Staff, Precentors

Staff, Precentor's

A staff or baton of office made of wood or precious metal, used by a precentor (a) to designate his rank and office, and also (b) to enable him to beat time and keep time in sight of the whole choir. Of the precentor's staff there are three kinds: (1) ornamented with a pommel of gold, like one preserved at Limburg-on-the-Lahn, and within memory at Rheims; (2) having a carving, like those of St. Gereon's and the Dom at Cologne — the latter has a staff of the 12th century, with the Adoration of the Magi added in the 14th century; (3) terminating in a Tau-shaped head, usually of boxwood, like St. Servais', of the 12th century, at Maestricht. Sometimes the staff was made of ivory, adorned with bands of silver, gilt-edged, with gems, and ending in a crystal ball. It was sometimes called serpentella, from a figure of the Virgin treading on a serpent, as at Paris, The slightly curved top of the "cross of St. Julienne" at Montreuil-sur-Mer, of the 11th century, marks the transition from the staff to that borne by a bishop. The chanter's baton of St. Denis, now in the Louvre, was carried by Napoleon I, and the French kings before him, at their coronation, as "the golden scepter of Charlemagne," from a seated figure of the monarch on the top: it is dated 1384. At Amiens the choristers carried little silver crosses, and the priest-chanter and chanter had staffs with figures in a dome-like niches but formerly used batons of silver of the Tau shape, which at length descended to the hands of chanters and choristers on certain days. The precentor on great festivals used the staff at Paris, Rouen, Angers, Lyons, Catania, Neti, Messina, and Syracuse. SEE PRECENTOR.

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