This glossary relates to items exhibited in the various showcases. To facilitate reference by means of identification labels names are listed in alphabetical order in Italian or Latin (or both) followed by the appropriate English equivalent where this
The act of washing the hands or fingers by the Priest or Deacon before the celebration of Mass, during the Mass and, if wished, when aspersing the sacred vessels after Communion. Aspersion is the rite in which holy water is sprinkled on people, places or objects to purify and bless them. The custom was already in use by pagans and Jews and in certain circumstances may be performed by authorised
Small containers of glass, metal or other material. One holds the wine, the other water for use during the Mass. The name is also applied to containers of holy
BORSA (POUCH )
A square envelope, open on one side, to hold the corporal during Mass, at the distribution of Eucharist or the exposition of the Holy Sacrament. It may be white or of the colour ordained for the vestments. Nowadays its use is not
An amphora with handle used in conjunction with the ewer by Bishop or Priest during the ceremony of the washing of the Feet.
This is the occasion when, on Maundy Thursday, the Priest washes the feet of twelve men in imitation of Christ at the Last Supper. It is now optional. Before the reform it was sometimes performed independently of the Mass, within a
A low candlestick on a base with a small handle in the form of a ring. In the past it provided illumination for the reading of prayers by the Priest and was either placed on the altar or held by the server standing on the left of the celebrant. The name comes from the French word "bugie", which in turn is derived from the Algerian city "Bugia" (in Arabic Bugiaya), at one time famous for the production of wax
Used for the consecration of the wine during Holy Mass. Until VI century the chalice was similar to drinking vessels in domestic use. Since that date it has assumed various forms according to the purpose for which it is intended (consecration of the wine, distribution of the consecrated wine, as an element in a votive shrine); made of precious metal in different sizes, engraved or embossed with figures in relief and ornamented with pearls or precious stones. With the gradual decline in the offering of sacred wine to communicants which began in the year 1000, the chalice became smaller in size (a cup on a short stem) by the end of XIII century. Before being used a chalice is consecrated by the
CALIGAE (CERIMONIAL FOOTWEAR)
Used at one time by the Bishop in celebration of Solemn Pontifical Mass, they were usually boots of soft suede embroidered and in the liturgical colour decreed for that particular day of the year. There may be an allusion to the words of Isaac - 52.7 "How beautiful are the feet of them that bring us the Gospel of
Long white linen robe descending to the feet worn during religious functions by and servers. It is also used in different styles and colours by Ministers, readers and choristers.
It represents the white garment of Baptism, Christian dignity, purity and divine grace.
Priests wear the Alb under their other vestments. The "cingulum" is the girdle which goes over the alb to encircle the wearer's waist. It may be of silk, linen or cotton usually white though the same colour of the vestments is also allowed. It may also take the form of a sash. The "cotta" or surplice should be of knee-length with wide sleeves worn over the cassock. It was called "superpelliceum" because in cold countries it was worn in winter over a
A very ancient form of percussion instrument in metal. Its religions function is to call people to worship, to exhort them to prayer at certain times of day, to signal prayers for the dying, to toll the funeral of the dead and to solemnise a holy day. In some places bells were rung to ward off hailstones or against violent storms and to call people together in times of trouble. The first recorded use of bells in liturgical use occurs in VI century in France and in Ireland.
It is customary for church bells to be consecrated.
Small bells of various shapes and sizes, used singly or in combination inside the church they are rung at the Elevation of the host (from XII century), at the sanctus, the Gloria and during Easter before and after
The candleholder as used in acts of worship. It derives from the "menorah" - the seven-branches candles provided light and decoration Elaborate at times.The candleholders and candles were grouped around the altar or were carried in procession before the
CAPSELLA (SEE RELIQUARY)
A kind of mantle with or without a hood worn in winter by ministers. The "Cappa Magna" or long cloak was the privilege of Bishops and high-ranking prelates. For important occasions it was trimmed with
Tablet with gilt wood or metal frame. From XVI century these were used on the altar during Mass as an "aide memoir" for the Priest of the words of the "Gloria" and canon of the Mass and the psalms.
One was placed by the water ampula to the celebrant's right and the other on his left with the words of the concluding Gospel.
CASULA - PIANETA (CHASUBLE)
Ecclesiastical garment of ample dimensions with a round opening for the head, which enfolds the person of the priest ( like a little house = "casula") during the celebration of Mass.
It is an adaptation of the traditional travelling cloak ("paenula" o "casula") at one time habitually worn by Elders of the church (Presbyters).
