Seal (Ecclesiastical Use Of)
Seal (Ecclesiastical Use Of), a piece of metal or other hard substance, e.g. bone or ivory, usually round or elliptical, on which is engraved some device, used for making impressions on wax. The wax set or affixed to an ecclesiastical or legal instrument, duly impressed or stamped with a seal, is likewise designated by the same term. The use of seals as a mark of authenticity to letters and other instruments in writing is very ancient, and was allowed to be sufficient without signing the name, which few could do of old. In 1237, owing to the prevalence of forgeries and the absence of public notaries in England, abbots, priors, deans archdeacons, their Officials and rural deans, capitular bodies, colleges, and convents, were required to have seals. If the office was perpetual, then the name of the man who bore it was engraved on the seal; but rural deans and officials whose office was temporary, had only the name of their office engraved upon it. They resigned their seals at the expiration of their tenure to him by whom they had been commissioned. The name seal is also given to the little stone which covers the sepulchre of relics in an altar.