A lychgate, also spelled lichgate, lycugate, or as two separate words lych gate, (from Old English lic, corpse) is a gateway covered with a roof found at the traditional entrance to a (British) churchyard.
In the Middle Ages most people were buried in just shrouds rather than coffins, the dead were carried to the lych gate and placed on a bier, where the priest conducted the first part of the funeral service under its temporary shelter.
The gateway was really part of the church. It was where the clergy meet the corpse and the bier rests while part of the service is read before burial. It also served to shelter the pall-bearers while the bier was brought from the church. In some lych gates there stood large flat stones called lich-stones upon which the corpse, usually uncoffined, was laid. The most common form of lych gate is a simple shed composed of a roof with two gabled ends, covered with tiles or thatch. At Berrynarbor, Devon, there is a lych gate in the form of a cross, while at Troutbeck, Westmorland, there are three lych gates to one churchyard. Some elaborate gates have chambers over them.
Most were built from around the mid 15th century although some date from earlier, including the 13th century lychgate of St George's churchyard in Beckenham, South London, claimed to be the oldest in England.
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