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Article

Alexander Nagel

[Fr. postautel, retable; Ger. Altar, Altaraufsatz, Altarbild, Altarretabel, Altarrückwand, Retabel; It. ancona, dossale, pala (d’altare); Sp. retablo]

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 retable, following the medieval term retrotabulum [retabulum, retrotabularium].

The altarpiece was never officially prescribed by the Church, but it did perform a prescribed function alternatively carried out by a simple inscription on the altarblock: to declare to which saint or mystery the altar was dedicated. In fact, the altarpiece did more than merely identify the altar; its form and content evoked the mystery or personage whose cult was celebrated at the altar. This original and lasting function influenced the many forms taken by the altarpiece throughout its history. Since the altarpiece was not prescribed by the Church, its form varied enormously. For this reason, it is often impossible, and historically inaccurate, to draw neat distinctions between the altarpiece and other elements occasionally associated with the altar apparatus. For example, movable statues, often of the Virgin and Child, were occasionally placed on altars according to ritual needs, and at those times fulfilled the function of the altarpiece....

Article

John N. Lupia

Type of ewer, usually of metal, used for the washing of hands in a liturgical or domestic context. It is often zoomorphic in form and usually has two openings, one for filling with water and the other for pouring. In their original usage aquamanilia expressed the symbolic significance of the lavabo, the ritual washing of the hands by the priest before vesting, before the consecration of the Eucharist and after mass. The earliest production of aquamanilia is associated with Mosan art of the Meuse Valley in northern France, and with Lower Saxony in north-east Germany. The majority of surviving examples are made of a variety of bronze that resembles gold when polished, while nearly all those made of precious metals are known only from church inventories.

Church documents refer to aquamanilia as early as the 5th century, when canon regulations stipulated that on ordination the subdeacon should receive such a vessel. Various documents from the 5th century to the beginning of the 11th sometimes use the term to denote both the ewer and its basin. Sometime after the beginning of the 11th century the term became transferred to a type of vessel, usually in the shape of an animal (e.g. lion, stag, horse; ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Article

Lucy Freeman Sandler

Group of twelve manuscripts, primarily Psalter and Book of Hours, nearly all illustrated by in-house artists for members of the Bohun family in the second half of the 14th century. The owner–patrons were the successive earls of Essex, Hereford and Northampton: Humphrey de Bohun VI (1309–61), the 6th Earl of Hereford and 5th Earl of Essex and his nephew Humphrey de Bohun VII (1342–73), the 7th earl of Essex and 2nd Earl of Northampton, Humphrey VII’s wife Joan Fitzalan (d 1419) and their daughters Eleanor (1366–99), who married Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester (see Plantagenet, House of family §(5)), son of King Edward III, and Mary (c. 1369–94), who married Henry of Bolingbroke (1366–1413; from 1399 King Henry IV), son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Known to have been active between c. 1360 and ...

Article

Christopher de Hamel

Late medieval prayerbook containing, as its principal text, psalms, and devotions (primarily invoking the Virgin Mary) for the eight canonical hours of the day: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. They were intended for private reading and meditation by the laity, forming a shorter version of the cycle of daily prayers and psalms recited from the Breviary by members of religious orders. Each office is usually no more than a few pages long, and the books are generally small and portable, often of octavo size. Most surviving Books of Hours were made in the 15th century and early 16th, and they were produced in such numbers that they still form the most common surviving group of European illuminated manuscripts.

The offering of psalms eight times a day can be traced back to early monasticism, and parallel forms of worship are found in lay devotions (see Service book...

Article

Nigel J. Morgan

Liturgical book containing the psalms, readings from the scriptures, the Church Fathers or the lives of the saints, antiphons, and prayers that constitute the Divine Office for each day of the Christian Church year (see Service book). The Divine Office comprises the daily devotions observed at the eight canonical hours of the day (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline), arranged around the psalms, so that all 150 psalms are read each week. Its text covers two distinct sections: the Temporal (or Proper of Time), containing the offices for Sundays and festivals commemorating the life of Christ and the weekdays of the year; and the Sanctoral (or Proper of Saints), with offices for the feast days of saints. Supplementary offices for certain occasions, for instance the Office of the Dead and Little Office of the Virgin, were sometimes added to the daily office, and a full version of the Breviary usually includes the whole ...

