In 1566, after the close of the Council of Trent, young Carlo Borromeo left Rome to return to Milan as its Archbishop. His intention was to initiate an unqualified application of the Tridentine decrees throughout the archdiocese. He instigated pastoral visits, called for diocesan synods and provincial councils, inspected ecclesiastical institutions; established seminaries, and insisted on the reform of women's religious houses. He examined every aspect of ecclesiastical life including liturgical activities and the buildings in which they were held. He requested reports of insitutions left largely to their own devices for too long; he insisted that parish priests be in residence and he prohibited family members from living in the same parish house. In a ligher tone, reactions to his reforms were incredible. Several representatives of various Swiss Cantons planned to murder him, half of the Milanese planned to canonize him, architects fled him, organ makers were busy redesigning and relocating organs banned from the lofts above altars, artists put up with him, nuns literally leapt over the wall to flee his reforms, and the plague-ridden poor blessed him. In just a few years, Milan, the largest archdiocese in Italy, became an example of methodical Tridentine reform.

Confronted with the task of overseeing so large an area, Borromeo's solution was to name assistants who would supervise the application of his directives. Recognizing that architecture was the most social of all the arts, he envisioned a restored atmosphere of dignity, cleanliness, uniformity, and functionality, for all of Milans's sacred buildings as well as their interior spaces. It was this concern that led him to publish his Instructiones fabricae et superllectilis ecclesiasticae in 1577.


The first thing to do when building a church is for the Bishop and the architect he has commissioned and approved to choose the most suitable site.

It is particularly important that the location of the church, wherever it is built, should be up high. If this location is completely level, it should at least be sufficiently prominent so that access to the church will be by three or at the most five steps. If the topography is such that there is no more elevated part, then the church should be built on a base so that it will be raised and rise up over the plain, and the floor will be reached by means of those three or five steps.(1)

So that there will be greater veneration in the church and to keep it, insofar as possible, far from all noise which might disturb the divine offices, care must also be taken in choosing the site that it be far from muddy and dirty areas, from all kinds of filth, stables, sheep pens, taverns, forges, shops, and markets of all kinds. Places of this kind should also be far from the surrounding areas of the church.

Care must also be taken in choosing the site for the church that the building will appear as a separate block, that is unconnected to and separated from the walls of the surrounding buildings by a space of several paces, as will be explained further on with regard to the street, as established by the ancients and required by correct criteria.

This can be most easily done in the towns and places where buildings are not crowded together.

On the proximity and conjunction of ecclesiastical buildings with the site of the church

It is not contrary to the criteria applied to the building of the church that the living quarters of the ministers of the church, that is the Bishop, the canons, and the parish priest, should be built to one side or the other, but not however adhering to the walls of the church. They should be connected to the church by walls that run through the free space mentioned above, and in general be in the proximity of the site of the church, as recommended by the canon of the Council of Carthage.(2)

The living quarters of the ministers called custodians or sacristans can be built in a place adjacent to the church or the sacristy, or above the sacristy itself (as can be seen in some churches) so that the ecclesiastical furnishings entrusted to these ministers will be better protected from danger of sacrilege, theft or fire. However in building this residence, care must be taken above all that the structure does not obstruct or disfigure the façade of the church or block windows or openings or furnish impediments of any kind.

Secondly, there should be no openings or windows in the dwelling which look into the church. Lastly there should be no door providing an entrance into or path through the

church that could be used by persons and things for domestic, private or daily use, but only a door to be used by those who enter for their duties, regarding the divine offices.

The general area of the church

Care must be taken that the general area chosen for the church not be in a damp or marshy place or near hills or steep slopes where a torrent or some other strong flow of water might damage the building.

If however it is necessary to build on a slope, it will be leveled according to the size of the future church, leaving a level area of twelve or more cubits, according to need, at the back and on the sides, between the church and the slope that has been cut away, which will then have a solid wall, after channels have been dug on both sides for carrying off the water which will at times flow in.

The size of the site of the church

The size of the site of the church must be such as to accommodate not only the people living in the place where the church is being built, whether it is a parish, a collegiate, or cathedral church, but also taking into account the influx of other faithful on determined holy days.

A criteria not to be disregarded is that for every person there be a space of one cubit and eight ounces square, in addition to the space occupied by the columns, piers and walls.(3)


Chapter I, pp.

1. In the Vitruvian tradition there was a certain classicism, which if not broadly interpreted, was inadequate to meet the demands of the new stress on active liturgical participation. The demand for more parochial churches, oratories, and votive chapels left little opportunity to seek out ideal sites in heavily populated areas. To contrast the Vitruvian tradition with the Borromean instructions for choosing a site, we shall first refer to Vitruvius and then to a more contemporary source, that of Pietro Cataneo whose work was published in Venice in 1554.

Vitruvius I, vii

For the temples (the sites for those of the gods under whose particular protection the state is thought to rest and for Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva) should be on the very highest point commanding a view of the greater part of the city. (f)

Cataneo, vi

The duomo or above mentioned cathedral church should be in an eminent place so that it can be seen from many sections of the city, in order to celebrate there, in that [church] more than in any other, the divine cult; for there God is atoned, and the church becomes the stronghold of the city.(g)

Ecclesiastical architecture under the Instructiones seeks to take on a pedagogical and functional aspect. While it is true that Cataneo on occasion isolates the problem of Christian building and refers to the medieval symbolism found in Durandus, for the most part his concept here is concern for the splendor of the temple and its complement to the dignity of a city. Palladio, whose treatise was published approximately fifteen years later than that of Cataneo, placed the temple in a more practical situation.

Palladio, IV, I

We…shall choose those sites for temples that shall be in the most noble and most celebrated part of the city, far from dishonored places, and on beautiful and ornamented piazzas in which many streets finish, whereby every part of the temple may be seen with its dignity, and afforded devotion and admiration to whomever sees and beholds it. And if in the city there be hills, the highest part of them is to be chosen; but in case there be no elevated places, the floor of the temple is to be raised, as much as convenient, above the rest of the city. One is besides to ascend to the temple by steps; since the ascent alone to a temple is what affords greater devotion and majesty.

The fronts of temples must be made to face the greatest part of a city, that religion may seem to be placed as the safe-guard and protectrix of the citizens.

Borromeo as early as 1576 prescribed the following at the fourth Provincial Council: that no church be built without the written authorization of the bishop; that the new structure be in a decent location; that the church be large enough to accommodate the parishioners, and that it be a free standing building, so that one might walk around it.(i) Interestingly enough, the next few clauses reveal the traditional symbolic aspect as cited by Durandus and the other adherents of medieval symbolism: "Let him [bishop] see to it that in every respect it [church] be built in such a manner that it not depart from ancient custom and approved tradition, that the priest celebrating Mass at the main altar may face east."

…curetque omino ita illam aedificari, ne ab antiquo more, probataque traditione discedatur, ut sacerdos in altari maiori Missam celebrans, Orientem spectet. (AEM, 318)

Barocchi, in her commentary in Trattati d'arte del cinquecento, cites only the first part of the above prescription using it as a basis to emphasize Borromeo's practical attitudes. True, this second section as quoted above reveals a traditional aspect, but it in no way detracts from Borromeo's objective attitudes. Within the year (i.e., the time between the cited directive and the publication of the treatise), he will have dropped the stipulation for eastern orientation.

2. The Council of Carthage, IV, was held in 398: reference is to canon fourteen, De cellula sacerdotis.

3. Borromeo's sensitivity to space is characteristic of his entire work. As the norms are discussed, it becomes more and more obvious that he makes every attempt to give a time and place for architectural space and function. The post-Tridentine period brought a re- emphasis on attendance at church for Mass and for preaching. These gatherings could be, at times, two distinct functions. Crowds that came together numbered in the hundreds and there was a need to provide them with adequate accommodations. The allotted space per person was calculated for a church where there were no benches. Borromeo required an exact scale known as the Milanese ecclesiastical cubit, and he incorporated this measurement in four different sections of various decrees and/or instructions to the clergy. (A practical move insofar as the measuring scale was contained within distributed pamphlets, thus, should one have been lost, another was readily available for consultation.) (Figs. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4.)

Several editions of the Instructiones have measurements based on the scale of Fig. 1.2 which corresponds to 22 cm. The examples here reproduced from the Ratti edition are based on calculations by Luigi Morfetti, who estimated the ecclesiastical cubit to be 44 cm. Gian Battista Maderna, in an unpublished thesis La normativa di Carlo Borromeo e I projetti per l'edilizia religiosa nell'antica diocesi di Milano, 1590-1799 (Catholic University, Milan, 1972), identifies two distinct measurements in use in Milan at that time: the braccio = m. 0,595 applied by civil engineers, and the ecclesiastical cubito = m. 0,426. The ecclesiastical cubit was applied solely for computation by church deputies and officials of the curia, and rarely by the engineers or architects.

In determining measurements for this study the following formula (based on the Ratti edition) has been applied (Fig. 1.5): one ounce x 24 = 1 cubit (1.81 cm) (43.64 cm)


(f) Vitruvius, ed., H. Morgan, The Ten Books on Architecture (Cambridge, 1914), p. 31.

(g) L'Architettura di Pietro Cataneo Senese (Venice, 1554; repr. Gregg Press, N.J., 1964), I, vi. Il duomo, o chiesa catedrale sudetta, sia posta in luogo eminente, accioché da più parti della città possa esser veduta, peroché, per celebrarsi in quella più che in ogni altra il culto divino, se ne placa Iddio e ne divine difensore della città. (Author's translation above.)

But if temples are built without the city, then their fronts must be made to face the public streets, or the rivers, if they are built near them; that passengers may see them, and make their salutations and reverences before the front of the temple.(h)

(h) Palladio, Four Books of Architecture, trans. I. Ware (New York, 1946), IV, i.

(i) AEM, 318.


The site of the church has been briefly discussed above. Considerations on the plan now will be given.

Since many plans are possible, the bishop must make his decision after consulting with an expert architect and taking into account the nature of the site and the size of the building.

The cruciform plan, going back almost to apostolic times, and as seen in the major basilicas of Rome (1), built in this way, is to be preferred. The round edifice was once used for pagan temples and much less among Christian peoples.(2)

Every church, then, and in particular those requiring an imposing appearance, ought preferably to be built in the form of a cross. There are various types, such as for example the oblong one, which is most commonly used. The other types are rarer.

Therefore, where possible, the oblong cross plan should be used in every church to be built, whether it is a cathedral, collegiate or parish church.(3) Where the site requires a plan that differs from the oblong form, the advice of the architect can be followed subject to approval by the bishop.

Building criteria for the cruciform church

The cruciform church, whether it is to have a single nave, or a nave and two, or four, aisles, can be constructed following varied proportions and designs, but also using only this one: that is with two chapels built at either side of the main chapel, of course outside of the entrance [to the main chapel]. Extended like arms, these will project beyond the sides of the whole building, and will be visible externally depending on how large they are, according to the type of architecture.


Chapter II, pp.

1.  The second part of a ceremonial manual compiled by Borromeo and his uncle Pius IV (Pontificales secundum ritum et usum Sancte Romane Ecclesie, printed by Giunta in Venice, 1561) describes the rites for the consecration of churches. The woodcut which is used as a visual aid in the procedure for the blessing of a site, shows the longitudinal plan (Fig. 2.1). This publication appears rather early in the reign of Pius IV and gives additional support to Lewine's observation that the solutions to some of the fundamental problems in church design emerge as early as the 1530's and live on throughout the next four or five decades without reference to Michelangelo or his ideas. Lewine's study examines all new churches founded or completely built in Rome between 1527 and 1580 and his conclusion sustains the theory that "frequent Masses, regular preaching and manifest piety each created a demand on the fabric of a church; the stylistic responses on the part of Roman architects were immediate and their solutions enduring."(a)

As was noted in the Introduction to this study, Charles Borromeo was familiar with the ancient basilicas of Rome. The spirit of the reform movement had an attitude of "back to the sources," that is, a return to the fervor of the ancients and of the medieval church which also resulted in a revival of reading the Church Fathers and early liturgists. Included among Borromeo's personal books were manuscript notes on the writings of both Sicardus and Durandus, (b) which for purposes of this study indicates some influence from both of these medieval sources. In the Durandus Rationale (I, 17) the statement is made that "some churches are built in the shape of a cross to signify that we are crucified to the world and should tread in the steps of the Crucified." In reference to the central plan, Durandus adds that "some (churches) also are built in the form of a circle to signify that the Church has extended throughout the circle of the world."

