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Annabel Jane Wharton

Building used for the rite of baptism into the Christian Church. In late antiquity the term baptisterium or baptisterion (Lat. baptizare: ‘to dip under water’), which designated a swimming bath (e.g. Pliny the younger: Letters II.xvii.11), was applied to the baptismal piscina or font and then to the whole structure in which baptism took place. With the Eucharist, baptism was a central sacrament in the Early Christian Church. The ritual was prescribed by Christ (John 3:5; Matthew 28:19) and modelled after his own baptism by St John the Baptist. The meaning of baptism was established by St Paul: by participating in Christ’s death and resurrection through baptism, the believer was cleansed of his sins and admitted to the body of the Church (1 Corinthians 6:11, 12:13; Romans 6:4). By the 4th century ad the main features of the rite had become remarkably consistent throughout the Roman Empire: Easter eve was recognized as the most appropriate moment, although baptism might take place at Pentecost or if the candidate were ...


Alison Manges Nogueira

Monumental, marble paschal Candlestick of the late 12th to early 13th century with reliefs signed by Nicolaus de Angelo and Vassallettus now in S Paolo fuori le Mura, Rome. The imposing column (h. 5.6 m), adorned with six registers of reliefs and surmounted by a fluted candle holder, rests upon a base of sculpted lions, sphinxes, rams and female figures. The upper and lower reliefs bear vegetal and ornamental patterns while the three central registers portray Christ before Caiaphas, the Mocking of Christ, Christ before Pilate, Pilate Washing his Hands, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension. The culminating Easter scenes reflect the paschal candle’s function during the Easter season as a symbol of Christ resurrected, as evoked in an inscription on the base. A second fragmentary inscription refers to the unidentifiable patron’s desire for commemoration. A third inscription identifies Nicolaus de Angelo as the master sculptor and Petrus Vassallettus as playing a secondary role. Both were active in the second half of the 12th to the early 13th century and came from leading families of Roman sculptors: the Vassalletti and Cosmati (Nicolaus’s family). The candlestick is the only work signed by and securely attributed to Nicolaus and the scope of his contribution remains uncertain. A plausible theory attributes the base and first register to Petrus, based upon similarities to works signed by him and ascribed to his family, such as the cloister of S Giovanni in Laterano in Rome and the narthex of S Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome. Nicolaus probably executed the Christological scenes, distinguishable for their more dynamic, expressive figures and decorative chisel work, and appropriate for the master sculptor because of their centrality and significance. Early Christian sarcophagi and Carolingian ivories may have provided models for the figural types. This form of paschal candlestick was probably inspired by Roman columnar monuments carved with triumphal scenes....


John Osborne

Underground burial complex employed principally between c. 200 ce and the 6th century, notably in Rome. They were used by Christian, Jewish, and various pagan communities, all of whom practiced inhumation.

The term catacomb is derived from the Greek name for the area near the church of S. Sebastiano on the Via Appia south of Rome (see Catacombs (Rome)). This became a center for the veneration of SS. Peter and Paul, and by the 4th century was also used as a Christian cemetery known throughout the Middle Ages as the coemeterium ad catacumbas, today the catacomb of St. Sebastian. Similar cemeteries, now known generically as “catacombs,” are also found in central and southern Italy, Sicily, Malta, North Africa, and Egypt, generally in areas where the rock is soft and tunneling easy. In keeping with the Roman prohibition of burial within the city, they are usually located outside the walls of urban centers....


G. van Hemeldonck

Monumental structure of wood, stone, or metal consisting of four or more columns supporting an ornamented roof; this is sometimes a cupola, as in the Byzantine tradition, or it may be pyramidal or a crossover pitched roof. The term is often used synonymously with baldacchino, although, strictly speaking, a ciborium is fixed, frequently on a raised base, while a baldacchino is movable (the most famous example—the Baldacchino built by Gianlorenzo Bernini and others in St Peter’s, Rome, in 1623–34 (see §2, (ii) below)—is in fact a fixed ciborium). Ciboria in a church were placed above altars and tabernacles portraying the throne of Christ, above the ambo where the Gospel was promulgated and above baptismal fonts and atrium springs where holy water was revered. Much later they were also placed above reliquaries and martyrs’ graves and, outside the church, above thrones, statues of the saints and above the cross of Golgotha. The purpose of the ciborium was to concentrate attention on the object of veneration or to protect this object either symbolically or actually. Small portable altars were sometimes placed under a ciborium of this type. Reigning monarchs were portrayed enthroned under a ciborium; this was intended to suggest that their secular power was received from God....





