Ciborium, eagle lectern, cathedra... What are they for?  10 liturgical furniture to discover

Ciborium, eagle lectern, cathedra… What are they for? 10 liturgical furniture to discover

They have furnished our churches for several centuries, but we no longer always know their meaning. Light on ten liturgical furniture.


From the Gothic period, the lectern was intended to hold the books of the sung parts of the offices (the antiphonaries). This desk is often decorated with an eagle, symbol of the Resurrection, associated with the evangelist John. Now no longer used for Gregorian chant, it can still be used during masses.


The term comes from the Greek “to rise”. It was originally a small fixed raised platform, sometimes richly decorated, placed laterally at the entrance to the choir of early Christian churches (4th century). From the Middle Ages, and even more so since the liturgical reforms of 1965 and 1970, the ambo is a simple lectern used to place sacred books. It allows the so-called readings of the “Liturgy of the Word” (Epistles and Gospels) during the mass, and the preaching.


Comes from “altus” in Latin, meaning “high”, and designates the consecrated table located in the choir, the most sacred place in the church, on which mass is celebrated. In ancient pagan societies, the altar was used for animal sacrifices. In the Christian religion, it is therefore used for the renewed sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It also recalls the table of sharing with the disciples and therefore with the assembly of the faithful. First located in the apse of the church and oriented towards Jerusalem from the early Middle Ages, it is often sculpted and decorated and sometimes houses relics. The priest then turns his back on the assembly. The altar is then brought closer to the assembly and the officiant, since Vatican II, faces the faithful.


The confessional is a piece of furniture, generally made of wood, intended for hearing the confessions of the faithful before a priest, before he grants them (or not) the absolution which is today called the Sacrament of reconciliation. It is made up of a central box closed by a door or a curtain, reserved for the confessor, and on either side, a compartment equipped with a prie-dieu so that the believer can kneel. A small grid separating the two. This closed voting booth owes its creation to Saint Charles Borromeo, after the Council of Trent in 1545 which encouraged regular and private confession. These pieces of furniture, sometimes richly decorated, are still very present in churches but are no longer used since the Second Vatican Council established face-to-face confession, without imposing the location. The faithful and the priest can thus be seated on chairs at the back of the church, in an office, in the middle of nature…


The word comes from the Latin “cathedra” – seat in French – and applies to a stand with a raised balcony accessible by a small staircase. Replacing the choir ambo at the end of the Middle Ages, the pulpit was placed on the left, in the nave, so that everyone could hear the priest deliver his sermon. Equipped with a sound suppressor, the pulpit was mainly used when microphones did not exist. It has no longer been used since the Second Vatican Council, and the priest reads his homily again from the ambo which has since become a simple lectern.


Taking the form of a liturgical throne reserved for the bishop, the cathedra is the symbol of his authority and asserts his jurisdiction in the diocese. This throne with a high back gave its name to the cathedral, where the bishop sits, presides and celebrates and where the cathedra is located. This is always located near the altar or just behind it, in the choir. It is part of the furniture that has been regularly ordered from artists for centuries.


From the Latin “calix” meaning drinking vessel, the chalice is one of the most sacred objects of the mass. Taking the form of a cylindrical cup, it is used to receive the mixed water and wine, which will be consecrated by a priest during mass, and will then become the blood of Christ. Its shape recalls a cup of wine in memory of the one that Jesus drank and shared with his disciples during his last meal, on Maundy Thursday. The chalice was originally made from a simple material (wood, clay, ceramic, etc.). But from the Middle Ages until today, it is often made of precious metal by goldsmiths.


The expression comes from “ciborium” – cup in Latin – and applies to the sacred vessel which contains the consecrated hosts, that is to say the body of Christ, either to distribute them to the faithful, or to preserve them in the tabernacle . Generally made of precious metal (gold, silver, etc.), the shape of the cup has changed little over time. Sometimes the ciborium can be covered with a lid surmounted by a cross.

Similar Posts