1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lich-Gate

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LICH-GATE, or Lych-gate (from O. Eng. lic “a body, a corpse”; cf. Ger. Leiche), the roofed-in gateway or porch-entrance to churchyards. Lich-gates existed in England certainly thirteen centuries ago, but comparatively few early ones survive, as they were almost always of wood. One at Bray, Berkshire, is dated 1448. Here the clergy meet the corpse and some portion of the service is read. The gateway was really part of the church; it also served to shelter the pall-bearers while the bier was brought from the church. In some lich-gates there stood large flat stones called lich-stones upon which the corpse, usually uncoffined, was laid. The most common form of lich-gate is a simple shed composed of a roof with two gabled ends, covered with tiles or thatch. At Berrynarbor, Devon, there is a lich-gate in the form of a cross, while at Troutbeck, Westmorland, there are three lich-gates to one churchyard. Some elaborate gates have chambers over them. The word lich entered into composition constantly in old English, thus, lich-bell, the hand-bell rung before a corpse; lich-way, the path along which a corpse was carried to burial (this in some districts was supposed to establish a right-of-way); lich-owl, the screech-owl, because its cry was a portent of death; and lyke-wake, a night watch over a corpse.