Zachary D. Stewart

Architectural form rarely followed liturgical function in a prescriptive manner during the Middle Ages. Indeed, since the physical demands of liturgical performance were slight, churches of widely divergent size and arrangement often accommodated similar rites. But architecture and liturgy were by no means unrelated phenomena. On the contrary, they shared a single essential purpose, namely the sanctification of space and time. As a result, these two means of ritual signification frequently animated and activated one another, transforming religious buildings into powerful vehicles for sensual and spiritual experience.

The liturgical heart of any given church was the main Altar on which the Eucharist, the sacrament embodying Christian community, was consecrated during the Mass. From the time of Emperor Constantine (reg 306–37), the altar usually occupied the terminal end of the church, placed opposite to and on axis with the main entrance of the structure. This practice held true across building types. The altar of St Peter’s in Rome (...


Robert Ousterhout

[Gr. martyrion]

Term referring to a site that bears witness to the Christian faith, such as a significant event in the life and Passion of Christ, the tomb of a saint or martyr, and his or her place of suffering or testimony. It is also used to mean the structure erected over such a site. Monumental martyria form an important category of Early Christian architecture, and were built according to a variety of plans.

Martyrion is derived from the Greek martys, meaning witness in the legal sense, and first appears in the Septuagint as the evidence for something. By the mid-2nd century ad martys or martyr came to mean someone whose testimony was sealed with suffering and death for the Christian faith, and by c. 350 martyrion or martyrium was commonly used to refer to the location of a martyr’s tomb and the commemorative shrine or church constructed over it. That it had also come to mean a place revered in the scriptures is implied by Eusebios’ description (...


Damie Stillman

Monumental form of tomb. Its name is derived from one of the most famous buildings of antiquity, the funerary monument completed c. 350 bce at Halikarnassos in Asia Minor (see Halikarnassos, §2) in honor of Mausolos, Satrap of Caria (reg 377–353 bce), and his wife Artemisia (d 351 bce). A mausoleum is a house of the dead, although it is often as much a symbol as a sepulcher. Following the example at Halikarnassos, this term has been employed for large, monumental, and stately tombs, usually erected for distinguished or prominent individuals. It first appeared in English in 1546, applied by Thomas Langley (d 1581) specifically to the tomb of Mausolos. In his translation of Livy (London, 1600), Philemon Holland (1552–1637) extended the meaning of the term to cover a stately burial place for a person of distinction, and by ...



Jonathan M. Bloom

Tower attached to a mosque from which the muezzin gives the call to prayer (Arab. adhān). The English term ‘minaret’ derives (via French) from the Turkish minare, which itself derives from the Arabic manāra, ‘a place or thing that gives light’ (cf. Heb. menorah). Medieval Arabic had other terms for the tower attached to the mosque: manār, miاdhana and ṣawma‛a. Eventually all these terms became synonymous, but it seems that at first they had limited geographical currency or referred to different functional types.

With the possible exception of the dome, the minaret is the most distinctive external feature of Islamic architecture, giving a characteristic ‘Islamic’ aspect to the Taj Mahal and to the skylines of Cairo and Istanbul (see Islamic art, §II). Minarets vary in form and materials of construction, from the square towers of North Africa and Spain, through the multi-storey stone spires of Egypt, the pencil-thin stone shafts of Ottoman Turkey and the cylindrical brick towers of Iran, to the monumental combinations of flanged octagonal and cylindrical shafts erected in medieval Afghanistan and India. While the minaret is a common feature of Islamic religious architecture, it is, however, neither necessary nor ubiquitous: some regions of the Islamic world, for example East Africa, Kashmir and Bengal, eschewed minarets at certain times....


Richard Fawcett, Virginia Jansen, John N. Lupia and Helen Loveday

Group of buildings within which individuals are able to pursue their lives of prayer and self-denial with the moral support afforded by being with like-minded fellows. Although secluded religious communities are found in cultures throughout the world, this article discusses the development of the two principal traditions, Christian and Buddhist.

The earliest Christian monasteries, in Egypt and Palestine, were hardly more than gatherings of separately housed hermits who sought little from each other beyond the knowledge that they were among brethren whose aims were identical with their own. It was perhaps inevitable that the Edict of Milan of ad 313, by which the Church was given official standing within the Roman Empire, should lead to major changes and the beginnings of an organized format for the monastic life, devised c. 320 by St Pachomius and later by St Basil (d 379).

Western monasticism owes the basis of its medieval development to a Rule compiled ...



