Here is a New Liturgical Movement article about rood screens. Earlier article from the same blog. There are some lovely photos. What I really find significant is that present-day Catholics are becoming interested in the rood screen, for it had been largely the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation that worked towards its demise. Comparatively few are found outside England. Two I have personally seen here in France are at Saint Bertrand des Comminges (with an extraordinary baroque organ in a Renaissance case) and Saint-Etienne du Mont in Paris (where Maurice Duruflé was organist for many years). The Cathedral of Auch, also here in France has a choir screen with an organ on it in English fashion. Google search under "jubé" for images of rood screens in Europe.
The screen was usually in solid stone in cathedrals and large collegiate or abbey churches, and in carved wood in the parish churches. Most of the big stone screens in England have been used for organ lofts, as there is no better place in acoustic terms to put the organ. Screens without organs on them have a Calvary.
The French word jubé comes from Jube, Domne, benedicere (Pray, Lord, a blessing) which the deacon asks from the priest before reading the Gospel, which he did from the top of the choir screen. The French screen combined three elements:
the tref (beam of glory) carrying the crucifix and the statues of Our Lady and Saint John
- a division between the nave and the choir with a central gate
- one or two ambos.
The Council of Trent wanted a more didactical presentation of the Catholic liturgy to compete against the advance of Protestantism, and encouraged (in some places ordered) the removal of choir screens. The choir and the altar had to become visible for the faithful. They were replaced by pulpits and communion rails, sometimes as late as the 19th century. The rule applied in most parish churches and cathedrals, but private chapels were exempt – as can often be found in Brittany. Medieval churches that no longer have a rood screen still often bear traces such as cut-away pillars and a spiral staircase and door leading nowhere. Ironically, Anglican churches were devastated by the Reformation and Puritan iconoclasm – but were unaffected by the Council of Trent. More choir screens remain in England than anywhere else in the world.
At a pastoral level, the iconostasis does not seem to prevent Eastern Orthodox lay faithful from participating at their own level in the Divine Liturgy. Most screens in parish churches are of the open wooden type that can be seen through.