Cataneo builds from the Durandus analogy and sets down his idea that the principal church of a city should be in cruciform plan equating the measurements of the perfect human body. He goes on to incorporate the perfect body of Christ with the ground plan, identifying specific liturgical functions with various parts of the body (Fig. 2.2).(c)

Palladio, in his discussion of temple forms, supports first the central plan by stating that temples ought to be large, and that from among all figures that are terminated by an equal circumference, non is more capacious than the round. Of the longitudinal plan he says "those churches also are very laudable that are made in the form of a cross, which have their entrance in the part that represents the foot of the cross, and opposite to which should be the principal altar and the choir; and in the two branches, that are extended from either side like arms, two other entrances, or two other altars; because that being fashioned in the form of a cross, they represent to the eyes of the beholders that wood from which depends our salvation. And, of this form I have made San Giorgio Maggiore at Venice."(d) Recent studies have produced additional insights into Palladio's sense of the Catholic Reform movement in architecture: the role of mass participation in religious ceremonies.(e)

2.  "As far as round edifices are concerned, this type of plan was used for pagan temples and is less customary among Christian people." From these words it has often been inferred that Borromeo frowned upon the central plan.(f) But Borromeo elaborates upon this idea and concludes that some sites "require another form of building in preference to the oblong form," and that a church of such construction may be made. Actually Borromeo simply recommends the rectangular form as first choice for basilicas and parochial churches but approves the round as well. The following documentations substantiate this fact.

Serviliano Latuada in his famous description of Milan tells how during the plague of 1576 city officials under the encouragement of cardinal Borromeo approved funds to build a votive temple in honor of St. Sebastian "con disegno…del celebre Architetto Pellegrino Pellegrini."(g)

About 1488 a location outside of the city of Milan was set apart to serve as a campsite for plague victims. during the plague of 1576-78, Borromeo, in consultation with Pellegrino Tibaldi and Ludovico Moneta approved another centrally planned building. It was to be an open, octagonal church in the center of which was an altar. Above the altar, supported by columns and pilasters, there was a small eight-sided cupola with tholos (See Appendix II #24 for the location of the Lazaretto and the church.) The original Tibaldi plan is in the Borromeo archives at Isola Bella (Fig. 2.5). The inscription, which is signed by Borromeo, states that "we approve the form and plan expressed in this picture from the advice of the skilled architect, and, carefully inspected by us, in accordance with the provisions of our instructions for church building, we concede that the construction of this church be made and completed…."

The Archivio Arcivescovile della Curia di Milano (XXXVIII:50-26) turns up yet another centrally planned church. The document is dated 30 May 1578, and the entry description reads: Il card. Carlo Borromeo rilascia la licenza di costruire la nuova chiesa di S.

Rocco, licenza scritta e sottoscritta con firma autografa, in calce al progetto disegnato a penna con la pianta della nuova chiesa. E' pure unito uno schizzo a penna con la pianta sezione circolare della cappelletta di S. Rocchino.


(a) M. Lewine, "The Roman Church Interior, 1527-1580" (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1960).

(b) Saba, entry under R: RATIONALE Siceardi, et Durantis. Manuscriptum. (p. 35).

(c) Cataneo, III, i.

(d) Palladio, IV, ii.

(e) Both S. Giorgio Maggiore (1565) and Il Redentore (1577) were designed to accommodate a specific function in religious cult. Palladio's conception of Il Redentore corresponded exactly to its role as a votive and not a parochial church. As a temple of the Republic it was principally designated for the processions and ceremonies of the Serenissima, and only secondarily for the Capuchins, who were the resident guardians of the church. The central apse contained the main altar, the lateral apses were designed to seat the Doge and the Senate, and were therefore without altars. Side altars, however, appear in S. Giorgio Maggiore, which was built primarily as a monastic church. See: A. Isermeyer, "La concezione degli edifici sacri palladiani," XIV (1972), pp. 105-35 and C. Semeszato, "Le chiese di Andrea Palladio," XV (1973), pp. 267-78 in Bollettino del centro internazionale di studi di architettura, A. Palladio (Vicenza).

(f) Blunt, p. 127; also R. Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (London, 1960), p. 31.

(g) S. Latuada, Descrizione di Milano (Milan, 1738), vol. III, pp. 119-25. For Tibaldi's project see Figs. 2.3, 2.4. For further documentation, see C. Baroni, Documenti per la storia dell'Architettura a Milano nel Rinascimento e nel Barocco (Rome, 1968), vol. II, pp. 157-75. (For location within the city see appendix II, #92.)


The other things regarding the type of structure, the building materials, the solidity of the walls, the plaster, the revetment, depending on the type of church to be built and the other characteristics of the region and of the location, will be diligently established at the discretion of the bishop, after consultation with the architect.(1)

However these norms regarding the external walls must be observed, and that is that the side and back walls are not to be decorated with images. However the more the facade is decorated with holy images or paintings that depict the sacred history, the more pleasing and solemn it will be.(2)

In the pious decoration of the facade designed in line with the structure of the church and the size of the building, the architect will take care that no secular images appear, and that what is suitable to the sanctity of the place be depicted as well as the means available permit.

Care must also be taken that on the façade of every church, especially if a parish church, the image of the blessed Virgin Mary holding her Son be decorously and piously painted or carved outside above the main entrance. The effigy of the saint to whom the church is dedicated will be set on her right, and on her left that of the saint to whom the people of that parish are particularly devoted. If it is impossible to have all three figures, only the image of the saint to whom the church is dedicated will be made. If the church is dedicated to the feast day or entitled to the Virgin of the Annunciation, the Assumption or the Nativity of Mary, the image of the blessed Virgin will be represented in a manner that is suitable to the nature of the mystery revealed. It will then be the task of the architect to see diligently that this part of the structure is well protected from rain and other ravages of weather.(3)

The other sculptures or paintings and other ornaments, solemn and seemly, which help make the facade of the church majestic and solemn, will be established by the bishop, who will ask for the architect’s opinion if necessary, according to the type of ecclesiastical edifice built.(4)


Chapter III, pp.

1. Borromeo's norms regarding the external walls and the façade had little in common with the medieval symbolism of the school of Durandus which gives such elaborate and complex symbolic interpretations as "the walls upon the foundations equal the Jews and gentiles who come from the four parts of the world to Christ. The faithful are the stones in the wall which shall continually be built up unto the world's end. The large stones are placed at angles of the building and these are the holy men who by their merits and prayers support the weaker brethren. The cement is made of lime, sand and water. Lime is charity which joins the sand, figurative of a temporal condition, and both are mixed with water which is peace…The church consists of four walls built on the doctrine of the four evangelists, and the height of the walls represents courage, the length, fortitude, and the width, charity."(a)

2. This section, relative to the decoration of the side walls and the façade, has significant features that re-evaluate prior attitudes towards the Lombard style. Out of context, it would appear that the walls were to remain flat and smooth, reserving all decoration for the façade However, Borromeo's reference to the side walls is that "nulla imago exprimatur," meaning that on the façade alone was there to be anything of a religious iconographic connotation. The church of S. Fedele serves, for this study, as an approved Borromean-Tibaldi project. The side has the same monumental architectonic language as has the façade, and although Tibaldi's plans underwent some alteration throughout the centuries, the basic interpretation is the same (Figs. 3.1, 3.2). The façade is composed of two orders, Corinthian and Composite beneath a single pediment. The side walls share a certain unity of design with the façade. Richard Haslam observes that the pair of triumphal-arch rhythms evolve from the internal arrangement of the church, and are brought to rest in the same way on the façade. The forms are handled with lightness and coherence, the lower window pediments are attached only by corbels to the architrave; the cornice springs from cherub-heads above the capitals. Such architecture is unique on the flank of a Milanese church and is outstanding both for its formal elaboration and for the use of various tone and stucco panels together.(b) In 1576 Borromeo, at the fourth Provincial Council, had urged "in uniuscuiusque item ecclesiae, praesertim Parochialis frontispico, a superiori scillicet parte ostili, maioris, sacrae imagines exprimantur ad praescriptum Instructionum quas de Fabrica ecclesiastica edidimus."(c) The Instructiones appeared less than a year later.

3. Don Carlo Marcora of the Ambrosiana Library in Milan suggested the following theory to the present writer. From the many letters at the Ambrosiana it is clear that a vital friendship existed between St. Philip Neri and St. Charles Borromeo, and that their companionship began during young Charles' first sojourn in Rome from 1560 to 1565. St.

Philip Neri could well have influenced him in the matter of religious iconographic designs for church facades. The two had planned the Casa Pia in 1564 (near the church of S. Chiara) as a shelter for young prostitutes. Borromeo took a special interest in housing and feeding these girls, while St. Philip's direction was towards the homeless young boys. In 1575, when Gregory XIII officially recognized the importance of the apostolic work of St. Philip and his community of priests, the church of S. Maria in Vallicella (Chiesa Nuova) was begun. St. Philip solicited the financial assistance of cardinal Charles Borromeo and of two brothers, Cardinal Pierdonato and Bishop Angelo Cesi, and construction of the church began under the collaboration of the architects Giacomo della Porta, Martino Lunghi, Matteo da Castello, and Fausto Rughesi, whose responsibility was the façade. Although the façade was not completed until 1605, Rughesi followed St. Philip's iconographic plan which was to incorporate an image of the Madonna and Child flanked by angels in the arch of the main doorway, while in the upper tier, the left niche held a statue of St. Gregory the Great and the right niche, St. Jerome (Fig. 3.3). Since the plans for the façade date as early as 1574 and Borromeo's norms are published in 1577, it is indeed a logical premise to link Borromeo's inspiration with the church norm of St. Philip Neri.(d)

4. These chapter notes would not be complete without some reference, however brief, to Borromeo's attitude towards the façade of the Milan Duomo and the Gothic versus Classical debate that was finally pushed to a resolution by Napoleon, when in July of 1805 the Fabbrica was advised to sell property to the sum of 1,200,000 lire in order to have the financial resources to complete the façade.(e)

The post-medieval Gothic style was an architectural curiosity that surfaced in Italy as a reaction to the classical mannered style of the late Renaissance. Many theorists considered the Gothic style barbaric and excluded it from treatises. Vasari, always a partisan of Renaissance ideals, was concerned with the problem of taste and, in his Introduction to the Lives described the style as maniera tedesca, equating the Goths and

Germans with the Gothic style. He complained that "on all the facades…they build cursed little niches, one above the other, with no end of pinnacles and points and leaves…it appears impossible that the parts do not fall over at any moment…This style was the invention of the Goths…May God protect every country from such ideas and style of buildings." Wittkower, in discussing Borromeo's reaction to the Gothic style, aptly observed that "We may also be certain that for a leader of the Counter-Reformation the maniera tedesca, the German style, was emotionally unacceptable, for this was the style which heretics north of the Alps applied to their churches."(f)

Fig. 3.4 is a design by Vincenzo Seregni, c 1535, of the portal of the north transept of the Duomo. Seregni, as architect of the Duomo, was dismissed from his office by Cardinal Borromeo in July 1567, and four days later the vacancy was filled by Pellegrino Tibaldi.

The design for the Duomo façade shown in figure 3.5, attributed to Tibaldi, indicates a complete break in style. It is a classical façade and has ten massive Corinthian columns that are over sixty feet tall with shafts that were planned to be single pieces of marble.

Each column appears to be joined to a half-column behind it that is set into the walls of the façade. The orders, the form, the windows, doors, and obelisks are classical elements. Two free standing bell towers accompany the façade.

After a complicated, relatively painful period of debate, politics, and a fair amount of intrigue, Tibaldi's plan was initiated in April 1609 with some modification in the upper tier. In 1635 Carlo Buzzi, then architect of the Duomo, presented a plan that would

preserve Tibaldi's classical portion and allow a return to the Gothic (Fig. 3.6). See also Fig. 3.7 for the Duomo as it stands today.g)


(a) Durandus, I, 10, 15.

(b) R. Haslam, "Pellegrino Tibaldi and the Design of S. Fedele, Milan," Arte lombarda, 42/43 (1975), pp. 124-153.

(c) AEM, col. 318.

(d) On the friendship between St. Charles and St. Philip, see A. Ratti, "San Carlo e S. Filippo Neri," in S. Carlo Borromeo nel terzo centenario della canonizzazione 1610-1910 (Milan, 1910), pp. 74-77.

(e) R. Wittkower, Gothic vs. Classic: Architectural Projects in Seventeenth Century Italy (New York, 1974), p. 8.

(f) Wittkower, p. 27.

(g) Wittkower's work, as cited above, presents an excellent study of the development and various phases of the Duomo façade. Additional studies are found in the collection Il Duomo di Milano, Atti, Congresso Internazionale (Milan, 1969).


There will be an atrium in front of the sacred building, as the architect will advise according to the space available and the structure of the ecclesiastical edifice, surrounded by porticoes on all sides and ornamented with other suitable architectural elements.(1)

If because of the limited space or inadequate funds, this [atrium] cannot be built, it should be seen to that at least a portico be set in front of the church.

