Cantharus (a cup or pot). In the atrium of ancient churches there was commonly a fountain or cistern, in which worshippers could wash their hands and faces before entering the church. Eusebius says that in the court over against the church were placed fountains (κρήναι) of water, as symbols of purification, for such to wash as entered into the church (De Orat. c. xi). Paulinus, bishop of Nola, calls this fountain cantharus (Epist. xii, ad Sever.). In some places, according to Dufresne, the fountain was surrounded with lions, from whose mouths water spouted; whence the place is also called by some ecclesiastical writers leontarium. It is also called nymphceum, κολυμβεῖον, both of which signify a fountain. Tertullian exposes the absurdity of men going to prayers: with washed hands while they retained a filthy spirit and polluted soul. Some of the Roman Catholic writers pretend to justify their use of holy water from the existence of this ancient custom. It is, however, more probable that it owes its origin to the Grecian rite called περιῤῥαντήρια, or lustral sprinklings. — Bingham, Orig. Ecclesiastes bk. 8, ch. 3, § 6, 7.

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