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Altar Curtain

Formerly, in most basilicas, cathedrals, and large churches a large structure in the form of a cupola or dome resting on four columns was erected over the high altar, which was called the ciborium. Between the columns ran metal rods, holding rings to which were fastened curtains which according to the rubrics of the individual churches, were drawn around the altar at certain parts of Mass. These curtains were styled tetravela altaris and were made of linen, silk, gold cloth, and other precious stuffs. In the lives of many of the Roman pontiffs (Gregory IV, Leo IV, Nicholas I) we read that they made presents of such curtains to the churches of Rome. When the ciboria over the altar fell into disuse a curtain was suspended at the back of the altar, called a dossel, or dorsal, and two others, one at each side of it. They were hung to rods fastened in the wall or reredos, or rested on four pillars erected at each end of the altar. The pillars were surmounted by angels holding candelabra, in which candles were burnt on solemn occasions. Probably the sanctuary candelabra of to-day may trace their origin to these.

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 Curtain  Back one page.

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