Though you may find yourself sitting in them at least once a week, you probably never gave much thought to churchpews, where they come from and why they are a standard piece of church furniture. Read on for some interesting facts you probably didn’t know about worship seating.
1. Churches didn’t always have pews.
Before the Protestant Reformation, churches didn’t typically have permanent pews. In fact, it wasn’t until the sermon became a central act of Christian worship (especially in Protestantism) that churchpews became a standard item of church furniture.
2. The first pews were not made of wood.
Introduced in the 13th century, the first pews were nothing more than removable stone benches that were placed against church walls.
3. They were once used to generate income.
Before the early/mid twentieth century, many Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian churches would rent out their pews to families and individuals as a means of raising money. The practice ended when it became surrounded by controversy in the 1840s and 1850s and Anglo-Catholic parishes emerged as “Free Churches”, meaning they didn’t rent their used church pews.
4. Steeples came first.
Churches have been furnished with steeples since about 600AD, making them an older part of church architecture than churchpews.
5. They aren’t just used for worship seating anymore!
In private homes, antique church pews are popularly used as bench seating in dining areas and entry ways. Not only are they functional, they are also a unique conversation piece.
Even today most christian churches use church pews for seating, keeping the traditions of older days alive. Some places of worship, however, have adopted a more modern seating arrangement by replacing pews with chairs or cushioned seating.