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Article

Alexander Nagel

An image-bearing structure set on the rear part of the altar (see Altar, §II), abutting the back of the altarblock, or set behind the altar in such a way as to be visually joined with the altar when viewed from a distance. It is also sometimes called a ...

Article

Diptych  

Nigel J. Morgan

Two wood, ivory, or metal panels of equal size, usually hinged together so that they can be folded, and closed with some form of clasp. There are usually images on the inside surfaces of the panels and sometimes also on the outer sides. The panels are most commonly vertical rectangles; ...

Article

Dossal  

Term for an Italian panel painting hung in front of or behind an altar.

Article

V. Sekules

Temporary structure set up in church to simulate the place of Christ’s burial for a symbolic enactment of the Entombment and Resurrection. The Tomb of Christ and the later sacrament house, although also concerned with the bodily presence of Christ, belong to a separate tradition (see below). Special rites for Easter in which some kind of Easter sepulchre played a part are found in some 400 texts from medieval Europe. The earliest description is in the 10th-century English ...

Article

Gordon Campbell

Term variously used to denote a Faldistorium or a cushioned stool at which a worshipper kneels for prayer or a small desk at which the litany is said or sung (see also Oratory).

Article

Font  

John Thomas, Marina Falla Castelfranchi, Marchita Bradford Mauck and Iris Kockelbergh

Object in which, or by which, baptism, the Christian rite of initiation, is practised. Evolving modes of liturgical practice, most notably the adoption of infant baptism (see §3 below), resulted in widely varying physical forms and positioning within the church.

According to Christian belief, John the Baptist baptized people in the River Jordan, washing them clean of sin. Jesus, however, told his followers that they must be reborn through baptism: ‘except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). Christian baptism is thus a ritual dying and rebirth as a new person, entering the tomb of death (or the womb, for the second time) and being resurrected to a new life, sharing in the experiences of Christ, who himself suffered death but was reborn. The font, therefore, is an item of liturgical furniture, but it is also a physical symbol, embodying the ideas of death and rebirth. Some of the earliest fonts that have been identified were shaped like a coffin or tomb; others, being circular, approximated more to the womb. The numbers six and eight are found in early baptismal architecture, in the shape of either the font or the ...

Article

Icon  

Richard Temple

Wooden panel with a painting, usually in tempera, of a holy person or one of the traditional images of Orthodox Christianity (see fig.), the religion of the Byzantine empire practised today mainly in Greece and Russia (see Early Christian and Byzantine art, §VI...

Article

Small shrine in an ancient Roman house, dedicated to the household gods.

Article

Lavra  

Group of monks’ cells arranged around a central space that contains a church and sometimes a refectory.

Article

Ulrike Liebl

Term applied to life-size wooden sculptures carved in the round and originally always painted, commemorating the entry of Christ into Jerusalem riding on an ass, as recounted in Matthew 21:1–11. There are also smaller palmesel statuettes made of wood, pewter, plaster or ivory that must have served a different function; there is some evidence that they were used as accompanying figures to the actual palmesel, or as toys....

Article

Ornamental feature suspended from a hammerbeam wooden roof or stone vault (for illustration see Boss, roof).

Article

Pietà  

Barbara Watts

Devotional image of the Virgin Mary mourning the dead Christ, who lies across her lap. Occasionally other figures, such as St John the Evangelist or Joseph of Arimathea, grieve with her. The Pietà was a popular devotional subject in European painting and sculpture from the 13th century to the end of the 17th....

Article

Jacques Heyman and Francis Woodman

A slender, turret-like projection employed universally as an architectural feature, particularly associated with Gothic architecture from the 13th to the 16th centuries, where it was used decoratively on such features as parapets and gables, and with some structural purpose on buttresses.

Jacques Heyman

A pinnacle placed on a ...

Article

Victor M. Schmidt

Type of object with several panels, usually an altarpiece, although it may also fulfil other functions. The polyptych normally consists of a central panel with an even number of side-panels, which are sometimes hinged to fold. Although in principle every object with two panels or more may be called a polyptych, the word is normally used as a general term for anything larger than a ...

Article

Room, chapel or apse north of the sanctuary in a Byzantine or Greek Orthodox church, used for the storage and preparation of the Eucharist before Mass (for illustration see Parekklesion).

Article

Pulpit  

Iris Kockelbergh

Raised structure from which a preacher delivers a sermon or religious exhortation in church. Its most important element is the casket, which sometimes rests on a pedestal or base, or may be suspended from a wall, and is approached by a flight of steps. A sound-board, positioned above the pulpit, was not introduced until after the 15th century. Figural and decorative ornament often comprises biblical scenes or iconography related to the pulpit’s function in the dissemination of Christian doctrine, such as the four Latin Doctors of the Church (e.g. 15th century; ...

Article

Area behind the high altar in a cathedral or large church.

Article

Nigel Gauk-Roger

Term applied to a type of religious painting, depicting the Virgin and Child flanked on either side by saints, which developed during the 15th and 16th centuries and is associated primarily with the Italian Renaissance. The specific characteristics of the genre are that the figures, who are of comparable physical dimensions, seem to co-exist within the same space and light, are aware of each other and share a common emotion. This relationship is conveyed, with greater or lesser emphasis, by gesture and expression. The compositions are usually frontal and centralized, and are distinguished by an aura of stillness and meditation....

Article

Storeroom in a church used for sacred vessels and ecclesiastical vestments.

H. W. van Os: Vecchietta and the Sacristy of the Siena Hospital Church: A Study in Renaissance Religious Symbolism (The Hague, 1974) L. Hamlett: ‘The Sacristy of San Marco, Venice: Form and Function Illuminated’, ...

Article

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 (...