The portico, composed of marble columns or stone or brick piers, will be as long as the entire facade of the church, and the width and height will be in proportion to the length.

Every parish church should ideally have a portico of this type.

If for lack of funds not even this is possible, at least a square porch should be built in front of the main door, with only two columns or piers set far from the door. It will be a bit wider than the entrance to the church.(2)


Chapter IV

1. Borromeo's five-year period in Rome had familiarized him with the majority of its churches. On 18 November 1564, he became the titular of S. Prassede and istigated, at his

personal expense, renovation of the street entrance, the stairs, the façade, and the replacement of some columns in the atrium.(a) (Figs. 4.1, 4.2, 4.3) In Milan, several churches still retain the atrium, such as S. Lorenzo, S. Maria presso S. Celso (Fig. 4.4), and St. Ambrogio with its Romanesque atrium that still joins the church in a handsome narthex (Figs. 4.5, 4.6). These churches may be found in Appendix II.

2. With his usual sense of practicality, Borromeo accepted historical change and recognized that the imposition of new roads, buildings, urban development in general, left few sites adequately large for a church plan that would incorporate an atrium. He allows for various possibilities, including financial, in suggesting construction of an atrium, porch, or vestibule.


(a) "Ristaurò mirabilmente questo titolo [di S. Prassede], e cominciando con la strada che si chiama Vico Laterizio, rifece il portico per salire alla chiesa, ristaurò la facciata, pose alcune colonne per l'atrio…." from B. Davanzati, Notizie al Pellegrino della Basilica di S. Prassede (Rome, 1725), p. 507.


Particular care must be taken in constructing the roof, which must protect the entire building, since if it is poorly planned or poorly made, the wood decays, the walls weaken and gradually the entire structure will fall into ruin.(1) Therefore particular zeal and attention is required of the architect in roofing the church which, with its sacred images, pious ornaments and religious apparatus, should be built to last forever. Whatever form the architect may have chosen for the roof according to the characteristics of the building, whether it is gabled, vaulted, or coffered, he must see to it above all that the wooden material, that is the beams, rafters, struts, planks, and all the rest of which the roof is formed, and their joints are solid.

Regarding the covering of the roof, which differs according to the customs of the regions and the shape of the building, the architect himself will see what type is most suitable.

In churches of distinguished structure and with considerable funds, it is best to use bronze tiles to cover the roof, as was once done, or at least lead tiles.(2)

Both the tradition of some of the Roman basilicas (3) and the meaning attributed to the mystery lead one to build coffered ceilings in the churches, (4) but it will not be inappropriate to build them with vaults, according to the customs of the places, to make the structures more fireproof. Such vaulted roofs can be seen in distinguished and ancient basilicas in the city and province of Milan. Care however must be taken to eliminate dripping on the lower part of the wall by giving the roof a proper slope. The architect will be responsible for seeing that it is done in the best and most appropriate way, adequately designing the structure of the parts.

So that the walls will not be damaged by the continuous dripping from the eaves, the foundations, as soon as they rise above the level of the ground, must be covered with closely set flagstone paving, a good deal wider than the eaves. The earth taken from those places must be permanently removed.

Moreover so that the eaves will not be subject to infiltration of rain water, if the tiles or flat tiles are not waterproof, at the summit, a structure or brick parapet with projecting tops resting on the beams of the roof, which will also help the slope thereof, will be employed.


Chapter V, pp.

1. Even a cursory search through any of the 1565-184 catalogues in the Archivi Curia di Milano will not fail to bring to light some documents relating to church repairs that were ordered by either Borromeo or his delegates. Many necessary reparations were the result of poor or worn roofing. One quaint entry, no date, specified that the pastor had sixty days (and then if not complied with, deprivation of his office until so done) to rid the church attic of merli (blackbirds)! Almost all of the entries concerning roofs are relatively simple and brief.

On 7 September 1576, Borromeo sent a pastoral visitor to Luino to report about damages that might have resulted from a mountain flash flood. A minute description written by Bishop Gerolamo Politi follows one of the early outlines designed by Borromeo to bring uniformity to these reports. The roof that Politi described was the type made of fairly large, flat, overlaying slate-like slabs of stone that were supported by a wooden frame. He wrote that the entire church of S. Pietro in Luino left much to be desired, was missing its ceiling, and that the vault over the main chapel had been roughly plastered but not whitewashed. Two years later another official visitor, using the same outline, updated the prior information, adding that "Que est longitudinis a capella 15, latitudinis 6; cooperta plidis subtus cuticulus…" This confirms that the roof was made of slate shingles resting on a filleting, which was a type of mortar at the joining of the sloping roof and walls. The mortar was extended up the side of the wall and over one or two courses of slate shingles with the next course overlapping it. This system, frequently used in towns of the rural north, was prone to leaks as a result of loose slates and settlement. At S. Pietro, this is exactly what happened, as is reported by Borromeo's delegate. "Parietes, cum foraminbus, ab utraque parte picti; egentes tamen ab utraque parte incrustations. Ex quibus paries a destra parte in ingrediendo minat ruinam." The roof had not been kept in prime condition and the wall to the right was nearly ruined.(a)

2. Another curious entry in the archives pertaining to roofs is in reference to a prelate of S. Ambrogio who was brought to trial because he had sold some of the lead from the roofs of the basilica complex.(b)

3. Borromeo's second titular church was S. Martino ai Monti, and he assumed the title on 4 November 1560. Under his direction and with his financial assistance, the church was thoroughly cleaned and a new ceiling commissioned. The same ceiling survives today at S. Martino ai Monti, showing a decorative alternation between the Borromeo crest and the word "humilitas"(c) (Figs. 5.1, 5.2).

4. In reference to symbolical meaning, Durandus states that "in the temple of God, … the roof is charity which covers a multitude of sins,…the roof tiles which drive the rain from the house are as the soldiers who protect the church from pagans and from enemies." He writes that the beams are similar to preachers who give spiritual strength; and that the vaulting or ceiling likewise represent preachers who reach upward.(d)


(a) Archivi Curia Milano, section X (Pastoral visits), vol. 7, no. 14.

(b) Visite Pastorali di Milan, S. Ambrogio, vol. xx:42, no. 14, herafter cited as VPM.

(c) Cod. Vat. Lat. 706l, fol. 186v., also O. Panciroli, I tesori nascosti nell'alma citta Roma (Rome, 1600), p.621.

(d) Durandus, I, 16, 36, 31.


Enough has been said about the roof. Discussion of the floor now follows. In the church it should not be made of bricks laid in a herringbone pattern, or of fired bricks, or other brickwork, unless it is glazed, but in the more important church and in the main chapels, in the other outstanding structures, it should be covered with marble or some other strong stone, tessellated or with diamond-shaped tiles, perfectly smooth, or also in mosaic work. In the other churches and chapels, where this is not possible, the floor should be in smooth stone slabs or brick. On the floor, regardless of what material is used, no cross should be painted or in relief, nor any other sacred image or story or other figure symbolizing the sacred mystery.


Chapter VI, p.

1. Borromeo's experience in pastoral visits led him to observe that church floors made only of pressed earth were not suitable for the constant use that he hoped the Catholic Reform spirit would incite. A solid material surface, whether of glazed brick or marble, would definitely be more functional and would eliminate the possibility of holes and of irregularities - problems that restricted an orderly, even, uninterrupted flow of people

2. In pagan antiquity the pavement of a temple, basilica, and home was one of the major decorative crafts that had developed to a perfected splendor, as is attested to by the mosaics of Rome that Borromeo would also have known.

The sectile floors of central Italian churches between the twelfth century and the mid- thirteenth, were known as Cosmatesque pavements. Specific characteristics were roundels and/or quatrefoils flanked on the right and left sides by repeated groups of patterned rectangles separated by white marble interstices. The materials normally were porphyry, white marble, giallo antico, and serpentine. The roundels had a longitudinal orientation, beginning at the entrance of the church and were designed to lead the eye down the nave in a direct line towards the altar, giving, in effect, a kind of processional route. Many of these pavements are in existence today and serve as examples of consistent, iconographical, visual programs.(a)

3. Durandus compares the pavement to the foundation of faith, saying that in the spiritual Church the pavement represents the poor in spirit; that is, those who humble themselves in all things; who in their humility are as the pavement.(b) He makes no mention of images.

Decorative pavements with inlaid animals, symbols of the zodiac and labors of the months are already known to the reader. Figures of this sort had regional variations, and some prominent examples in the Milan archdiocese during the time of Borromeo (still in evidence) are the mosaic pavements of S. Michele, Pavia; the Duomo of Cremona(c) with its figurative interpretation of the battle between corpo et anima; and the Basilica of S. Colombano at Bobbio and its twelfth-century pavement with representations of the months, the story of the Maccabees, and several fantastic creatures.

As regards sacred images in the pavement of churches and streets, it is interesting to note that the Florentine synod of 1517 forbade crosses and symbols of any saint to be placed, carved, sculptured or painted where they could be walked upon by men and animals.(d)

Borromeo, in the fourth Provincial Council of 1576, minced no words in forbidding sacred images in pavements when he declared that "that which has been ratified by us concerning the image of the sacrosanct Cross in the third Provincial Council, let this likewise be interdict; to wit, that other sacred images and histories of the saints, or figures and symbols of sacred mysteries, be carved, painted, or represented in any flooring whatsoever, laid on the ground or in any sordid place, even outside of the church."(e)

In 1567, Borromeo approved Tibaldi's design for the pavement in the Milan Duomo, and in October, 1580, another entry appears in the archives regarding some deliberations of the Fabbrica over its construction.(f) Tibaldi's plan contained several designs as part of the total whole. The sanctuary was to contrast markedly from that of the rest of the church and this variation in pattern and color would serve to increase the perceptibility of the sloping stages that led to the main altar. There was no instance of a sacred symbol.(g)


(a) D. Glass, "Papal Patronage in the Early Twelfth Century: Notes on the Iconography of Cosmatesque Pavements." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, XXXII (1969), pp. 386-390.

(b) Durandus, I, 28.18

(c) The visitor must actually leave the Duomo proper and go into the adjacent cemetery where a tiny staircase leads underground to the lower floor of the destroyed church of S. Ambrogio.

(d) R. Trexler, Synodal Law in Florence and Fiesole, 1306-1518 (Vatican, 1971), p. 130.

(e) Quod de sacrosanctae Crucis effigie in Concilio Provinciali tertio per Nos sancitum est, itidem interdictum sit, sacras alias scilicet imagines, ac Sanctorum Sanctarumve historias, sacrorumve mysteriorum figuras et significantiones in ullo quovis humi strato pavimento, aut loco sordido, etiam extra ecclesiam, insculpi, pingi effingive. AEM, 307.

(f) Arch. Arciv. Milano, Metropolitana LXXI, 446, 9 and 17.

(g) This general practice is in effect today as may be seen in directives for church floors: "sacred figures or monograms should not be wove in the rug or carpet used in the sanctuary, as it is naturally objectionable that such holy representations should be trodden upon." H. Collins, The Church Edifice and Its Appointments (Maryland, 1962), p. 117.


Many indications regarding the doorways and their surrounds in sacred buildings have been supplied by talented architects, indications that must be carefully respected, in relationship to the type of church and how it is built.

Care must be taken, however, that the doorways are not arched, for they should differ from the city gates, but should be square, as seen in the oldest Basilicas.(1)

They should not moreover be low as in a humble structure, but, in line with the fundamental criteria of architecture, be twice as high as wide.

A suitably decorated cornice can be added to the upper part, on which a lunette either semicircular or in the form of an overturned hull, can be set, in which the sacred images as prescribed above can be sculptured or painted and as are to be seen in the oldest and most distinguished Milanese basilicas.

The doorways leading into the church will be on the façade. They will be uneven in number, and exactly as many as the aisles [nave and aisles] of the church. But if the church also has aisles then the nave, if the width permits, will have three doorways on the façade. If it has a nave only it will have three doorways in the façade. For the Roman basilicas show us that there must be numerous doorways at the entrance to the church both for the separation of men and women and for many other reasons.(2)

The central doorway must be distinguished from the others by its width and ornament, above all in the cathedral. It would be well to decorate it with sculptures of lions, as in the temple of Solomon, who had them sculptured on the bases to represent the vigilance of the prelates. And this can be clearly seen in numerous cathedrals in the province of Milan.(3)

The panels or valves of the church doors must give the impression not so much as being ornamental as of being strong. It would therefore be best to make them of cypress or cedar, or at least of walnut, decorated in relief that does not imitate the delicacy of painting but that is piously decorated with a carving that will last a while. It will be even more suitable to cover the doors of the more important churches with plates of bronze, decorated with finely wrought sacred subjects, since it is recorded that the doors of the Roman basilicas were not only of bronze, but of silver, or covered with silver.(4)

Inside, the door panels must be well equipped with bolts, locks and rather large keys. But not however on the outside. If this should however be necessary, a small door will be cut into only one of the doors, to one side of the main door. This small door will be solid, compact and equipped outside with the devices mentioned above. There will be no door at the back or at the sides of the church, except there where an entrance is needed either for the sacristy, or the bell tower, or the cemetery, or to the lodgings of the ecclesiastical ministers.(5)

Above all there will be no doors near the altar or the areas on either side, or in any place that give directly onto the altar, to avoid any danger of obstruction, irreverence, or disturbance of the sacred functions.


