were ranges of seats placed in the choirs of churches or chapter houses for the use of the clergy, for the religious in a monastery, or for canons. In the most ancient churches of the West, in the cathedrals and great minsters, the abbot or bishop sat at the head of the choir, behind the altar. Around him, on semicircular benches of wood or stone, were ranged the capitulars. After the. 13th century the seats of the clergy were placed in front of the sanctuary; on either side of what is now called the choir. In cathedrals and other large buildings they were enclosed at the back with paneling, and were surmounted by overhanging canopies of open tabernacle work, which were often carried up to a great height, and enriched with numerous pinnacles, crockets, pierced tracery, and other ornaments. Examples of stalls of this kind remain in most of the English cathedrals and in many other churches. In some cases two rows were used, the outer one only being surmounted by canopies. It was also raised a step or two higher than the other, as in Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster. In ordinary parish churches the stalls were without canopies, and frequently had no paneling at the back above the level of the elbows; but in many instances the walls over them were lined with wooden panels having a cornice above, corresponding with the screen under the rood loft. of which a very good specimen remains at Etchingham, Sussex. When the chancel had aisles behind the stalls, the backs were formed by the side screens, which were sometimes close and sometimes of open work. The chief seat on the dais in a domestic hall was sometimes a stall, as in (the ruins of) the palace of the archbishop of Canterbury at Mayfield, Sussex, where it is of stone.
The stall consists of (1) misericord, patience, or subsellium, a folding seat turning on hinges or pivots; (2) book desk, prie-dieu, podium; (3) parclose, sponda, the lateral pillar or partition, the upper carved part forming the museau; (4) croche, or accoudoir (accotoir), the elbow rest; (5) dorsal, the wainscot back; (6) dais, baldaquin, the canopy or tabernacle work. In the east of France and Germany there is usually only one range of stalls.
Gangways with stairs (entrees) are openings permitting access to the upper stalls, which are raised on a platform. The lower stalls stand on the ground, or upon an elevation of one step. The upper or hindmost range of stalls (hautes stalles) were restricted to the capitulars or senior monks from the time of Urban II, sitting in order of installation or profession. In cathedrals the four dignitaries occupy the four corners to overlook the choir — the dean on the southwest, the precentor on the northwest, the chancellor on the southeast, and the treasurer on the northeast. Next to them sat archdeacons, and in some places the subdean and subchantor of canons occupied the nearest stalls to them westward, as the priest vicars did on the eastern side. In the middle ranges (basses stalles) were canons, deacons, or subdeacons, and their vicars, annuellars, and chaplains. In the lowermost range were clerks and choristers, occupying forms or benches without arms or backs. At Pisa the canons' stalls were distinguished by coverings of green cloth, and in Italy generally by cushions. The hebdomadary, principal cantor, and master of the choir sat at the head of the second row. The cantors had their folding chairs in England and France, and the celebrant was provided in many places with an elbow or arm chair. The name of his prebend and the antiphon of the psalm which each canon was bound to recite daily for his benefactors and departed canons were written up over his stall, as at St. Paul's, Lincoln, Chichester, Wells, to which was added afterwards a notice of his preaching turn at Hereford. Citations to residence were affixed by the prebendary's vicar upon his stall. At Lichfield every canon was provided with his own light and book in the choir.
The word stall is also used to signify any benefice which gives the person holding it a seat or stall with the chapter, in a cathedral or collegiate church.