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....
G. van Hemeldonck
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 ...
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 1130 to 1158. It is the first of a series of Mosan reliquary triptychs containing portions of the True Cross. Of these, only the Stavelot Triptych contains scenes from the life of Constantine and the legend of the finding of the True Cross by Empress Helena, his mother. Although two commissions by Wibald are documented (the St Remaclus Retable, destroyed during the French Revolution, and the Head Reliquary of Pope Alexander of 1145; Brussels, Musées Royaux A. & Hist.), the Stavelot Triptych is not. Wibald may have been given both the cross relic and the two small Byzantine enamel triptychs displayed on the centre panel of the Stavelot Triptych during his diplomatic mission (...