Chapter VII, pp.

1. Blunt (p. 129), in reference to Borromeo's norms on doors, observes that "even in matters of detail the appeal to ancient Christian tradition is final: doors, for instance, must be square-headed and not arched, because the former kind is found in early Christian basilicas, whereas the latter is a pagan design. In every case ecclesiastical reasons predominate, and purely artistic considerations are only allowed in questions which are ecclesiastically indifferent."

Cataneo (III, ii) suggests various measurements that are in proportion to the width of the church: delle tre porte principali della fronte del tempio, quella di mezzo si farà di piedi dieci larga, e vinti in altezza, e le due dalle bande piedi sette e tre quarti larghe, e duo tanti in altezza. For a church with five naves (III, iii) he suggests that "La porta maggiore di mezzo delle cinque navate si farà da piedi undici in sino dodici larga, " while for a small church (III, v) he advises: "la porta principale e larga piedi nove e mezzo…" Cataneo's design shows a façade with three doors: the two side doors are as Borromeo prescribes but the center door, contrary to the norms, is arched.

2. Durandus' treatise gives a clue as to the medieval attitude of the division of the sexes. He explains that "in church, men and women sit apart; which, according to Bede, we have received from the custom of the ancients: and thence it was that Joseph and Mary lost the Child Jesus; since the one who did not behold Him in his own company, thought Him to be with the other… But the men remain on the southern, the women on the northern side to signify that the saints who be most advanced in holiness should stand against the greater temptations of this world: and they who be less advanced, against the less; or that the bolder and the stronger sex should take their place in the position fittest for action…for the stronger members are opposed to the greater dangers. But, according to others, the men are to be in the fore part [eastward], the women behind: because 'the husband is the head of the wife,' and therefore should go before her."(a)

This reaffirmation of the ancient practice of the separation of the sexes is further described by Gian Possevino, a Milanese contemporary of Borromeo. he relates that through major diligence it was sought to eliminate every danger to spiritual immortality through a return to the ancient method of dividing the men from the women.(b) Possevino goes on to explain the process of enforcement, since this practice had long been discarded. Two clerics were assigned posts in front of the church doors to discourage any man or woman from crossing over into the "forbidden" side. At the same time, these clerics watched to see that no woman entered the church with her head unveiled. (Hats were out because they were items of luxury and prompted vanity!) And should any man dare to cross over to the woman's side, thereby causing confusion, the constables were to take him to prison.(c)

3. The symbolism of spiritual vigilance prompted the use of stone lions to guard the portals of churches, since the tradition was that the lion never closed his eyes in sleep (Ps. 120, 4. Behold, he that guards Israel will neither slumber or sleep). Other interpretations of the lion symbol ranged from royalty to immortality.

Various iconographic differences of the pose of lions make for an interesting study: some are in relief on doorframes, others appear on lintels, others are base supports for columns that sustain shallow porches, and others hold an animal or man between their paws - which may be a symbolic rendering of the Peaceable Kingdom.(d) Figures of lions were also used to support pulpits (se Chapter XXII) as well as holy water vases (Figs. 7.1 - 7.6).

4. The wooden doors of S. Sabina, Rome and S. Ambrogio, Milan predate the main portal bronze doors of the Romanesque period. These decorative doors are thought to have served as models for the bronze insofar as they also are divided into fields and depict sculptured Biblical scenes. Several Romanesque churches still have bronze doors at the central portal, and these doors fall into two basic styles: those with flat representation and inlaid silver, and those in high relief.

5. As noted in the discussion on the form of a church (Chapter II), both Palladio and Cataneo described entrances and/or altars at the ends of the "arms" or transepts of a church. In the Milan of 1565 to about 1577, Borromeo saw an increasing abuse of these extra entrances. The Duomo at that time was in the unique position of literally being surrounded by outdoor workshops for sculpture, wood carving, cutting of marble blocks, glass blowing, etc., due to the fact that the Spanish who had taken hold of the city were reworking part of the Castello Sforzesco; the Palazzo Reale was in part being redecorated; and construction was in process at the Duomo as well as at the residence of Archbishop Borromeo. Every one of these sites was in the immediate area of the Duomo. People on their way to the old market behind the Palazzo Reale found it easier to bring their carts, produce, and animals through the transept doors which allowed them a less dangerous thoroughfare, free from flying bits and pieces of wood and marble, taking them from north to south on market days and avoiding a detour of almost two kilometers.

Borromeo was driven to the point of distraction. he issued an order to move the vertical bars of the altar rails closer together to at least keep the dogs from roaming about near the side and main altars. Eventually he solved the problem by issuing an order that was to be carried out under penalty of fine or prison or both. This order was recorded by Giovan B. Casali, who wrote: We record that in the year of 1577, the Illustrious Cardinal Borromeo gave orders that all those churches having three doors in the front façade, that is, the main door and one on each side of it, and, all those churches who have side doors (to this all churches must immediately comply), that all these other doors must be closed and the people must only use the above said three doors of the front façade. This became an ordinance of the sacred council. The first to observe this was the Duomo, followed by S. Ambrogio, S. Francesco, S. Nazaro, S. Stefano, S. Maria della Scala, S. Marco, S. Laurenzo, followed by other churches.(e)

Carlo Bascapé, one of Borromeo's close friends and often acting deputy in church affairs, reports that the doors were closed on the sides of churches because persons, for convenience sake, irreverently passed through the church as though it were a street, without any regard for the dignity of the place, and that the sealing off of the doors also helped to keep a separation of the sexes.(f)


(a) Durandus, I, 46. The editor of the Durandus translation implies in his note that there is evidence of still further separation on each side of the married and unmarried. See J. Neale, ed., The Symbolism of Churches and Church Ornaments, p. 31, n. 67.

(b) E perché venisse scongiurato con maggior diligenza ogni pericolo d'immoralità che poteva sorgere dal concorso nello stesso luogo di uomini e donne, servendosi di un antico uso di molti luoghi della Diocesi di Milano, fece dividere le stesse chiese fissate in due parti, assegnando quella a sud agli uomini, l'altra alle donne.

(c) …faceva che ordinariamente stavano alle porte del Duomo e altre chiese due chierici che havevano particulare cura e carico che le donne non andassero dalla banda degli huomini, nè questi dalla banda di quelle, e che le donne entrassero col capo velato…Se qualche huomo o giovine havesse havuto ardire di passare dalla banda delle donne malitiosamente se vi si abbattevano I birri lo conducevano in prigione." G. B. Possevino, Discorsi della vita et attioni di Carlo Borromeo (Rome, 1591), pp. 55, 90.

(d) "…il cui timpano e sorretto da colonne poggianti su due leoni, secondo il precetto dato da S. Carlo Borromeo nel quarto sinode provinciale del 1576, a indicare la vigile cura del Pastore (ut praesulum indicare vigilantiam). Sotto le fiere stanno accovacciati agnelli, secondo il detto del Profeta che pecore potranno dormire anche tra zanne di leone." P. Spreafico, La Basilica di S. Eustorgio (Milan, 1970), p. 53, see Fig. 7.7.

(e) Memoria come l'anno 1577 illus. Card. Borroemo dette comissione che tutte quelle Chiese che aveva tre porte alla facciata davanti, cioè la porta mastra et un'altra per ogni banda di quella, tutte le chiese di subito le facesse fare, e che tutte quelle chiese che aveva alcune altre porte da le bande, tutte le altre porte si stopasero e se avesse a servire solum de la sopra ditte porte tre de la facciata davanti. E questo se fece de ordine del S. Concilio. E primo fu il Domo a osservare questo, de ordine del detto illus. Card. E cosi seguito S. Ambrosio, S. Francesco, S. Nazaro, S. Stefano, la Scalla, S. Marco, S. Laurenzio, esquitando tutte le altre chiese. Memorie di Giovan Battista Casali, fol. 90, Biblioteca Ambrosiana.

(f) Fece chiudere le porte sui fianchi delle chiese, perchè la gente approfittando della comodità passavea indecorosamente attraverso ad esse come per la strada, senza alcuna riverenza per il luogo sacro. Inoltre tale provvedimento serviva a tenere meglio separate le donne degli uomini. C. Bascapé, Vita e opere di Carlo, Archivescovo di Milano, Cardinale di S. Prassede (1592); rpt. Milan, 1965), p. 805.


Enough has been said about doorways; the remaining details will be left to the judgement of a competent architect. We now have to deal with the windows, which will be built in the church and in the chapels in accordance with architectural criteria, structure, and the size of the edifice.

There is no reason why their height or width or their shape should be dealt with here, for these indications are pertinent to the art of architecture.(1)

However the most common form used for windows in the churches is the one where the upper part is somewhat rounded and, at the sides, much wider on the inside than on the outside, in keeping also with the mystical criteria handed down by the Fathers.(2)

The nave will have windows at the side, if the height of the roof allows for it, and in the aisles, in an odd number on either side, arranged at the center of each bay so as to correspond directly with each other, and not far from the frieze or architrave of the roof.

The main source of light for the church and the main chapel will be a circular window like an oculus, proportioned to the size of the church, on the facade, above the main doorway, and it will be decorated outside according to the style of the building.

In correspondence to the other aisles there will also be a window of oblong form on the facade, as the architect sees fit.

Light for the church and the chapel can however also be admitted from the cupola, and that is from the middle center of the vault summit, building lanterns all around.

In the main chapel and in each of the minor chapels, according to their size and style, there will be windows on both sides, to receive light everywhere.

If however light cannot be admitted from the sides and the light that comes in from the circular window, and the other windows on the facade, or from other parts, is insufficient, light will be admitted from the back wall of the chapel.

Precaution must be used however that the windows of the back wall do not occupy even the smallest part of the space belonging to any altar. And also and above all, that they do not open directly on the altar set against the same wall, nor that they are immediately above it.

If however windows will be placed on high and in such a way that those outside cannot look inside.(3) If however it is necessary to make a window less high than prescribed, as may easily be the case when old churches are restored, it will be furnished with glass panels, which cannot be opened to look inside.

All the windows, whatever they are, must be furnished, where possible, with iron bars, in addition to the structure in transparent glass, not painted in any part or at the most with the image of the saint to whom the church or chapel is dedicated, so that more light can be admitted. Outside, then, on all sides they will be protected by a bronze wire net.

This glass structure or barrier can be more or less decorated, depending on the type of building.(4) In the churches, lastly, which cannot afford windows with glass because of their limited income, they will at least have cloth panels.

Even so, whatever the type and however they are made, the windows must be of the kind that can be opened or removed in case of the exhalation of all fumes inside the church or chapel. (5)


Chapter VIII, pp

1. Up to this point Borromeo has left all technical problems to the architect. His terse summary in paragraph two further substantiates the theory that his norms should be interpreted in a liturgical-architectural frame of reference.

2. "Windows are wider within than without because the mystical sense is more ample and precedeth the literal meaning." Durandus, I, 24.

3. In a climate such as that of the pre-Alpine region, the potential damage to buildings by wind and rain encouraged the use of small windows. Where it was possible, mountain churches frequently employed a form of window that is most seen in bell towers, i.e., thin stone slabs pierced with tracery.

4. Borromeo's norms for high set windows has an interesting similarity to Alberti's prescription of "windows in the temple ought to be small and high, so that nothing but the sky may be seen through them; to the intent that both the priests that are employed in the performance of Divine Offices, and those that assist on account of devotion, may not have their minds in any way diverted… For this reason the Ancients were very often contented without any other aperture beside the doorway."(a)

Carlo Borromeo's ideal temple was a place totally free from distraction: a unique humanistic interpretation of harmonic rhythm of prayer and recollection without interruption, inspired to be so through the temple's architectonic language. He repeatedly advised pastors to seal up windows that were at a level of visual communication and to construct new ones at a higher point. In effect, the windows of various chapels approved by Borromeo for the Sacro Monte of Varallo hold to this norm (Figs. 8.1 to 8.3).

In 1567, Borromeo sent two delegates, Gerolamo Politi and Francesco Griffi to the rural diocese of Capriasca near the Swiss border. The report that they returned to him is typical of many prior to the institution of the norms and their enforcement. Here is an example.

S. Pietro, Sureggio

A little church without a ceiling.

The arches are in danger of collapse.

Three windows in the choir, one over the altar.

