Ciboria are not mentioned in the Liber Pontificalis in the long catalogue of altars erected in, and gifts made to, churches erected in Rome and Naples by Constantine, unless the "fastigium," of silver, weighing 2025 lbs. in the basilica of St. John Lateran, was, as some have thought, a ciborium.
Mention is made in the Liber Pontificalis of many other ciboria; they are generally described as of silver or decorated with silver. The ciborium in St. Sophia's, as erected by Justinian, is described by Paul the Silentiary as having four columns of silver which supported an octagonal pyramidal dome or blunt spire, crowned by a globe bearing a cross. From the arches hung rich veils woven with figures of Christ, St. Paul, St. Peter, etc.
Ciboria were constructed not only of metal, or of wood covered with metal, but of marble; the alabaster columns of the ciborium of the high- altar of St. Mark's at Venice are said to have occupied the same position in the chapel of the Greek emperor at Constantinople. They are entirely covered with subjects from Biblical history, sculptured in relief, and appear to be of as early a date as the 5th century; but perhaps the earliest ciborium now existing is one in the Church of San Apollinare in Classe, at Ravenna, which is shown by the inscription. engraved upon it to have been erected between A.D. 806 and A.D. 810.
Various ornaments, as vases, crowns, and baskets (cophini) of silver, were placed as decorations upon or suspended from the ciboria; and, as has already been said, veils or curtains were attached to them; these last were withdrawn' after' the consecration, but before the elevation of the eucharist.
It does not appear when the use of these veils was discontinued in the Western Church; in the Eastern a screen (εἰκονόστασις)'with doors now serves the like purpose; some of the ciboria at Rome have a ring fixed in the centre of the vault, from which it is supposed a receptacle for the host was suspended. SEE PERI-STERIUM. No ciborium now existing at Rome seems to be of earlier date than the 12th century, but the practice of suspending such receptacles is no doubt much earlier. SEE BALDOCHINO.
Ciborium is likewise a modern name for a vessel of precious metal, like a chalice or cup in shape, with a covering surmounted by a cross. It is used in the Roman Catholic Church to contain the sacrament, under the form of bread, when distributed.