Everyone –religious or not — can recognize a building as a church from the outside just by looking at a church steeple. Local churches are often the oldest building within any parish, meaning that elements like a church steeple and church furniture are often the original. On the inside, as well there is also a very recognizable, old element in churches that are often overlooked: church pews. A Brief History of Church Pews:
- Apart from a few Orthodox religious groups, pews can be found in practically every church across the United States. People have used church pews since the 13th century, having removable stone benches placed alongside the inner walls of the church. Before this time period around the Protestant Reformation, however, pews weren’t really used.
- As church sermons became an integral part of religious sermons, the church pew became a standard part of the church so that people could sit. In churches where prayers are carried out upon bended knee, there are church pews often equipped with cushioned kneelers in front of the bench.
- From the 1600s-1800s, only certain people could sit in certain areas of the church. For instance, wealthier individuals were assigned to the seats closest to the altar while peasants sat toward the back.
- In the 20th century, it became common for churches to rent out pews in order to raise income. This was a common practice with Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics alike. Antique church pews would often fetch a high price, as they were revered as being an important part of the original church.
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