Five other windows, small.

Window formed as a small cross in the façade.

S. Sebastiano, Almatro

A gunshot (Per jactum archibusij) from the parish church.

Plastered choir and vault. Very small building.

The façade has an opening shaped like a cross. The walls have a few holes that need to be filled.

The following are Borromeo's decrees to the churches of Capriasca after his personal visit of 1570.

S. Pietro, Surregio

The wall facing the road is to be completely redone.

All wooden roof supports are to be replaced.

A ceiling is to be installed for at least half of the church.

The windows are to be installed in "modern style."

Property may be sold to help with expenses.

S. Sebastiano, Almatro

To improve light, a round window is to be cut over the main door.

S. Clemente, (community of Vaglio)

A ceiling is to be installed for at least half of the church. The left window is to be made larger and higher.

It is practical to install a little window over the main door in order to relieve the stuffiness of a closed church.(b)

5. The same prescription appears in a pamphlet distributed to the clergy in general. To assure readability it was printed in the vernacular.

Alle finestre siano poste le ferrate per maggior sicurezza della chiesa; eccetto se non fossero tanto alte, che non vi fosse pericolo, ch'alcuno facilmente vi potesse entrar per quella parte.

Habbiano anco le finestre le sue stamegne, o di vertro, o almento di tela, le quali si possino aprir d'estate.(c)


(a) L.B. Alberti, L'Architettura, ed. G. Orlandi (Milan, 1966), VII, xii.

(b) A. Robertini, San Carlo Borromeo nella pieve Capriasca (Lugano, 1970).

(c) AEM, 1958.


A few instructions should be given regarding the stairs and steps needed to reach the church when it is built on an elevated site.

If the site on which the church is to be built is elevated above the level ground so that a staircase of several steps is required, the staircase, proportionate in width to the size of the church, will be built in marble or at least in strong stone, with as many steps as are needed for a convenient ascent. Care must however be taken that they are uneven in number, and that every three or five steps there is a landing of about three cubits in size, depending on how steep [the staircase] is, to make the ascent easier.

If the ascent is so long that it requires several flights of steps, care must be taken that these flights are odd in number too. Every single step will be eight ounces high and about one cubit or a bit more wide, according to the type of structure.(1)


Chapter IX, p. 122

1. Barocchi draws attention to Cataneo's solutions for the aesthetic of the approach to churches according to position and size.

If a temple is above five, seven, or nine stairs, it is gratifying to the eye (VII, v). A church having five naves should be set at a height of nine steps (VII, iii). If it is a cruciform plan designed for a small city, then the church should stand at an elevation of five steps (VIII, iv).


After having discussed matters which almost all deal with the exterior of the church, we must still speak of the interior, and above all of the high altar and the main chapel.

The site of this chapel must be chosen at the head of the church, in a prominent place and on an axis with the main entrance. The back part should face east, even if there are houses behind it. It must not face to the east of the summer solstice, but towards that of the equinox.(1)

If this is not possible, the Bishop can decide and permit that it be built facing another direction, but in this case care must be taken at least that if possible it does not face north, but south.

In any case the chapel in which the priest celebrates Mass from the high altar facing the people, in accordance with the rites of the Church, must face west.(2)

The chapel will be vaulted, and properly ornamented with mosaics or some other illustrious pictorial or architectural decoration, corresponding to the characteristics and dignity of the church being built.

Its floor will be higher than that of the church,(3) in relation to its placement and the type of church to which it belongs. If this is a parish church, it will be higher, at the least, by eight ounces, or at the most by one cubit. If it is a collegiate or cathedral church, or a major parish church, it will be higher by no less than a cubit, and no more than a cubit and sixteen ounces. Where however the place called confessio is situated [underneath], the criteria applied to the height of the floor will be adequately and aptly dependent on the height of the confessio.

The steps leading up to the main chapel will be in marble, or strong stone, or brick if marble or stone are not plentiful, in an odd number, that is one, three, five, or more, depending on the height. Each step should not be more than eight ounces high, and not less than sixteen ounces or more than one cubit wide. If the height of the chapel floor is less than one cubit, three steps, of equal height, will be built. If instead it is approximately more than one cubit there will be five steps. If then, because of the confessio, it is much higher than one cubit, there will be as many steps as necessary, as long as they are always uneven in number, and will have the same height, in proportion to the number of ounces constituting the whole height of the pavement, but they must never be higher than eight ounces.


Chapter X, pp.

1. The Apostolic Constitutione is a fourth-century work of eight distinct treatises describing religious discipline and liturgical attitudes. In the second treatise of this work there is designation of specific areas for the bishop, deacons or presbyters, lectors, and laity.

And first, let the building be of oblong shape with its head to the east….In the middle, let the bishop's throne be placed, and on each side of him let the presbyters sit down; … let the laity sit on the other sides with all quietness and good order. Let women sit by themselves….In the middle, let the reader stand upon some high place. (a)

In the architecture of the early church buildings, the chancel was higher than the rest of the basilica floor and was generally located at the far east end of the nave, opposite the main door. Traditionally it terminated in a semi-circular apse at the end of which stood the bishop's throne with simple stone benches on either side for the clergy (Figs. 10.5, 10.6). If the bishop's throne stood against the back wall of the basilica, the altar (required to be under a canopy-like structure supported by four columns (called a ciborium) was placed between the throne and the people. The altar faced the people as a result of the hierarchical arrangement of the church, and when the bishop approached the altar he naturally stood at the side closest to his throne facing the people. In Romanesque churches the chancel was still elevated above the level of the nave, but its height depended upon the crypt below (Fig. 10.7). The closer the altar was put to the rear wall, the more necessary it became that this wall itself should have significance, hence mosaics and frescoes.

Orientation towards the east was preferred but not always adhered to, and Renaissance theorists indicate a practical flexibility. Serlio, for example (whose treatise was in Borromeo's library), wrote that "as to the position of the temple, the ancients placed the altar towards the sun of the east, regarding which we Christians do not follow; but in whatever place the church is built, the façade is put towards the piazza on the more 'noble' street" (Serlio cited by Barocchi, p. 437). similarly Borromeo, at the fourth Provincial Council in 1576, wrote: Curet omino ita illam aedificari, ne ab antiquo more, probataque traditione discedatur, ut sacerdos in altari maiori Missam celebrans Orientam spectet.


(a) Constitutio Apostolorum, II, 57, 2-4.

(b) Neale, p. 167.


The high altar of the chapel can be placed so that from the lowest step of the altar to the railings which enclose it or are to enclose it there is a space of eight cubits or more when possible and if the size of the church requires it because of decorum.

This space must comfortably serve the large number of clergy that at times assist at the Solemn Mass and the divine offices. Therefore, where necessary, if at the back of the chapel, outside, there is free space, the chapel will be extended until it has the measurements given above. If this is not possible, and the chapel in the parish or collegiate church is limited in size because of the smallness of the place, then the distance between the lowest step and the railing must be at least four cubits, so that during the solemn Mass, and as required by the ceremonies, there is sufficient space at least for the celebrant priest, the deacon and subdeacon and the coadjutant clerics.

The following expedient may be used, if necessary, to obtain this space of at least four cubits in the front part of a narrow short chapel. In other words the steps can be joined to the floor level forming, with respect to this and the chapel, a projection with six or eight sides, that is pleasing to the eye.(1)

If there are bays right outside the chapel, and if the size of the church so requires, that same space can be created by extending the wall of the chapel up to the first of these bays.

Where lastly, because of the extremely limited size of the place, the space available is practically nothing, it must at least be seen to that the altar is moved much closer to the wall behind it, and if there is really no way of obtaining this four cubit space, care will be taken that the altar is as far from the railings as the site allows, but always detached from the above mentioned wall by one and a half cubits.

The height of the main altar will be, from the footpace, two cubits and eight or at the most ten ounces. The length will be five cubits or more, in proportion to the size of the church or chapel, but the width of two cubits and twelve ounces and even more according to the length of the site.(2)

Steps of the high altar

Moreover, if there is room in front of and at the sides, three steps will be built, and that is one consisting of the footpace and two others below. These last two must be of marble or strong stone, or, if that is not possible, brick. They will be at least sixteen, and if possible twenty or more, ounces wide, depending on the space and in keeping with the proportions. the third step, consisting of the footpace, will be made of wooden boards. The footpace will be two cubits wide, measuring from the front of the altar, and projecting sixteen ounces at the sides, so as to encompass the altar on three sides.(3) The height of each step will be eight ounces.

Moreover if, thanks to the size of the church and the high altar, there is room for more steps, five can be built, observing the width and height prescribed above.(4)

The location of the crucifix

A cross with the image of the crucified Christ will be properly placed under the arch of the vault of the main chapel, in every church, especially a parish church.(5) It will be of some kind of wood, piously and appropriately rendered. If it cannot be set there because the arch or the vault are too low, it will be hung on the wall above the arch, on the outside, below the ceiling, or even above the gate of the chapel railing.


Chapter XI, pp.

1. See Figure 11.1.

2. See Figure 11.2.

3. Castiglioni (pp. 109-110) draws attention to the fact that in June of 1883 the Sacred Congregation of Rites in decree 2576, canon I, incorporated Borromeo's norm stating that, if the last or top step of the altar dais were of marble, then it was to have a strong wooden insert as long as the altar table. The priest must celebrate with his feet on the wooden section. For reasons other than liturgy, there is the problem of standing on cold stone or marble in areas that have severe winter seasons or problematic weather. Rugs may be used to cover these steps, and Borromeo discusses this in the sequel to the architectural norms that deals exclusively with church furnishings.

We shall again refer to the many documents that serve to support the ever increasing radius of liturgical reform and the gradual architectural changes that will come about as the ecclesiastical buildings are adjusted to accommodate the norms. The following are ordinances (selected at random) given by Borromeo in an area north of Milan. they are dated 1570 and are addressed to the various priests responsible for their implementation.

S. Gerolamo, Tesserè A cross and a pair of brass candlesticks must be provided for the altar. The predella is to be adjusted to meet the prescribed measurements, and it is to be repaired where broken. This same chapel is to be completely painted and only then may a painting be hung on the wall behind the altar.

S. Stefano, Tesserè A painting may be made for the chapel when it is possible, but first these points of the visitation must be observed.

A low rail going from wall to wall must be put up on the first step in front of the chapel in order to separate the clerical choir from the rest of the church. The chapel is to be painted.

S. Bernardino, Sasello The altar of the Madonna is to be provided with a brass crucifix. The closet that is near the altar is to be moved, and all the storage of timber is to be taken out of the church.

S. Maria, Loreto The main altar is to be replaced by one that is larger and well decorated. The main chapel walls are to be whitewashed. The missing gate in the altar rails is to be replaced and locked with a key and chain.

S. Pietro, Sureggio Where the choir wall has been removed, a new wall is to be constructed. The altar is to be placed out from the wall and in the center.

4. Durandus dedicates the entire second chapter of the Rationale to the symbolism and placement of the altar. He notes that many kinds of altars are found in Scriptures, and that an altar is similar to the heart insofar as the heart is in the middle of the body; so too the altar should be in the middle of the church (II, 11). the term "in medio" ultimately becomes a point of discussion as to the exact position of the altar. In the body of the church where all might see it? In the center of the "circle" of the apse? What was clearly understood, however, was that the altar could not be placed against a wall. This must have been an initial practice, since even the old ceremonial books specify that the bishop, when blessing an altar, is to walk around it seven times in the process of reciting the required prayers.

Another problem is the ascent to the altar. Since Durandus distinctly speaks of having a lowered chancel the descent was probably from three to five steps down and from three to five to seven and possibly fifteen steps up to the altar dais.

The fifteen stairs are suggested in accord with the fifteen steps ascending the temple of Solomon (II, 15). With some sense of reservation Durandus quotes Exodus XX, 26 "Neither shalt thou go up by steps to my altar, that they nakedness be not discovered thereon," and as an afterthought Durandus adds, "For perhaps the ancients did not as yet use britches" (II, 15).

5. "In many places a triumphal cross is placed in the midst of the church to teach us that from the midst of our hearts we must love the Redeemer….But the cross is exalted on high to signify the victory of Christ" (Durandus, I, 40) (see Fig. 11.3).


The choir, as is obvious from ancient buildings(1) and the regulations of church discipline, must be separated from that part of the church where the people stay(2) and enclosed by railing. Taken for granted that it should be near the high altar, whether it surrounds it on the front, as is the ancient tradition, or whether it is in back, if this is what is required by the site of the church, or of the placement of the altar, or the custom of the place, it must, as the architect sees fit, be wide and long, space permitting, in the shape of a hemicycle or other form, according to the plan of the chapel or the church, so that it corresponds perfectly, including its size and ornamentation, to the solemn dignity of the church and the number of clergy.