CERO PASQUALE (PASCHAL CANDLE)
A large candle intended for use during the festival of Easter. It represents the Risen Christ, "the light of the world". The five grains of incense embedded in the form of a cross are the five wounds of the Saviour. This great candle is also a symbol of the cloud or column of fire which guided the Israelites on the passage through the Red Sea and is also an emblem of Baptism.
During the Easter vigil it remains alight in the centre of the chancel. Afterwards it is positioned near the altar for the whole period of Easter, during which time it is lit for each important service. For the remainder of the year it stands beside the Baptismal font.
This is the popular name for the book in four volumes containing the Liturgy of the hour also known as the Holy Office.
The Latin name is adopted in English. In ancient times, in Cathedrals and important churches it was a small temple covering the altar, sometimes substituted by a hanging canopy or baldachin. It has come to mean a receptacle for the reservation of the Eucharist often in the form of a pyx.
The utensil for filtering the wine to be consecrated in order to ensure no impurities are present.
an approved Christian association, public or private, with its own statutes. Usually it existed to provide some form of assistance either in worship or instruction. Members of a Confraternity wear their own distinguishing dress and insignia when taking part in an act of worship. They participate formally in religious processions on special occasions, often with a priest at their head.
COPPETTA BATTESIMALE (BAPTISMAL CUP)
Used to pour the Holy water over the head of child (or adult) during the ceremony of Baptism.
A square of starched white linen (about 30 sq. cm.) which is spread on the altar during Mass from the Offertory to Communion, and each time Communion is given or wherever the Holy Sacrament is exposed. It is usually taken to the altar folded inside the "borsa" (square pouch).
Oil mixed with balsam or other scented substance blessed by the Bishop during the Mass of Chrism on Maundy Thursday or on one of the first days of Holy Week.
It is used chiefly in rites of consecration, in the ordination of priests or during baptism. It is the most sacred of the holy oils and is conserved in a suitably decorous ampula.
Formed by two intersecting axes one vertical the other horizontal, the cross has become, both with and without the Crucifix, the chief symbol of Christian faith. During worship it is the principle sign of faith to which frequent reference is made.
Crosses may be of various sizes and one is always present on or beside the altar during Mass, in religions processions, in Good Friday observances and on many other occasions.
CROCE ASTILE (PROCESSIONAL CROSS)
Such crosses are mounted on a standard to be carried in procession and for this reason are decorated on both front and back.
The most ancient examples follow a traditional canonical iconography: on the "recto" (front) is it the living figure of Christ nailed to the cross and on the "verso" (back) is the figure of the dead Christ. The image of the Crucifix appears from about IX century. From that time the crucified Christ is shown in relief on the front and engraved on the back. In procession such crosses usually precede ministers and clergy.
CROCE D'ALTAE (ALTAR CROSS)
The cross, symbol of the death of Christ became the distinctive badge of Christian from the time of the persecutions. The reverence of the Cross was widespread following the "Constantine Peace" and the finding by Helena of the cross on which Christ was crucified.
Liturgical use of the altar cross was already well established in IX century: it was placed on a stand at the side of the altar or sometimes behind or in front. From XIV century altar crosses carried the crucified figure of Christ, a custom made obligatory for the celebration of Holy Mass by the missal of Pope Pius V (1570).
Until the reforms instituted by Vatican II the cross stood sideways on a step of the altar. Afterwards it was placed on the altar itself facing the congregation.
The use of the spoon in the celebration of Communion in the early Christian church (VI century) is not clearly defined. It may well have served to distribute the Host. Other possible uses, such as infusing the water and wine in the chalice or to gather up fragments of the host in order not to touch them with the hands, would have come several centuries later.
In a solemn Pontifical Mass the Master of Ceremonies sometimes used a small spoon to taste the wine to be consecrated to ensure it was genuine and without impurities.
DALMATICA OR TUNICELLA (DALMATIAN TUNIC)
A liturgical vestment usually reserved for the Deacon. It is a white knee-length tunic open at the sides and with wide sleeves.
A sign of nobility and distinction sometimes worn by Bishops under (?) the cope in a solemn Mass.
FALDISTORIO (BISHOP'S STOOL)
The name has Frankish roots (Faldistōl - folding seat) translated from medieval Latin "faldistorium".
It is a seat without a back suitably upholstered used by a Bishop in liturgical ceremonies to sit on or on which to rest his arms when kneeling.
