Ranworth's nave is a simple rectangle, lacking side aisles. In order to create side chapels for week day masses, two partitions were attached to the front of the screen. These are known as parcloses.
As you face the Rood screen, the projecting wing to your left is the North Parclose, on which the top figure is a bishop in full vestments. This bishop has generally been regarded as St Felix who was one of the first Christian missionaries to East Anglia. The Saint below him is Stephen, carrying a cloth containing the stones with which he was martyred and reading a gospel book. More immediately recognisable is England's patron St George, in armour with a white surcoat bearing his red cross. He is not fighting on horseback, as on most pub signs, but trampling the dragon, in its final death throes.
The other side of the screen arch is the south parclose. The top figure here is a young archbishop. The letter 't' can be discerned on his collar, suggesting that this maybe an image of St Thomas a Becket. Beneath is St Lawrence holding a gospel book and the gridiron on which he was roasted. Like St Stephen he wears a deacons dalmatic. This sleeved vestment was worn at the mass by mediaeval clergy. The Archangel Michael is positioned opposite St George. This pair of military saints would have protected the holiest part of Ranworth church and also the village. The artistic quality of these panels is exceptionally high. In the lower part of the panel you can see the severed head of the dragon which was revealed by the extensive restoration work on the rood screen by Pauline Plummer in the 1970's.
St Stephen - Carries a cloth containing the stones with which he was martyred. According to the Acts of the Apostles he was a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem. Accused of blasaphemy , at his trial he made a long speech fiercely denouncing Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgement on him, and then was stoned to death. He was the first martyr of Christianity, or protomartyr.
St Lawrence - ordained as a deacon by Pope Sixtus II in 257 AD. He was appointed him first among the seven deacons who served in the patriarchal church. He is therefore called “archdeacon of Rome”, a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the church. After the death of the Pope the Prefect of Rome demanded he hand over all the riches of the church, when he refused and suffered a martyr’s death, roasted on a gridiron.
St George was a soldier in the Roman army who later became venerated as a Christian martyr. In the third century Emperor Diocletian issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods of the time. Not wanting to lose his best tribune and the son of his best official, Gerontius, Diocletian tried to persuade George to recant his Christianity, even offering him gifts of land, money, and slaves. George's refusal meant that Diocletian had no choice but to execute him. Before his execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself for martyrdom on the 23rd April 303.
St Michael is an Archangel in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Michael leads God's armies against Satan's forces in the Book of Revelation, where he defeats Satan in a heavenly war. He is depicted on the parclose panel slaying the seven headed Beast of the Apocalypse. Under his surcoat he wears the scale armour shown in mediaeval images of angelic soldiers. The feathers on his wings are beautifully depicted. The slight damage to his face probably occurred at the time of the Reformation and is a rare example of deliberate damage to the screen panels.
St Thomas a Becket
St Thomas a Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He engaged in conflict with Henry II of England over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the King in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after his death, he was canonised by Pope Alexander III. Henry VIII ordered all of his images to be erased. Therefore this maybe a remarkable survival of his image. The Scottish-born architect and Gothic Revivalist, Sir Ninian Comper, sketched the gloves and mitre and used them as a basis for the vestments worn by the Bishop of Norwich at the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. Four years later the Bishop of Norwich wore the mitre at a service in Stratton Strawless. This was the first occasion since the Reformation that a bishop had worn a mitre in the Norwich diocese.
Along with the Celtic monk St Fursey, St Felix is recognised as one of the first apostles to East Anglia and its first bishop. He died in 647 AD. In the panel his hand is raised in blessing.