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Altar Canopy

Altar CanopyThe "Caeremoniale Episcoporum (I, xii, 13), treating of the ornaments of the altar, says that a canopy (baldachinum) should be suspended over the altar. It should be square in form, sufficiently large to cover the altar and the predella on which the celebrant stands, and if it can easily be done, the color of the material, silk velvet or other cloth, with which it is covered, should vary with the color of the ornaments of the altar. It is either suspended from the ceiling by a movable chain, so that it may be lowered or raised when necessary, or it may be attached to the wall, or to the reredos at the back of the altar. It may also be a stationary structure, and this is usually the case in large churches, and then it is made of marble, stone, metal, or wood beautifully carved and overlaid with gold or silver, in the form of a cupola erected on four pillars. In liturgy it is called the ciborium. The canopy or ciborium is, according to the decision of the Cong. Sac. Rit., to be erected over the altar of the Blessed Sacrament (23 May, 1846), and over the other altars of the church (27 April, 1697), but as contrary custom has so far prevailed that even in Rome it is usually erected only over the high altar, and the altar of the Blessed Sacrament. The purpose of this canopy is to protect the altar from dust or other matter falling upon it from the ceiling, which, being usually very high, cannot be conveniently or easily cleaned. On solemn festivals, or at special solemnities, a temporary canopy is sometimes placed over an altar in or outside the church. The framework on which such a canopy is erected is called the "altar- herse", a word probably derived from hearse, a frame covered with cloth, and formerly set up over a corpse in funeral solemnities.

A.J. SCHULTE Transcribed by Michael C. Tinkler

From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by New Advent, Inc., P.O. Box 281096, Denver, Colorado, USA, 80228. (knight@knight.org) Taken from the New Advent Web Page (www.newadvent.org).

This article is part of the Catholic Encyclopedia Project, an effort aimed at placing the entire Catholic Encyclopedia 1913 edition on the World Wide Web. The coordinator is Kevin Knight, editor of the New Advent Catholic Website. If you would like to contribute to this worthwhile project, you can contact him by e- mail at (knight@knight.org).


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You are here: Art & Architecture > Architecture Features > Altar Canopy  Back one page.

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All contents © copyright, 1998-2014
The Catholic Liturgical Library
http://www.catholicliturgy.com