FONTE BATTESIMALE (BAPTISMAL FONT) BATTISTERO (BAPTISTRY)
A place where Baptism is conferred. When this was clone by total immersion the Baptistery was built outside the church with a central pool into which candidates descended.
Originally such Baptisteries were reserved for Cathedral Churches but later were permitted also for Parish churches.
The font was often covered by tabernacle surmounted by the figure of St. John the Baptist and closed with a gate. In the wall of the Baptistry was a small tabernacle to hold the oils and a small basin to dispose of holy water and oils after use. For symbolic reason, in Parish churches the font is placed near the entrance to the left of the door. Except during Easter the Paschal candle is kept close-by.
Incense is made from a resin extracted from the bark of various trees (terebint etc.) of Ethiopia and Arabia.
It was part of pagan worship and among the Hebrews constituted a particular offering in certain sacrifices of both morning evening.
In III century it was used only for burials; from the IV century it entered into regular liturgical use. Originally it was burned on a fixed receptacle and then later on a thurible. The scent which it gives off when burning indicates " the sweet perfume of Christ" (2Cor. 2.15). It also signifies the sacrifice which is consumed and ascends to God, prayer, purification and devout worship. Usually it gives greater solemnity to ceremonies though, after the recent reforms, its use is optional.
LANTERNA - LAMPIONE (LANTERN)
A four-sided lantern often made of gilded wood or metal with glass windows and carried on a pole. Such laterns are used during processions.
LAVABO (ACT OF WASHING HANDS - EWER)
The term has double significance. In the first instance it describes the washing of hands by the priest after the Offertory in the Holy Mass ("Lavabo" is the first word of Psalm 25 recited by the priest in Latin while washing his hands: "Lavabo manus mea" : I shall wash my hands).
It also signifies the utensils used by the Bishop when washing his hands during the Mass (Ewer and pitcher)
A stand in wood, metal or marble on which the Holy Bible rests. Sometimes the lectern is on a pedestal or on a support adjustable for height. It may be enveloped in a drape of the liturgical colour for the day.
Formerly from XIII century onwards the Missal was placed on a cushion on the altar. From the end of the Middle Aged this was often replaced by a portable lectern.
A strip of cloth no longer used but formerly part of the Liturgical vestments. It was worn by the priest or deacon hanging over the left arm.
Among the ancient Romans it was a sign of authority carried by the Consuls.
The Pope used it as an indication to the Deacon to begin the entry procession and the singing of the introit at the beginning of the Pontifical Mass.
It acquired a significance as "manipulus fletis et doris" (emblem of redemptive and meritorious sorrow).
A book containing all that is spoken or sung during the Mass including notes on the significance of the Mass and the rules for its correct celebration (rubrics).
After Vatican II it became necessary to remove the readings from the Missal and collect them in another volume - the Lectionary.
This is turn is divided in several volumes, for Holy days, for week days, for the Liturgical seasons, for special rites and circumstances and for the Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In each case the basic version must be in Latin; those in the various languages must be approved by the local Conference of Bishops and by the Holy See.
MITRA VESCOVILE (MITRE BISHOP'S)
It is the headgear divided into two peaks worn by the Bishop during solemn worship.
At first it was conical and only later divided to form two points (cōrnua)
In addition to Bishops, it was allowed for Cardinals and sometimes Abbots.
The two hanging ribbons (vittae) were added in XII century.
The mitre is white but may be decorated with embroidery and gems, with gold cloth or left unadorned depending on the rite or function for which it is worn.
It is the symbol of holy authority, of the fullness of priesthood and of the mission to bless and sanctify.
NAVICELLA - NAVICULA - CERRA (INCENSE BOAT)
It is the container of the incense intended for sprinkling on the glowing coals in the thurible. It assumed the shape of a small boat standing on a pedestal and furnished with a spoon and is carried by the thurifer together with the thurible. Its use in this form dates from XVI-XV century when it replaced other types of containers in particular those in the form of a cup (acerra - a Roman thurible).
PACE (KISS OF PEACE PLAQUE)
Pace means "Peace". Until the early years of the XIX century a plaque containing or depicting a "Pietā" (descent from the cross) would be offered to be kissed by the Clergy before Communion as a sign of peace.
It recalled Christ's wish that souls should be in peaceful amity before offering sacrifice, as invoked in the prayer of the last Supper and obtained by his sacrifice on the Cross. The kiss is an act of homage, of reconciliation and fraternal love. It was a frequent liturgical observance; when an object was offered the presenter would kiss first the object and then the hand of the celebrant; the recipient first kissed the hand of the presenter and then the object. Nowadays the celebrant kisses the altar at the beginning of the Mass and may also do so at the end.
