stall, small division of a larger space, sometimes partly partitioned. The term is used for a booth for display and selling at an exhibition, for a compartment in a stable or kennel, or, in England, for the forward seats in a theater orchestra. In a church or cathedral the stalls are the fixed seats built in rows along the sides of the chancel and used by the clergy and choir. They formed part of the church furniture at an early period when the officiating clergy had increased in number. At first movable seats, they later became an architectural feature. The choir stalls may be arranged in a single tier or in several tiers, one behind another. The prayer rest for each stall is formed by the back of the one preceding it. Each seat folds back to give space for kneeling or standing, and the miserere or projecting corbel upon its under surface then furnishes a rest for the priest in the long periods of standing. In the medieval stalls the miserere was carved with scenes from everyday life or with fabulous animal forms, called misericords. From the 14th cent. onward the stalls became objects of the woodcarver's limitless skill, with high, traceried backs and sculptured arms. The uppermost tier was often crowned by high gables or by canopies of richest tabernacle work, supported on colonnettes and terminating in spires. The magnificent stalls (c.1530) in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, assigned to the use of the Knights of the Garter, are of this kind.
See M. D. Anderson, Misericords (1954).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.