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Timothy Verdon

Term for a hillside or mountain site where numerous Christian shrines dramatize aspects of a single religious theme in an itinerary designed to lead pilgrims to a spiritual and topographical peak. Each of a series of chapels built along woodland paths ascending to a main church and monastery houses sculpture and painting illustrating successive episodes in the life of Christ or a saint: usually ...


Leslie Ross

Writings, often of a legendary nature, intended to honour the saints. These have inspired copious literary and artistic productions since the Early Christian period, when churches, shrines and martyria dedicated to saints became popular sites of pilgrimage. Although little evidence survives for the decoration of these monuments, it is clear that early picture cycles existed, depicting the honoured saints and/or episodes from their lives: ...



James Cordova and Claire Farago

Term that refers to handmade paintings and sculptures of Christian holy figures, crafted by artists from the Hispanic and Lusophone Americas. The term first came into widespread use in early 20th-century New Mexico among English-speaking art collectors to convey a sense of cultural authenticity. Throughout the Americas, the term ...


Katrin Kogman-Appel

Illuminated manuscript of the Passover liturgy to be recited during the seder ceremony at the eve of the Passover holiday, also containing a series of liturgical poems to be read during the Passover week (Sarajevo, N. Mus of Bosnia and Herzegovina.), possibly made in Aragon, ...


Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

Early Christian carved stone Sarcophagus (Rome, Vatican, Mus. Stor. A. Tesoro S Pietro) of Roman city prefect Junius Bassus who, according to an inscription on the sarcophagus, was ‘neofitus’ (newly baptized) at his death in 359. It was originally placed near the tomb of St Peter and discovered in ...


Peter Springer

Form of cross characterized by its association with the disc, circle, or wheel. A cross combined with a circle was an ancient symbol of sun worship and as such has been found in Bronze Age rock carvings. It was appropriated by Christians, who identified the sun with Christ, and Christ’s halo was often represented as a cross combined with a circle. Ringed monumental high crosses, which were common in Ireland and Britain from the 8th century ...


David Alan Robertson

Type of altarpiece produced primarily in Germany, Austria, and the Tyrol during the second half of the 15th century and the first two decades of the 16th. Related terms include Flügelaltar or Flügelretabel (both Ger.: ‘winged altarpiece’) and Wandelaltar (Ger.: ‘transforming’ or ‘changeable altarpiece’). Placed on both the high altar and side altars, and carved of native woods (mainly limewood and pine), ...


Elaine DeBenedictis

Term applied to nave chancels in medieval Roman churches on the basis of a supposed association with the eponymous body of papal chanters brought to renown by Pope Gregory I (reg 590–604). This association originates in the misinterpretation of a 16th-century description of S Clemente by Ugonio and was current by the 18th century. Although there is no evidence for the term being used in a topographical sense in the Middle Ages, it is nevertheless possible to trace the changing function and form of nave chancels from the Early Christian period to the 16th century (...


John Thomas, Katrina Kavan and John N. Lupia

Barrier for the subdivision of a church into areas of differing function and liturgical significance.

John Thomas

The division of churches into several zones by screens (as well as steps and different paving) is associated with the increasing tendency in the Middle Ages to understand churches in terms of the Temple of Jerusalem, with its separate courts and areas and their ascending holiness (...



Fixed stone seats reserved for the clergy on the south side of the choir of a church. Usually recessed and surmounted with canopies, they were in use in England by the 12th century and are rarely found in other European countries.

F. Bond: The chancel of English churches; the altar, reredos, lenten veil, communion table, altar rails, houseling cloth, piscina, credence, sedilia, aumbry, sacrament house, Easter sepulchre, squint, etc....


Robert G. Calkins

Book containing the forms of worship used in religious services. In the Christian religion, services are of two principal types, the sacrificial rite of the Mass in which Communion is celebrated, and the Divine Office, a cycle of daily devotions to be observed eight times during the day. The Sacramentary or ...


Nigel J. Morgan, John N. Lupia, Sheila S. Blair, Jonathan M. Bloom, Hana Knížková, Henrik H. Sørensen, Sian E. Jay, John Villiers and H. Stanley Loten

In its broadest sense, a shrine is any structure or place where worship or devotions are offered to a deity, spirit, or sanctified person. It may take many forms: a simple pile of stones, as in Tibet and Central Asia; an altar to family ancestors, as in East Asia; a cave or natural rock formation, as in Pre-Columbian America; a jewelled reliquary; or a vast pilgrimage church in Europe. In reference to the ancient world, the term ‘shrine’ is often used as an alternative to chapel, temple, or sanctuary (...


Term referring to the central carved panel of a winged altarpiece, especially used of late medieval German altarpieces.



Edward van Voolen

The term commonly refers to the book containing the order of the regular Jewish prayer service for weekdays and the Sabbath, in contrast to the Machzor, which includes the liturgy for the yearly festival cycle. Codified from the 9th century ad onwards, the siddur and machzor were originally one unit, the distinction in terminology and content dating from the High Middle Ages. After the invention of the printed book, small-format siddurim were printed for individual use. The text itself was rarely, if ever, illustrated. The earliest title pages, printed in Italy ...



Pippin Michelli

Bucket-shaped vessel, often used in a Christian context to contain holy water. Late Antique examples include two fine glass situlae in the treasury of S Marco, Venice: one, probably dating from the 4th century ad and made in Rome or Alexandria of purple glass, bears deeply carved Dionysiac figures; the other, perhaps of 6th- or 7th-century date, is decorated with hunting scenes. The most elaborate surviving situlae, however, are Ottonian. Made from a single piece of ivory and lavishly carved, these four examples range in height from 145 mm to 185 mm (Milan, Tesoro Duomo; Aachen, Domschatzkam.; London, V&A; New York, Cloisters). They are difficult to date precisely on grounds of style, inscription, or iconography, although they can be associated with Ottonian imperial circles....


Anne-Françoise Leurquin

Manual for religious and moral instruction commissioned by Philip III, King of France (reg 1270–85), from his confessor, the Dominican Frère Laurent. The work was finished in 1279–80 and was a literary success. Over 100 manuscript copies have survived, with printed editions appearing in the 15th century, and translations were made into English, Castilian, Catalan, Italian, Dutch and Occitan....


In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....


William M. Voelkle

Portable altar–reliquary (New York, Morgan Lib.), made c. 1156 for the Stavelot Abbey in the Ardennes, Belgium and decorated with both Mosan and Byzantine enamels (see fig.). The reliquary is named after the Benedictine abbey headed by Wibald of Stavelot, its enlightened abbot from ...



E. Errington, Howard A. Wilson, John Villiers, Henrik H. Sørensen, Erberto F. Lo Bue, Young-Ho Chung and Ken Brown

Dome-shaped mound, often containing sacred relics. It became the primary cult monument of Buddhist and also Jaina monastic establishments in India. The stupa retained its importance as Buddhism spread across Asia, and a variety of stupa types evolved.

The stupa’s origin is almost certainly the tumulus or funerary mound. According to the ...


Place of worship other than a temple or church. The term was used for the demountable tent put up by the Israelites in the wilderness, as described in the book of Exodus. In modern times it is sometimes applied to temporary structures erected by dissenting religious groups (e.g. the Baptists and other nonconformists)....