PALIOTTO ANTEPENDIO (ALTAR FRONT)
The term derives from the Latin word "pallium" meaning a drape- and indicates a portable covering for the altar made of precious metal or sumptuous fabric, embroidered with symbols and sacred images (as is confirmed by the mosaics in St. Apollinare in Classe at Ravenna - VI century). The custom of covering each side of the altar down to the floor became less usual after XI century when altars were placed against wall. The altar "pallio" (covering) is still used in some places on occasions of great solemnity.o i vasi sacri dopo la comunione. L'aspersione č il rito con cui si sparge l'acqua benedetta su persone, luoghi o cose, per purificarli e benedirli. Giā in uso tra i pagani e tra gli ebrei, in alcune circostanze puō essere fatta anche dai fedeli laici.
The term covers everything which serves to adorn or clothe persons and articles involved in religious functions.
Often such items are of precious materials or fabric, richly embroidered and woven with gold and silver thread; especially where these are worn over the alb or surplice (stole, cope, chasuble, dalmatic, cape etc.
The colour of vestments may be white, red, green, violet, pink and black.
The colour adopted at any one time is in accordance with prescribed liturgical practice, depending on the nature of the occasion or the time of year.
White is worn for solemnities dedicated to Our Lord, to the Virgin Mary, the Saints who were not martyrs, at Christmas, at Easter, during processious and for baptism. It signifies joy, majesty, purity and eternal life.
Red is used for Pentecost, on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, on the Feast of the Holy Cross and for feast days of martyred saints, in votive Masses of the Holy Spirit and may also be used for Confirmation. It represents martyrdom amd heroic sacrifice for Christ's sake.
Green is the colour of Ordinary Time in the ecclesiastical year, worn both on Sundays and during the week. It signifies hope of eternity.
Violet is used in Advent and Lent, for Penitential masses and other observances.
It shows humility and desire to seek purification throngh repentance, in the hope of redemption. In many places it is also used in rites of suffrage, (prayers of intercession for the souls of the departed).
Black is worn for "Requiem" Masses, funerals and rites of suffrance. It indicates the trausience of this mortal life and the need for contemplation of last things, prayers for souls recently departed and in Purgatory.
Ministers and altar servers wear appropriate vestments during religious functions. The list includes the amice (a square of linen worn about neck shoulders), the alb, girdle, stole, cape, dalmatic (a type of surplice), and, for a Bishop, the mitre, gloves and opecial footwear.
For a Metropolitan Archbishop the pallium (a circular woollen band draped round the shoulders) is worn.
Other vestments are a short tunic with tight sleeves used by Canons (rocchetto), the chasuble and the cope whose adoption depends chiefly on the status of the celebrant of Mass and the solemnity of the occasion.
The long gown, usually black, which descends to the heels is the most basic and universal ecclesiastical garment and is called a cassock.
It is essential when wearing the cotta or surplice and was formerly worn by most priests as an everyday form of dress outside the
This is the pastoral staff used by the Bishop in solems rites or occasions of special importance.
In Latin it was called "bācculus" and was originally carried by the Abbot of an eastern order.
The oldest form terminated in a ball or a "tau" cross (from the Greek letter "T").
The crook which forms the top part of the staff indicates the care of the shepherd for his flock, encouraging them towards good and saving them from evil; the middle part is for support in the fatigue of leading and guiding the faithful; the lower part stamps on sin and exhorts
The original Latin word simply means "plate" and is applied to the metal salver used to hold the Eucharistic Host to be consacrated during the Mass.
It represents the plate on which Jesus broke the bread at the Last Supper. Nowadays it is often made of precious or gilded metal and is mostly round in
The chasuble is worn by the priest for the celebration of Mass. It was originally called "paenula" or "cāsula" which derives from the name for a travelling cloak.
From the XIII century it was shortened at the sides to leave the arms free while in the XVII century it was reduced to the form of a tabard falling in front and behind.
From the VI century it has had a specific use in the consecration of the bread and its distribution. Nowadays it is the gilded metal plate, usually oval, held under the chin of a communicant to ensure that any crumbs which fall do not reach the
The Greek word means "box". It is the sacred vessel consecrated before use which contains the Host.
The form varies considerably according to the era and the place. In ancient times it was made of box wood. Nowadays the most usual design is a large chalice on a stem and with a cover.
When it contains the Host it should be covered with a white silken veil.