Chapter XII, p

1. Borromeo's reference to ancient buildings was probably strengthened by his familiarity with Rome. Both of his titular churches had choirs behind the main altar, while without doubt he also would have been acquainted with those of S. Clemente and S. Sabina. These are just a few of the churches whose choirs are in existence today.

2. Concerning the separation of the choir, Durandus writes that "the rail by which the

altar is divided from the choir teacheth the separation of things celestial from things terrestrial."(a) On the choir in general he records that 'the choir is so called from the harmony of the clergy in their chanting or from the multitude collected at the Divine Offices."(b) About the seats in choir he says that "they admonish us that the body must sometimes be refreshed: because that which hath not alternate rest wanteth durability."(c)

Following Durandus, Borromeo could draw on the new disciplinary recommendations of Trent. In November of 1563 after the twenty-fourth session, a series of directives were issued regarding communal prayer. The recommendation was that "all shall be obliged to perform the divine offices in person and not by substitutes; also to assist and serve the bishop when celebrating or exercising other pontifical functions and, in the choir instituted for psalmody, to praise the name of God reverently, distinctly and devoutly in hymns and canticles… With regard to matters that pertain to the proper manner of conducting the divine offices, the proper way of singing … the definite rule for assembling and remaining in choir … the provincial synod shall prescribe [these things] for each province."(d)

In response to the above, Borromeo commissioned Martino Lunghi to renovate the choir of S. Prassede in Rome.(e) At the same time he wrote to Ormaneto in Milan urging him to encourage common prayer and consistent attendance at the Divine Office, especially by the clergy belonging to the Duomo Chapter. Apparently Ormaneto met with some resistance. A letter from Borromeo to him, dated 19 August 19564, gives some insight into the sense of annoyance and confusion of the Cardinal over those who professed to be religious but who refused to attempt to say prayers in common. The reasons given by the Canons of the Duomo varied from complaints of early morning cold, the dampness of the Duomo, to the distance from their residence to the Duomo. In a November letter, Borromeo observed:

Non so già che rispondere quando dicono che si diminuiria la loro dignitaà, percioché questa parola mi pare così lontana da ogni pietà christiana, che non so come habbia

potuto soffrire loro l'animao di proferirla, io per me non posso sentirla senza horrore, vedendo che si sdegnano di honorare Dio.(f)

A logical sequence of results follows. Tibaldi's projected plan for the seating arrangement of the choir, which had not yet been thought of in the light of expansion, dates between 1563 and 1564 (see Fig. 10.3), for although Borromeo was still in Rome, Tibaldi had already begun the building project of the Collegio Borromeo in Pavia.

By October 1565 Borromeo had returned to Milan, and the first Provincial Council opened on 15 October 1565 and closed on 3 November of that same year. At this first meeting of the Diocese under Borromeo's direction, significant emphasis was put on the recitation of the Divine Office, attendance in choir, and hierarchical arrangement of seating. The following, only partial list of Borromeo's various decrees pertinent to the choir, shows how determined he was on this matter of the recitation of the Divine Office in common - and how so large a gathering of people would ultimately affect architectural accommodations.

De ministris ecclesiae et divinis officiis, AEM, 88. De officio eius qui choro praesidet, AEM, 91.

De officio magistri chori, et ceremoniarum, AEM, 92.

De iis qui dignitates, personatus aut canonicatus habent, AEM, 91-92. De musica et cantoribus, AEM, 99.

Quando et quo modo ad divina officia conveniendum, AEM, 100. Quo modo versandum in choro, AEM, 101.

Quo modo a choro recendum, AEM, 102. De matutino et prima, AEM, 103.

All of the Provincial Councils - 1569, 1573, 1576, 1579, and 1582 - have general references regarding the site and the appropriate arrangement of the choir and the need to define the choir from the nave; i.e., the laity from the clergy during a liturgical function. An edict dated 13 November 1574 was sent out from the Cardinal's office stating that

"Niuno laico entri, e stia nel choro delli Ecclesiastici ai Regolari come secolari in tempo che si recitano, o cantano i divini Officii."(g) Two years later another decree in preparation for a festive celebration was essentially the same.

Borromeo had begun his crusade for communal prayer from Rome in 1564, and by 1576 the final work on the new Duomo choir was underway. His biographers credit him, in essence, as the actual architect.

Il disegno del Coro del Duomo e del Borromeo stesso: "Fece poi accomodare il coro con un disegno molto raro da lui stesso ritrovato; essendo egli stato uomo di gran giudizio in materia di architettura."(h)


(a) Durandus, I, 31.

(b) Durandus, I, 18.

(c) Durandus, I, 31.

(d) Trent, p. 202.

(e) Filippo Titti, Ammaestramento utile e curioso di pittura scoltura et architettura nelle chiese di Roma (Rome, 1686), p. 154.

(f) Scotti, p. 59.

(g) AEM, 1121.

(h) Castiglioni-Marcora, quoting Giussani, p. 110 (see Fig. 12.1).


It is proper that some instruction be given here on the subject of the tabernacle, since a provincial decree has made it obligatory to put the tabernacle on the high altar.(2)

In more important churches, where possible, it should be made of sheet silver or sheet bronze, which should be gilded, or of precious marble.

The tabernacle, elegantly worked and well joined, sculptured with images of the mysteries of the Passion of Christ, and decorated in some parts with gilding, as an expert will see fit, will have a reverent and pious ornamentation.

Inside it will be totally lined with panels of poplar or another kind of wood, so that the Holy Eucharist will be protected, thanks to this lining, from the humidity of metal or marble.

Where the tabernacle cannot be made in this way, it will be constructed not with panels of walnut or another wood that produces humidity, but with carefully worked panels of poplar or the like, and decorated as above with sculptured and gilded religious images.

The size of the tabernacle will be in keeping with the dignity, size and type of the church on the high altar of which it is to be placed. It will be octagonal or round in form, as will seem most fitting, from the point of view of decorum and piety, to the form of the church.

On the top of the tabernacle there will be the image of Christ gloriously resurrected or who exhibits His sacred wounds. Or if, on the altar of some small church the tabernacle occupies the space which once was left there for the cross, then the image of the cross, with the holy effigy of the crucified Christ, will be set at the top of the tabernacle in place of the other sacred image, either permanently fixed or removable occasionally for processions.(3)

Moreover the tabernacle, set on the altar with a stable decorated base, or set on strong altar gradines, properly executed, or statues of angels or some other support decorated with religious ornaments, will be firmly fixed in place and solid. It will moreover be furnished with a key.(4)

It will be at least one cubit and sixteen ounces distant from the front of the altar table, so that the corporal can be completely spread out and the pyx, when necessary, can be easily placed on the altar. Even so it should not be so far from the front of the altar that the priest would need a wooden step to reach the most Holy Eucharist, unless the site and the structure of the tabernacle require other expedients.

In the more important churches, above all in those in which the choir is behind the altar, and in which, in proportion to their structure, the high altar is very wide, it can be further back from the altar front, since the Holy Eucharist can be easily and decorously removed from the tabernacle on the side of the choir. In this case there will be a second small door, in the prescribed form on the side of the choir.

Beneath the tabernacle there must be no closet, or any place for keeping books or other church furnishings.

In those cases where the structure of the altar does not permit the tabernacle to be completely placed and supported on the altar, it will rest, either completely or in part, on a base or other solid support set on the back of the altar, in such a way that the complete circuit of the altar, however small the space left between the altar and the wall may be, will not be hindered.

Inside, the tabernacle will be lined in every part and decorated with red silk, if the church is of Ambrosian, or white if of Roman rite.

In the front the tabernacle will have a small door large enough so that the other small tabernacle enclosed within can be easily put in and taken out. Moreover it will open so that it can lie flat against the front [of the tabernacle] so as not to obstruct the hand or arm of the priest when he removes the Holy Eucharist.

This small door will be decorated with the image of Christ, crucified, or resurrected, or displaying the wound on His breast, or some other pious effigy.


Chapter XIII, pp.

1. The placement of a pyx or container for the Eucharist has varied from place to place and from time to time. Frequently, however, the pyx was in the shape of a tower or a dove that was suspended near or over the altar, as attested to by Durandus.

… and also the tabernacle …. Some churches have over the altar an ark or tabernacle in which the body of the Lord and relics are preserved. (II, 5)(a)

The portable cases in which the consecrated host is kept is sometimes of wood, sometimes of white ivory, sometimes of silver, gold, or crystal. (III, 25)(b)

During Borromeo's time the practice of reserving the Eucharist on the main altar come into vogue, thereby eliminating two earlier traditions, that of the suspended dove and that of a niche constructed in the wall on the Gospel side of the altar. Borromeo allowed that, once the tabernacle was placed on the altar, these former niche-tabernacles or custodiae were to be removed or, once their specific indications had been entirely destroyed, were to be used for relics or for the oil of the sick, if their construction was according to the prescribed form (see Fig. 13.1).

Presumably one of the earliest prescriptions to bring the Eucharistic tabernacle to the main altar was by Matteo Giberti, Bishop of Verona, whose Constitutiones had a tremendous influence on Borromeo. It is repeatedly obvious that Borromeo was not an innovator but rather a compiler of established customs and recommended new practices in the light of reform measures. The Caeremoniale Episcoporum (Ceremonial of Bishops), although a comparatively new book of directives in Borromeo's time, was an official reference to which he sought to conform the practices of his archdiocese. It, in turn, authorized practices that had long been customary, and by Borromeo's incorporation of these customs into decrees they became law.

Borromeo did not allow for an exception in this chapter, although there was one: that the Eucharist was not to be reserved on an altar where pontifical ceremonies were performed, and that cathedrals and churches of this classification were to reserve another chapel for this purpose, a custom which is still in use today.(c)

2. For obvious reasons the cult of the Eucharist was one of the major concerns of the Counter Reformation. The Tridentine Council emphasized the theological and sacramental properties of the Eucharist, but in reference to its reservation merely stated that it was to be kept in a sacred place: Consuetudo asservandi in sacrario sanctam Eucharistiam adeo antiqua est.(d) The assigning of the sacred place was dependent upon the Bishop.

As early as 1564, Borromeo had been in correspondence with Ormaneto in Milan regarding the placement of the new tabernacle that Pius IV had presented to the Milan diocese.(e) While deciding upon its location, he wrote that he had looked at and studied a plan of the floor arrangement of the chancel sent by Ormaneto, and that a greater sense of dignity could probably be achieved if the archbishop's throne were to be placed in the center of the choir, similar to the position it had in the ancient churches of Rome. Borromeo realized the difficulty of visual communication, because the size of the tabernacle was such that it would obstruct the line of vision between the celebrant and the people, or the celebrant and those in the choir - depending upon whether the priest faced the people or had his back to them. Borromeo agreed with Ormaneto's suggestion to raise the tabernacle on four columns, lifting it above the mensa so that visual contact would ultimately be achieved between the celebrant and the majority of the people.(f)

3. The custom of mounting a removable processional cross on top of the tabernacle was described by Durandus: "… the cross also is to be placed on the altar so that the cross- bearers may thence raise it, in which section they commemorate how Simon the Cyrenian took the cross from the shoulders of Christ and bore it" (I, iii, 31).

In the second book of the norms, the requisites for the cross are given in detail, and in particular the cross attached to the tabernacle: "the cross which is located upon principal altars or upon the tabernacle is to be of quadrangular shape, the lower part fitting into a tube so that it may be slipped out if the cross is used in procession" This direction refers to the practice of the entrance procession during the Introit of the Mass, at which time the cross-bearer, after the procession, placed it on the altar.(g)

4.  About four years after Borromeo's letter to Ormaneto (see note 2), a partial solution for the arrangement of the Duomo tabernacle was reached. The tabernacle was to be raised, and rather than adopting the four columns suggested by Ormaneto, Tibaldi projected using two cherubim, symbols associated with the Old Testament ark and temple (Fig. 13.2). Later, in 1581, Tibaldi would modify this plan and use four kneeling and adoring angels with the tabernacle, housing them in a small temple of their own (Fig. 13.3). The plan for the project is given here in its entirety.

1581 lunedi, 2 gennaio

Capitoli li quali si hano a osservare nel fabricare il tabernacolo del ss. Sacramento, il qual va posto sopra lo altare magior de la chiesa magior de Milano.

