On my pilgrimages, I’ve seen some really good examples of medieval rood screens. These were the wooden partitions installed in churches in the late middle ages, generally at the point where the chancel met the nave. The focal point of the structure was the crucifix, or rood in the language of the time, at the highest point on the upper level of the screen.
Rood screens were rich in imagery and included numerous small statues and painted panels depicting Biblical figures and saints. It was this feature of rood screens that first attracted the attention of the Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century, when the images and central rood were often removed from these structures. This was because the reformers challenged the veneration of saints which was so much a feature of medieval religious life. The rood screen would also have had the effect of separating the congregation in the nave of the church from the priest as he administered the mass or Holy Communion at the altar in the chancel. This was in contradiction to the new Protestant emphasis on the priesthood of all believers.
As a result of these two factors, most rood screens in Welsh and English churches were at least defaced in the sixteenth century. Any remaining images and often the screen itself were then often destroyed in the seventeenth century as the Puritans consolidated the religious thinking of the Reformation. However, some screens survived perhaps until the nineteenth century when they tended to fall victim to new trends in church interiors. The ones that remain today are wonderful reminders of the former richness of medieval church decoration and fittings.