The word is no doubt derived from the Greek κεβώριον, the primary meaning of which is the cup-like seed-vessel of the Egyptian water-lily.
It does not appear when the ciborium came first to be in use, though this was probably at as early a date as that in which architectural splendor was employed in the construction of churches. Augusti quotes Eusebius (Vit. Const. M. 3:38) as using the word κιβώριον when describing the Church of the Sepulchre at Jerusalem, and connecting it with the word ἠμισφαιριον; but in this there seems to be a mistake, as neither word occurs in cap. 38, while in cap. 37 the latter occurs in connection with κεφάλαιον; by which last it would seem that the apse was meant.
Paulinus of Nola has been thought to allude to the ciborium in the verses (Epig. 2:2): "Divinum veneranda tegunt altaria foedus, Compositisque sacra cum cruce martyribus." Veils are mentioned by Chrysostom (Hor. 3 in Ephes.) as withdrawn at the consecration of the eucharist, and it is probable that these were attached to the ciborium in the fashion represented by the accompanying woodcut, where a ciborium is shown with the veils concealing the altar.