arcades (alurce, galleries), between the great altar and the choir, with little capitals (capitrellis) and bases" (Fabric Rolls, 1316,) (54) could not be more accurately described for purposes of identification. And we know the cost of them, viz., 5s. 6d. for each column; sixpence apiece more than was given a few years after for the corresponding shafts in the nave. The bill for colouring and gilding them is also forthcoming, bearing date two years later (1318-19). (55) We have "nine heads," and again nineteen more "in the new arcades" - the rest of the work was flowers. The Choir aisles also, it seems, received at this time a finishing touch in the painting and gilding of their bosses (56) carved some years before (see Note 35.)
Stapledon had now worked his way steadily from the west to the east of the Choir, marking every step by fittings of the utmost beauty: - First the Stalls, then the Throne, then the Sedilia. It only remained to provide the High Altar itself, and furnish it with a reredos or screen. Of the altar, however, we find no other record than an order for " iron bars, for it and its tabernacle;" and the preparation of one large slab "for decoration." It is said by Leland, 1538 (Oliver pp. 176, 208) to have been of silver; and it certainly had a silver slab, as the rolls testify (57). Of the canopied reredos we have fuller details. But while the Rolls (1318-1322) testify to the exceeding costliness of the work (as may be seen in Oliver, pp. 381, 382), we still can form but little idea of the character of it, save that it was rich with statuary, colouring, and gold. Every portion of it has long since disappeared. The cost of it was no less than œ319 11s. 1 1/2d.; a sum which must be multiplied by 25, at least, to give its present value - about .œ7500. We may gather from this, the lowest possible estimate of it, some idea of its magnificence. We know also (if we read the Rolls aright) that it contained no less than 54 marble columns or shafts, great and small, supporting capitals or brackets. Above, as it should seem (for the entries are very obscure), was a canopy of considerable extent, wrought with bosses internally. The whole seems to have been surmounted by the figure of our Lord (58).
And now only one more feature was needed to complete the Choir fittings. This was the Screen at the west end. Our worthy historians in time past (especially Britton p. 90, and Oliver, p. 382) have been much exercised by numerous entries in the Rolls respecting "the pulpit" - "la pulpytte," as it is always written. This they supposed to refer to some pulpit for outdoor preaching, perhaps "on the north side of the cathedral." But it is plain that here, as in many other Churches, it meant the loft at the west end of the choir, called the pulpit, because the Epistle and Gospel, and sermons on occasion, were delivered from it. And we have very full details of the erection of our "pulpytte" by Stapledon. In 1317 there is a payment for "gear (hernesium) for 4 columns for la pulpytte." A deposit of 12s. is made "in part payment of 8 marks," i.e. œ5 6s. 8d. In the following year we have, accordingly,"four columns with bases, sub-bases, and capitals, œ5 6s. 8d.;" manifestly (though it is not so stated) the same articles as were bargained for in the former year. And in fact the details correspond very exactly with the four marble shafts now supporting the screen, more especially as to the unusual features of "bases and sub-bases." These entries, and others which follow, fix beyond a doubt the date of this erection; the depressed form of the arches notwithstanding. Other details are, 243 feet of marble steps (rather a puzzling item for the out-door pulpit theory) . 500 lbs. of iron to make the great bars which, as is necessary in such structures, held the screen together, and remain to this day; two altars, with marble fronts and other fittings (St. Mary's on the south, St. Nicholas, on the north side of the entrance (59). The Dean and Chapter were so much pleased with the manner in which William Canon (of whom we have heard before, and shall hear again) executed the marble works contracted for by him, that they presented him "of their courtesy" (ex curialitate) with the sum of œ4 - fully equal to œ100, at least, of our money. (60). Other charges occur for the doors of the screen, which still remain, and for carving the heads for the vaulting of the 'cloister' under it;" (61) for 2,000 tiles, many of which still remain in the floor of the organ loft; and for numerous statues, twelve of which occupied the upper two panels. (62) These entries belong to the year 1324-5; so that the work of the screen extended over seven years.