Ornaments, Ecclesiastical, a designation of the various minor articles of furniture, utensils, pictures, etc., used in some churches.
Soon after the establishment of the Church as a state institution, i.e. in the time of Constantine, ornaments more or less costly began to be introduced. In addition to the observations on the sacred vessels and utensils of the church, and all gifts which were called Anathemata and Ε᾿κτηπώματα, and which were a sort of symbolical memorial or hieroglyphical representation of the kindness and favor that had been received, sentences of Holy Scripture and other inscriptions were frequently written on the walls. This was the most ancient of all decorations in churches. Gilding and mosaic- work were introduced at an early period. The practice of exhibiting pictures of saints, martyrs, etc., began in the 4th century; it was introduced by Paulinus, bishop of Nola, and his contemporaries, privately and by degrees. Statues and images were a later innovation. The pictures of kings and bishops were brought in about the same time; but no images of God or the Trinity were allowed in churches till after the second Nicene Council; nor, usually, statues or massy images, but only paintings and pictures, and those symbolical rather than any other. The practice of adorning churches with evergreens is mentioned by Augustine. and is probably of high antiquity.
The Roman Catholic Church has continued in a free use of all kinds of church ornamentation. Even in the Greek Church, where the Iconoclastic spirit has done away with much that is held essential to church decorations by Romanists, SEE ICONOCLASM, the number of ornaments used is still very great. Of course in the Protestant churches ornaments of a ritualistic character have been largely abandoned. In the Church of England, the Rubric before the Common Prayer directs that such ornaments of the church and the ministers thereof, at all times of their ministration, shall be retained and be in use as they were in this Church of England, by authority of Parliament, in the second year of the reign of king Edward VI. SEE CONSTITUTIONS and SEE CANONS ECCLESIASTICAL; SEE RITUALISM. The Lutheran Church of Germany has retained the use of pictures, tapers, and crucifix; while the Reformed Church and the dissenting bodies have carefully discarded every such ornament from the church.
We embody in this article a concise description of the chief articles used in the ritualistic churches of Christendom, and their supposed significance, taking it largely from a curious little book written in defense of extreme ritualism, and entitled The Ritual Reason Why. The altar-rail is a rail which separates the altar from the rest of the chancel, because it symbolizes the Holy of Holies in the Temple; the altar-cloth veils it as a token of respect, and to mark the different seasons of the Church by a change of colors, which are five in number; the lights are emblematic of Christ, the light of the world, and also signs of spiritual light and joy; flowers are used for the same purpose; the credence-table (q.v.) is used for the preparation of the elements for the communion before they are placed on the altar; the sedilia (q.v.) are the seats of the lesser clergy, arranged according to their rank; the paten (q.v.) is a thin dish of gold or silver gilt, on which the altar beads are placed for consecration and for communion; the ciborium is a kind of shallow cup used for the same purpose the chalice (qv.) is the cup for holding the consecrated wine; the chalice-veil is a square of embroidered silk for covering it when empty; the corporal is a napkin of fine linen spread on the altar at the time of the communion; the cruets are vessels of glass or metal for holding the sacred wine, and for water; the pyx (q.v.) is a metal canister lined with linen in which the bread is kept till required for use; the basin and napkin are used for washing the priests' hands; the piscina (q.v.) is a small stone basin set in the wall, and used for the same purpose; the lectern (q.v.) is the name given to the reading-desk; the censer (q.v.), or thurible, is a vessel of metal, usually in the shape of a cup, with a perforated cover, in which incense is offered; the sanctus bell is a small bell used to give notice of the elevation of the host, or eucharistic bread; the travelling-cloth is spread over the altar-rails, or before the communicants, to prevent any of the bread falling to the ground. There are other articles, especially different kinds of candles and candlesticks, used in and about the altar and in processions; but those above mentioned are the most important, except such as are worn upon the person, for which SEE VESTMENTS. (See illustrations on following page.)
See Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church, bk. viii; Riddle, Christian Antiquities, p. 741 sq., 811 sq.; Coleman, Ancient Christianity exemplified, p. 260 sq.; and. for the Church of England especially, Hook, Church Dict. s.v.