Prima li va giunto al detto altare, dalla parte anteriore, doi pedestali, fano per ciascuno circa onze 51 in vivo, alto onze 21, computato bassa e cimasa, con sette uno dado, che compagnarà la bradela del altare con il tondo che sarà tra pedestale e pedestale, facendo la cimasa e basa in detto pedestale, gitato di metallo, et il corpo di detto pedestale di ramo con sotto l'anima di legno de noce, grose onze 4 de assoni; però la cimasa di sopra sia tutta di uno peso, sopra il qual andarà possato uno dado, et li scalini sotto li detti pedastali sarà dela medemi pietra che sarà la detta bradela, a spesa de la fabrica; et tra li detti doi pedestali li andarà sotto trei scalini, altro onze 4 ½ l'uno, largo onze 18 l'uno, sopra li quali sarano l'anima di legno et coperto di ramo. Et piú sopra il detto dado li andarà otto colonne, alto onze 61, computato base et capiteli, qual colone con basi et capiteli sarano di geto di metallo et le colone scanalate; il tutto conforme a le saghome et disegni, che li sarà datto dal architetto di detta fabrica.

Et piú sopra dette colone andarà architravo, fregio et cornice dil medemo ordine; l'architravo et fregio serà di gito di metallo; il architravo alto onze 4, il fregio alto onze 6, la cornice onze 5.

Et piú sopra detta cornice li sarà la cupola con vari compartimenti.

Et parimente sopra detta cornice le andarà otto angeli di metallo, li quali tengono li misteri de la passione in mano, gettato, alto onze 16.

Et piú sopra detta cupula li andarà uno pedestalo con basa et cimasa di sotto, sopra il qual sarà la imagine del Signor resuscitato di metallo, alto onze 24.

Et piú li ornamenti di architravo, fregio, cornice et cupula andarà il simile, como è detto, in la parte di dentro.

Et piú tutte le sopradette cose andaranno adorate et argentate con il foco, et che non vi sia manco di 4 foglie, sí del oro come di argento, uno sopra l'altra, facendo varie intaglie et compartimenti sí nel fregio di detto cornice et altri lochi di detta opera, conforme al disegno che li sarà data da detto architetto; il simile la doratura et argentatura sia meso sopra detta opera, conforme al ordine et disegno che li sarà datto dal detto architetto.(h)

Professor Maria Luisa G. Perer drew the writer's attention to the novelty of sheltering the tabernacle within a tempietto. She proposed the theory that the angelic supports of the Duomo tabernacle were indeed the result of a practical exigency, but also an iconographic testimony of the tabernacle within a temple, i.e., a type of "Holy of Holies" architectural rendering. Tibaldi's solution predates the practice that becomes stylistic in Rome as well, culminating in Bernini's 1673 altar of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at St. Peter's. Wittkower described the Bernini tabernacle as "in order to express the mystery enshrined in the tabernacle, he first toyed with the idea of letting hover in the air, poised lightly on the supporting hands of the four large angels who also carry candlesticks. In the next stage, the tabernacle was to be surrounded by three or four angels on each side who combine expressions and gestures of devotion with their task as carriers of candlesticks. Finally, he decided to free the angels of all practical duties and make them reflect, in their abandonment to their emotions, the delight and wonder at the eucharistic miracle contained in the tabernacle."(i)

The evolution from Tibaldi's systemization to that of Bernini remains an interesting avenue for exploration (see figs. 13.4, 13.5).


(a) After Trent it was forbidden to keep relics in the same tabernacle as the Eucharist. "Dentro il tabernacolo non si tengano, nè si governino Reliquie, ne Ogli santi, ne calici, ne vasi, ne alcun'altra cosa, se non il vaso, dentro il quale è il santissimo Sacramento…." AEM, 1963.

(b) Antiquae custodiae in pariete sanctissimi Sacramenti penitus amoveantur; vel signo omnino deleto, in alios usus adhibeantur; ut Reliquiarum, aut olei infirmorum, ad praescriptam formam aptatae. AEM, 1186.

(c) "… valde opportunem est, ut illud non collocetur in majori, vel in alio altari, in quo Episcopus, vel alius solemniter est Missam, seu Vesperas celebraturus; sed in alio sacello, vel loco ornatissimo, cum omni

decentia, et reverentia ponatur." Caeremoniale Episcoporum, I, xii, 8.

(d) Trent, 77.

(e) The tabernacle came from the workshop of the brothers Aurelio, Gerolamo, and Lodovico Lombarda del Solaro in Rome, c 1560.

(f) Circa lo accomodare il Tabernacolo del Santissimo Sacramento, visto et considerato bene il disegno del choro che m'havete mandato, mi occorre di dirvi che a me piacieria per maggiore maestà che la sedia dell'Arcivescovo stesse nel mezzo, al modo delle Antiche Chiese di Roma, ma ci ho questa difficoltà che, ponendosi il Tabernacolo su l'Altare et celebrandosi dalla parte dell'Arcivescovo, come par che convenga, il popolo non potrebbe vedere con parte del choro, et per contrario se si celebrasse da quel lato che è scoperto al popolo, si torria la vista all'Arcivescovo con maggior parte de'Canonici, oltre che non si celebreria dalla sua banda, che, come ho detto, par piú conveniente. Ma a questi inconvenienti si remediaria con alzare il tabernacolo nel mezzo dell'altare su quattro colonnette ben fatte come voi stesso scrivete, si che la vista passasse per sotto senza impedimento et in questo modo starebbe anco a maggior prospettiva del popolo.

Andavo ancor pensando che ponendosi il tabernacolo su l'altare, non vi si potranno cosí le genti accostare stando serrato il choro, dove nel luogo che hora sta, girano d'intorno, et presa la perdonanza se ne vanno da un lato o dall'altro liberamente" Archivio in Curia, Carteggio Uff., III, 95.

(g) "Crucis porro, quae vel super altari majori, vel super tabernaculo sanctissimas Eucharistide collocabitur, forma pene quadrangula erit; cujus tamen pars inferior paululum obonga in tubulum desinet, ut, cum ad usum processionum aliarumque ecclesiasticarum actionum opus erit, a suo possit fulcimento commode eximi. AEM, 1553-54

(h) Annali, vol. IV, 178-79.

(i) R. Wittkower, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (London, 1966), p. 260. See also M. L. G. Perer, "Cultura e socialità dell'altare barocco nel'antica Diocesi di Milano," in Arte Lombarda, 42/43, 11-66.


Up to now brief mention has been made of the high altar and main chapel and the accessories. Other instructions must still be given separately, regarding the minor chapels and altars, as well as those things common to major and minor chapels, which will be given eventually.

First of all, when it is necessary to build several altars and the church is cruciform with an apse and two arms, the shape of the church will be exploited. The head of both these arms will be a suitable place to build two altars, one on the right and one on the left, provided there is adequate space regarding the width, as will be specified below.(1)

This place, if a chapel with altar is to be built there, must be at least nine cubits and eight ounces wide. If a concavity in the wall in the shape of a hemicycle against which the altar will be set is to be built then the place must be at least six cubits and sixteen ounces wide.

Moreover any church, whether it has a nave and two aisles or a nave only, has a space, as indicated above, that is sufficiently wide on either side, outside the main chapel, at the head. Here, on either side, a chapel and an altar can be decorously and suitably built in the same way, with the prescribed measurements and form, or at least a concavity in the form of a hemicycle in the wall in which an altar can be set.

Therefore when other chapels with altars are to be built in a church of this type, in addition to those at the head of the arms, they can be built along both sides of the church, unless they should be too near to the chapels at the head of the arms, contrary to what will be prescribed below.(2)

Each of these chapels, whether on the right or left side, must, where there are several aisles, be set in the center of the aisle at the head of which it is placed. When the church has a nave only, the chapel will be built at the center of the wall located between the main chapel and the corner of the church. It must however be at least two cubits from the main chapel, unless the construction criteria of the building, because of the weight supported by the wall in that point, or the structure of the church, do not require a greater space.

If an altar is to be set in the semicircular concavity, it also, as mentioned above, must be placed at the center of that wall or of the nave, or of the space between the main chapel and the corner, but so that it is not too close to the high altar so that the priest celebrating mass on one altar would not be disturbed by one celebrating at the other.

All that which has just been prescribed regarding the chapels and altars to be built at the head of one, and the other sides of the church can be applied only to those churches where the main chapel and the altar inside are such that within there is a space of at least four cubits. In those churches however in which, on account of the limited size, the high altar has no chapel, or, if it has, it is so small that the altar within projects out into the church, so much so that it would be in sight of the altars that might be placed on either side, then no side altars, as prescribed above, are to be built at the head of the church, even if there is sufficient space. Otherwise a priest celebrating at one altar would, because of the proximity, impede or interrupt another priest celebrating at another altar, and it would not be appropriate.

When it is necessary to have an even greater number of altars, there is a third place where they can be built, that is on both sides of the church, the one facing south and the one facing north. Chapels with altars can be built along both these sides, projecting outwards with respect to the body of the church, but in building them the following criteria must be observed: the chapels should be built equidistant from each other, and should have sufficient space between them so that windows for an adequate light can be put into the wall on either side of each chapel.

If the chapels cannot be set at a distance from each other they will be joined together, but at the back wall, projecting outwards, they will be semicircular or octagonal in form, so that they can receive light from the sides.(3)

Then in a church with nave and aisles, the chapels will be directly opposite a bay so that their view is not impeded by columns or piers. In a church with a nave only, instead, they will face out into the space between the arches or beams supporting the ceiling, whether vaulted or coffered. If the chapel is wider than this space, and it cannot be built as described above, the crossbeam will be supported at the summit of the arch opening of the chapel.

The minor chapels will all be of the same width, length and height and, as far as possible, will in all their details be similar. Those at the head of the arms of the cruciform church, depending on the possibilities the site offers, can, since they are somewhat wider than the others, be of more important structure, as long as they correspond to each other in all their parts.

No minor chapels or altars are to be built beneath the pulpit, or from where the organ is played, or the gospels of the Epistle are read, or the sermon is given, or from where one sings.(4)

No chapels are to be built between the pier and column or supporting arch or beam of the roof, which come first upon entering the church, excepting only that chapel which is to be built, without an altar, in churches which are devoted to the cure of souls, and in which the baptistery is to be placed.

No chapels will be built on the inside wall of the facade of the church on an axis with the high altar, and in general in no other place in which the priest, while celebrating, would turn his back to the main chapel.

The minor chapel can be nine or eleven cubits wide, or even more, depending on the size of the site of the church, but never less than seven cubits. The length, from the entrance to the wall against which the altar is set, must not be less than seven cubits, so that there will be sufficient space for the cleric serving mass. Nor should the chapel railing occupy part of the church or of the nave.(5) It should not, however, be larger, so that the people who are present at mass will not be hindered by the side walls of the chapel from seeing the celebrating priest from all parts of the church. If it is not possible to give over this much space to minor chapels, they can also be shorter, that is five cubits and eight ounces. These provisions do not apply to those chapels at the head of the church on either side of the main chapel and they can therefore be much longer than the others.

If the limited space in certain churches makes it impossible to build chapels that project outwards, in the prescribed size and shape, they will at least be built so that they project as much as possible in relation to that part of the church in which they are built.

If however the site does not permit chapels to be built projecting outwards and to be seen as prescribed, then only the necessary altars can be built along either side of the church, built into the concavities of the curved semicircular walls, and suitably projecting outwards, depending on the site and place.

If it is not even possible to curve the walls in semicircular form, then only the absolutely necessary altars will be built, set against the wall, either with two columns or other suitable support, set a bit into the wall itself, one on the right and the other on the left. These columns will be joined together at the top with a vault or similar structure, while the hemicycles will be decorously represented as a painted ornamentation.(6)

Lastly, all those altars which, for the reasons given above, will be built in places in which the chapels, because of lack of space, cannot have the prescribed size, so that the gates or railings in front will necessarily project out from the wall, they can be made smaller, so they will not measure more than one cubit and sixteen ounces. Moreover, no step will be built for them, so that both the altar and the railings will project as little as possible.

The railings of these altars, moreover, will be set at a distance of one cubit and at least eight ounces from the footpace, to leave enough space for the cleric serving at Mass.

If the church is particularly wide, the space can be reduced by constructing chapels on either side, in the length, height and shape prescribed above. Thanks to this considerable width, therefore, there will be room inside the church for building them in the prescribed measurements, as long as the height of the church in the spaces between the chapels is still proportionate.

The floor of the minor chapels must be raised above that of the church by eight ounces, and sometimes-even more, as will be seen below. The threshold of each minor chapel, when possible, should be of marble or solid stone, from sixteen to twenty ounces wide at the most. There will be an entrance step, at the same level as the chapel floor, and only this one step will be built to go up to the chapel.

When the main chapel has several steps, it will also be permitted to have two other lower steps, in addition to the entrance step, in relation to the characteristics of the site and the size of the chapel. These too should be of marble, at least of solid stone, or at the very least of brick. They will be as wide as the entrance step, and the indications given regarding the steps of the main chapel will apply to their height.

As prescribed for the main chapel, each minor chapel will be vaulted. The altars will be built not at the sides, but at the center of the back wall of each chapel.

All the minor altars will be two cubits and eight ounces high, from the top part of the footpace up. They will be four cubits and a half long, or never less than four cubits. They will be two cubits deep.