Article

Robert G. Calkins

As applied to medieval manuscripts, a list of the principal feast days of the Church and the commemorative feasts of the saints throughout the liturgical year. It was an essential part of books used to celebrate Mass (the Missal, Pontifical, and Benedictional) and the Divine Office (the Psalter and Breviary), as well as of books of prayers used for private devotion (e.g. Book of Hours). Major Church feasts (e.g. Christmas and Easter), the commemorative days of the Apostles and other major saints or the names of saints particularly important in the diocese for which the book was made might be highlighted by being written in red, gold, or blue. The text usually begins with an embellished KL (for Kalends, the Latin name for the first day of the month); the days of the week are indicated by lower-case letters a–g, accompanied by abbreviations of Ides (the 9th day before Nones) and Nones (the 13th or 15th day of the month). Golden numbers (i–xix) might also appear in the left column for calculating the date of the Paschal moon (relevant to the date of Easter). Normally the text for such a calendar, with a line allocated to each day, occupied the ...

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Article

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....

Article

Don Denny

Numerical list of concordant passages in the Gospels, devised in the early 4th century by the historian Eusebios of Caesarea. Such tables indicate passages to be found in all four Gospels, those found in two or three of the Gospels and those unique to a particular Gospel. In medieval manuscripts they appear as a series of pages, varying from seven to as many as nineteen, placed at the front of Gospel books and often included, preceding the Gospels, in full Bibles. It was customary to surround them with ornament and, despite the wide geographical and chronological range of this practice, the basic decorative format remained fairly constant. The tables are divided and framed by representations of architectural columns surmounted by arcades or, occasionally, pediments; pictorial matter is concentrated in the upper part of the design, which might contain decorative and symbolic bird and plant motifs as well as more explicit illustrative features, such as the Evangelist symbols or the Twelve Apostles. In Eastern manuscripts the tables are sometimes preceded by two or three pages of introductory text, similarly framed by architectural designs, and a further page of related ornament (e.g. a tempietto) might be included at the beginning or end....

Article

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....

Article

Robert G. Calkins

As applied to the Christian liturgy, a book containing the words and music for the chants sung during the celebration of Mass or the Divine Office. Several types of choir-book evolved during the Middle Ages. A Gradual contains all the chants sung by the choir during the celebration of the Mass. These normally include the antiphons for the Introit (opening phrase), Offertory, and Communion chants, as well as the gradual (an antiphon or response sung between the reading of the Epistle and Gospel), after which the book was named. The Gradual was usually written in large format so that it could be placed on a lectern in front of the choir and be read by all the members. Lines of musical notation usually alternate with those of the text and with dense passages of instructions, written in smaller script. The organization of the Gradual is similar to that of the ...

Article

Charles Tracy

Places in the choir of a church set aside for the daily use of the clergy. They are usually made of wood and are found only in churches of the Western tradition. Choir-stalls were essentially places for standing, the clergy being required to do so during most of the services. Each stall consists of a folding seat, turning on hinges or pivots, with a Misericord under it, a standard on each side with elbow rest, a wainscot backing and, sometimes, a canopy above. Some form of book desk was provided in front.

The daily task of the members of a cathedral chapter was the recitation of the Psalter, particular psalms being allocated to the different prebends. At Lincoln Cathedral the initial Latin verses allocated to each canon, over-painted in modern times, are still to be found on the stall backs. An absentee canon was expected to have a deputy, called a ‘vicar choral’, who was paid ‘stall wages’. The seating in the choir-stalls of a great church mirrored the hierarchy of the organization. It was stipulated in the manuals of customs, such as the Sarum Consuetudinary, written in the early 13th century. In medieval England the principal place of honour in a secular ...

Article

Covered, chalice-shaped liturgical vessel, used in churches of the Catholic (and some Orthodox) traditions to contain reserved, consecrated hosts.

The word ciborium is supposedly derived from kiborion, the seed-pod of the Egyptian water lily, which indicates its protective function; a derivation from the Latin cibus, food, has also been proposed. The basic type of ciborium consists of a broad-based foot, a stem with a knop, and a wide, rather shallow cup with a closely fitting cover. Examples are usually c. 400 mm high, although Late Gothic ciboria with tower-shaped covers, and some 19th-century ones from large churches, are over 600 mm in height. Although a sacral shrine, the ciborium is considered to be of secondary importance to the Chalice and paten, and it came into use much later. It is filled with the small hosts that are given to the faithful during communion, and which are consecrated together with the large host on the paten and the eucharistic wine. The ciborium and any consecrated particles it may contain are then reserved in an appropriate place; in the Roman Catholic Church this is now usually a tabernacle in the church, but in the Eastern churches it is customary to keep the ciborium in the sacristy (in late medieval Germany, the sacrament house was used). A burning votive lamp indicates its location. Before the Counter-Reformation of the 16th century, the term ciborium was also often applied to a ...