[Arab. masjid]

Muslim house of prayer. Islam requires no physical structure for valid prayer, which may be performed anywhere, and a minimal masjid (‘place of prostration’) may consist only of lines marked on the ground, but a building constructed especially for the purpose is preferred, in particular for congregational prayer at Friday noon, the principal weekly service. Such a building may be called a masjid or a jāmi (Turk. cami), from masjid al-jāmi‛ (Pers. masjid-i jāmi‛; Urdu jāmi‛ masjid), meaning ‘congregational mosque’. This term is often rendered in English as ‘great mosque’, or ‘Friday mosque’, a translation of masjid-i juma‛, a Persian variant. The word masjid may also be applied to any place where prayer is appropriate, for example the Masjid al-Haram, the enclosed area around the Ka‛ba in Mecca. Large buildings constructed for other religious purposes, such as madrasas and khānaqāhs, usually contain prayer-halls arranged like free-standing mosques. In cities throughout the Islamic world, the daily needs of the residents of particular quarters have been served by small mosques; they are often reduced versions of the major types of mosque that were most popular locally at the time of their construction. This article is concerned primarily with major structures built specifically for congregational prayer. For further bibliography and information on mosques in other types of buildings, ...



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 buttress provides stability at the head of the pier, counteracting the tendency towards sliding failure caused by the force exerted on the pier by the flier. The relatively small weight of a pinnacle increases the frictional force along the potential lines of slip, effectively locking the stones together. The pinnacle can do little to prevent a buttress from overturning completely under the action of the thrust delivered by the flier. In fixing the stability of the head of the pier, the line of action of the pinnacle is immaterial, so that it can be placed towards the outside of the main buttress, where its small effect on the overall stability will be even further diminished....




Massumeh Farhad

[Qumm; Qom; Kum]

Major shrine centre in central Iran. Sasanian remains in the vicinity suggest that the site may have been occupied in pre-Islamic times, but most medieval geographers and historians claimed that it was founded after the Muslim conquest in the 7th century ad. By 712–13 it had become a bastion for persecuted Shi‛ites, and throughout the medieval period it attracted members of the more extreme Shi‛ite sects. Under the Saljuqs (reg 1038–1194) Qum was celebrated for its madrasas, and it is still the most important centre of Shi‛ite theological studies in Iran.

Its reputation as a holy city is linked to the presence of the tomb of Fatima al-Ma‛suma, the sister of the eighth Shi‛ite imam, Riza. In 816–17, while en route to visit her brother at Tus in north-eastern Iran, she fell ill at Saveh, a Sunni town, and asked to be taken to nearby Qum, where she died and was buried. Her tomb acquired particular importance under the Safavid dynasty (...



Sarah Morgan

Type of structure, usually associated with the Early Christian and Eastern Churches, that is found where volcanic rock is soft enough to carve or where natural caves occur. This includes parts of southern Italy (e.g. Basilicata and Apulia), Greece (e.g. Meteora), Turkey (e.g. Cappadocia; see Cappadocia §2, (i), (a); and Beşparmak), Cyprus (St Neophytos Monastery), Ethiopia (e.g. Lalibela), Georgia (David Garedzhi), Romania (Basarabi-Murfatlar), Bulgaria (e.g. Ivanovo), and the Crimea (near Chersonesos). The churches and dwelling places created in these areas survive in a variety of forms: part-natural cave, part-built, or wholly carved from the rock, with some churches so carefully shaped and finished as to resemble built architecture. From the Early Christian period caves and rock-cut dwellings were popular with hermits and saints as retreats. In some cases communities formed around a saintly figure, and monasteries were established with living spaces, refectories, chapels, and occasionally a larger congregational church. Several texts of saints’ lives, such as that of ...


[revestry; vestry]

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’, Art History, 32(3) (June 2009), pp. 458–84...


Elaine DeBenedictis

[Lat.: ‘school of singers’]

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 (see Rome, §V, 17(iii)(d)).

The only extant source for the liturgical practice of Early Christian Rome is the Ordo Romanus, vol. 1, which comprises the rubrics for a 7th-century papal stational mass. The text refers to a presbyterium, which can probably be identified with the rectangular nave enclosure in front of the altar. During a stational mass the enclosure served as the locus of the clergy and probably of the papal choir; it may also have been used for offertory and communion rites. The precise function or functions of the presbyterium in the rites of non-stational liturgies remain uncertain. Although the liturgical disposition of Roman churches changed in the 9th century, this did not affect most presbyteries, which were simply re-decorated, thus retaining their earlier size, shape, and location. The ...