Article

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....

Article

Pippin Michelli

Decorated comb, usually of ivory, used ceremonially by the celebrant before Mass in both Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The ritual combing of priests’ hair may have begun when Christianity became the Roman state religion early in the 4th century ad, but evidence is lacking. Most combs survive with insufficient context to prove their liturgical use, but all those likely to have been so used have a similar form: they are made of a single rectangular piece with teeth along both long edges, and the quadrangle or lunette at the centre is often carved with Christian motifs (see fig.). Many such combs survive (Swoboda listed 77). They have been found in 5th-century catacombs; a new one was placed in St Cuthbert’s tomb early in the 11th century (Durham Cathedral, Treasury); they were still being made in the 12th century; and references to their use appear in ecclesiastical rituals until the 16th century. They are still used in the Greek rite. Documentation is late and scarce. In the Carolingian period ...

Article

Iris Kockelbergh

Closet-like piece of furniture used in the Roman Catholic Church and some other liturgically ‘high’ denominations for auricular confession. Confessionals are always made out of wood, since it was thought inappropriate to use more costly materials for non-liturgical church furnishings. Several types of confessional were in existence during the Middle Ages. In the 12th century the priest was seated while the penitent knelt in front of him. From the 14th century in Sweden, where men lived alongside women in double monasteries, grilles were inserted in special recesses in the choir walls to prevent the priest from coming into contact with the sisters. The first confessional rooms, with a grille opening into the church, appeared in Portugal in the early 15th century (e.g. at Guarda Cathedral); a century later (1517–20), at S Maria, Belém, in Lisbon, the confessional room was extended to a double alcove, one for the priest and another for the penitent, connected by a grille. In the 16th century in northern Europe confessional grilles were inserted in the choir aisle windows so that confession could be made from outside the church. During the Reformation, after a number of disputes over the objectivity of confession, regulations for the sacrament were drawn up at the Council of Milan (...

Article

Crosier  

Pippin Michelli

Crook or pastoral staff of a bishop, abbot, or abbess. It was originally a wooden staff used by itinerant monks, priests and bishops (and also teachers), possibly as an aid to walking and also as a badge of office. The use of such staves is first recorded during the 4th century ad by Gregory of Nazianzus (Oratio xlii). Descriptions are ambiguous: crosiers may have been straight, crook-headed or cross-headed, and it is possible that all forms were used. There are indications that by the 9th century a crook-headed form was common, as the term cambutta (‘little curve’) had come into popular use (Strabo’s Vita Sancti Galli).

In the second half of the 11th century a new term, crocia (‘crook’ or ‘cross’), had become popular, and tau-headed (T-shaped) crosiers began to appear alongside the crook-headed form. Some doubt has been expressed as to whether these tau-headed staves were indeed for pastoral use, but they are decorated with precisely the same imagery as contemporary crook-headed staves, and there are contemporary illustrations of tau-headed staves being carried by clerics. By the end of the 12th century this tau-headed form (also known as the tau-crosier or tau-cross) had ceased to be made....

Article

Cross  

Catherine Oakes, John N. Lupia, Roger Stalley, Donna L. Sadler, Nicola Coldstream, Hilary Richardson and Regine Marth

Symbol of Christianity, widely represented in art in a great variety of types, contexts and materials. This article is concerned with the cross as a three-dimensional object, both of the monumental and portable type. Although in its narrow sense the term denotes a cross without the corpus (figure of the crucified Christ), it is also commonly used to refer to a crucifix (a cross with a representation of the corpus), a subject that is covered elsewhere (see Crucifix). The cross was also adopted as the typical form for reliquaries of the True Cross (for a discussion of reliquary crosses see also Reliquary, §I, 1).

Catherine Oakes

Christ’s execution by crucifixion is described in all four Gospel accounts, although none is specific about the shape of the cross. The New Testament Greek word for cross or crucifix, stauros, can also simply denote a post, and does not necessarily imply the cruciform shape of the vulgate Latin ...