The footpace of the altar (called ”bradella”) will consist of wooden boards or planks. It will be two cubits wide and eight ounces high. It will be longer than the altar by about sixteen ounces per side, but no more than one cubit, and it will encompass the altar on one side and the other, unless, because of the narrowness of the chapel, this lateral projection would hinder the cleric serving at Mass. In this case it will not project but will simply be of equal length.


Chapter XIV, pp.

1. This is consistent with what was discussed in Chapter II on the form of a church and the altars on either end of the transept.

2. See Fig. 14.1.

3. S. Maria della Passione in Milan serve as a good example of the projecting semi- circular chapels and the norms for adequate lighting (see Fig. 14.2).

4. The organs presented this problem in the Milan Duomo. One organ had been commissioned on 25 January 1552 and was installed on the east wall of the northern wing of the transept above the altar of the Madonna dell'Albero.(a) In 1576 (while these norms were in preparation) Borromeo-delegate Bishop Ragazzoni gave explicit orders that it was not reasonable to celebrate Mass under organ lofts, and that neither was it conducive to good order and design to remove the altars above which the organs had been placed. It was decreed that the organs were to be taken down and put on the side towards the choir of the church.(b) The following year, 1577, Borromeo encouraged compliance to the decrees of Ragazzoni and ordered that some other works in progress at the Duomo be suspended and the corresponding financial allocation be transferred to the organ project. The new organ on the north transept was moved immediately while it was decided that the older one over the altar of S. Agnes was to be rebuilt (Figs. 14.3, 14.4).

5. Note that, contrary to main altars which are to stand free, minor altars are attached to, or at least brought up to the back wall.

6. This appears to apply primarily to monastic churches where one of the lateral walls served the dual purpose of inner church and outer cloister (Fig. 14.5).


(a) Annali, IV, 146.

(b) Poiché non conviene che si celebri la Santa Messa sotto gli organi, né corrisoponderebbe al disegno, et ornamento della Chiesa, levar via gli altari sopra I quali sono stati posti gli organi di questa chiesa; ordiniamo che si levino essi organi, et si pongano dall'altra banda, verso il choro della chiesa. Annali, IV, 146. This document is in complete disagreement with the premise of Giovanni Rocco's work Pellegrino Pellegrini e le sue opere nel Duomo di Milano, pp. 61-9, in which Rocco suggests that the organs were originally on the wall of the chancel.


After briefly furnishing instructions regarding the minor chapels and altars, the elements that main and minor chapels and altars have in common and which are to be respected in construction will now follow.

The altars must not be of wood, but of stone or brick. They must be solidly built in all their parts, without any openings or holes, in which anything could be stored or concealed, on any side.(1)

Altars supported by four or more columns or stone corner piers, as seen in the province of Milan, will however not be prohibited. To the contrary it will be well that the altars, even if built in solid masonry, be supported at the corners by piers of this sort, so that the part consecrated with chrism, if in brick will not easily crumble away.(2) Even so nothing should be placed beneath them.

The individual altars, including the space occupied by the celebrating priest, which are not completely covered by a vault or a coffered ceiling, or with a vault that is so high that it cannot be easily and often cleaned, will also be protected by a baldachin known as


This can consist of four columns, if it is the high altar, in marble or solid stone, or even in brickwork, or of two columns or some other adequate support if it is a minor or side altar, not far from the wall, towards the interior of the church, one on the right side and one on the left. The baldachin, vaulted or of some other shape, or the inlaid wooden panels or decorously painted blue cloth, will be set on the columns.

The baldachin, whether of wood or cloth, will be suspended by iron chains attached to the ceiling or the wall, or by some other solid structure. Whatever the case, it will be large enough to completely cover the altar and the priest celebrating Mass, so as to protect both from dust and any dirt that may fall from up high.

The covering will be neither too close to, nor too high from, the altar, as required by decorum, so that it can also be conveniently and easily cleaned.(3)

The cruet niche

A niche lined where possible with marble or solid stone will be made, well and with care, in the wall behind the altar, on the side where the Epistle is read.

It will be two cubits above the floor, sixteen ounces wide, twenty-four high, and will be horizontally divided by a small shelf of marble or stone. The lower part will serve to dispose of the water with which the priest, during the rite, washes his hands. Therefore it will have a small hole at the center, through which the water can drain into a small cistern put in below. The upper part will be used to hold the tray with cruets, during Mass.

Since the main altar is sometimes rather far from the back wall, against which the choir stalls are often set, and if therefore the niche cannot be set in the place indicated, a stone basin, nicely decorated, in which to pour the water, can be set in its stead against the wall on the epistle side, or in some place near, or further from, the altar, as long of course as it does not spoil the allover effect.(4)

The iron nail on which to hang the biretta

On the Epistle side, near the niche discussed above, or in some other suitable place, there will be an iron nail with some ornament, preferably in brass, upon which to hang the biretta of the celebrating priest. It will not be more than two cubits above the floor.

The bell

Every altar will have a small bell attached to the side wall on the side where the Gospel is read. It will be equipped with a cord long enough so that at the elevation of the Host the cleric can ring it by pulling hard. If the altar has no chapel, the bell will be at a distance and will project as much as possible from the wall, so that the cord will not be in the way of the altar or the priest.

With regard to the high altar, it will be more convenient to have the cleric use the portable bell, brought from the sacristy, rather than the suspended bell. There is therefore no reason to hang a bell near the high altar, especially in the larger churches.(5)

Railings enclosing chapels and altars

On the front part at the entrance to every chapel, including the main chapel, iron railings will be set on the topmost step. They will be three cubits high, or even more where it is advisable that they be safer and more secure.(6)

Where possible, all the railings must be decorated at the top and bottom and in the middle with ornamental motifs, such as small pillars or small vase-shaped swellings, well made, to obtain a nice aesthetic effect.

If the chapel is octagonal or hexagonal, so that it can be larger, there will still be railings on the topmost step, which are in keeping with the shape of the chapel.

The rather artistic ironwork on the lower part, about a cubit high, will be compact so that dogs cannot enter.(7)

There will be a double gate at the center of the railing. It will also be of iron and in the same style, and will close on both sides with bolt and lock.

Where finding the amount of iron needed for the chapel railings is difficult, then small columns in marble or solid stone, if that material is available, can be used. Called “balustrio” or balustrade, it is surmounted by a cornice, and is much lower than the railings, and will enclose and decorate the front part of the chapels.

In those churches, chapels or altars where the limited funds make it impossible to have either iron railings or balustrades in marble or stone to enclose and decorate as described above, and as the Bishop sees fit and with his permission, finely turned wood can be used. The wooden barriers must be much lower and simpler than the iron railings and will have a molding at the top as decoration.

Where the chapels of the minor altars are large enough to hold a certain number of faithful during Mass, even if they already have iron railings at the entrance, they must also be furnished with wooden barriers inside, near the altar. These barriers will enclose the altar and keep the crowd at a distance from the celebrating priest, leaving the space necessary for the assistant cleric.

The wooden molding of the altar

A small molding in wood no higher than three fingers will be added to each footpace [where it is contiguous with the altar], including that of the main altar. It will surround it on three sides, so that on the front the lower ends of the frontal and at the sides those of the altar cloths will be hidden under the molding. It will also be used there where the footpace projects only on the front of the altar.(8)

The frame of the altar

A wooden structure, called “telare” [frame], will also be used for the altar, by means of which the frontal stretched and hung on small hooks will be fitted to the altar.

The frame will be made of oak or walnut laths, smoothly polished, four ounces wide, and made so as to surround the altar table on the front and on both sides. The ends of the frame will be nailed or inserted into the wall against which the altar is set.

There will be two supports for the frame, also formed of walnut or oak laths, one at the front right corner, the other at the front left corner of the altar. Both must be four ounces wide. Where the altar is at rather a distance from the wall, the frame will enclose the altar on all sides, and there will be two other supports at the back corners.

On the top at the level of the altar table the frame will have a few slightly hollow indentations, in each of which will be a slender hooked nail on which the cords or rings of the frontal can be hung, but it must not rise above the surface of the altar. One of these indentations must be centered, and the others, on either side, in groups of two or three, or more, depending on the size of the altar, can be at equal intervals from each other.(9)

The wooden gradine at the back part of the altar

There can be only one wooden gradine [altar shelf] on the back part of the table of the minor altar.

It will be as long as the altar, eight ounces wide, and just as high. There can also be one on the high altar, if it is only two cubits or less from the back wall, In that case one or more gradines, of decorous aspect, can be built, as long as the movement around the altar under this structure is not hindered.(10)

The table of the high altar

Particular care should be devoted to the altar table, in marble or solid stone, of the high altar in any church, cathedral, collegiate or parish church, and also of the minor altar which is to be consecrated.

Where possible it should be as long and wide as the altar. Where it is not possible to have one of this width, it must still be at least one and a half cubits wide. As for the length, it will equal that of the altar. If, for particular characteristics of the region, a table of the same size as the altar cannot be found, it can be completed at the back, where a piece is missing, with cement or brickwork.(11)

The relic niche in the altar to be consecrated (12)

A sepulcher, fourteen or sixteen ounces large, is to be made at the front or back of the altar, below the altar table. Or, depending on the criteria of consecration, prescribed in the Pontifical book, which the Bishop may prefer to use, a sepulcher-like depression will be made in the side supports of the altar table, with the same function, but in a much smaller space. The sacred relics will be placed in the sepulcher or in the depression when the altar is consecrated.

The sepulcher is to be closed with a marble or solid door-like stone panel, on which a cross is carved, along with the names of the holy relics concealed in the altar. Where there is no sepulcher, but a depression, this inscription will be engraved on one side of the altar or on the table. The depression in the table will also be tightly closed by a small marble panel, which does not project at all above the altar table itself.

The altar table and the waxcloth

Even if part of the consecrated altar table is in brick, it will be completely covered by waxcloth, secured with nails to the prescribed frame and inserted therein.(13)

The top of each unconsecrated altar will be covered by a table in well-smoothed wooden panels, sufficiently large to cover it completely.

A portable altar will be set into the central part equidistant from the sides of the table and no more than eight ounces away from the front. The length of this portable altar will not run from left to right, but will go from the front to the back. It will be set into the table so that it barely projects from the surface so that the celebrating priest may distinguish it by touch.

The stone of the portable altar (14)

The top part of the stone of the portable altar will have a cut on all sides towards the top surface, called “smussum” [bevel], half a finger wide crosswise. The stone will be twenty ounces long and sixteen ounces wide, in addition to the size of the case into which it is set.

This case will be made of a single walnut panel, two ounces or more thick, depending on the thickness of the stone.

The stone will be set into this panel, which will be hollowed out on top from all sides in proportion to the length and thickness of the stone. The beveled edge will be covered by the projecting edge of the hollowed panel. The known names of the holy relics will be clearly inscribed on the case.

When a consecrated altar has to be moved, the following criteria may be used so as not to have to reconsecrate it. It must be carefully removed from its place after having been encased in closely fitting wooden boards and panels, so that the support, raised from the floor of the church, does not in the least become detached from the altar table, but remains perfectly joined and adherent, so as not to violate the consecration.

Altars that are narrower and shorter than as prescribed in shape, can be widened or lengthened with additions in stone, brick or wood, carefully and appropriately made and set at the sides or front, whichever is most useful. If they are lower than they should be, they can be raised by means of a table high enough to let them come up to the established height. A consecrated stone of the prescribed form will be embedded in this table.


Chapter XV, pp.

1. Early paintings and mosaics reveal examples of portable altars. At the Synod of Epaon in 517,(a) canon twenty-six banned wooden altars, and eventually this ruling was included by Gratian in his compendium of canon law in 1148.

2. Three basic stipes or supports were used for the altar table or mensa: a solid, box- shaped form built over a tomb or confessio; a hollow, box-shaped form with a window opening in the front or back allowing accessibility to the relics within; or four columns upon which the mensa rested with a reliquary case centered under it. This last was relatively popular in the more rural churches where the elaborate Baroque altar did not replace the more primitive one. In some instances, the area between the columns was filled with a suitable material, often brick or stone.

3. The Milanese Church Acts record several advisory warnings from Borromeo to all of the pastors to construct protective coverings over altars. In the fourth Provincial Council of 1576, he insisted that an altar must be protected, either in the form of an arch or with beams or at least with a blue fabric extensive enough to cover the altar. If this baldacchino were to be set out from the wall, then it was to be arranged to facilitate cleaning.(b) These directions are repeated with slight variations and additions in the norms of 1577 and at various times between 1565 and 1584, by means of decrees after Apostolic Visitations. The directive that the baldacchino should cover not only the altar but the altar platform as well is repeated in each instance, as is also the provision that it be accessible for cleaning and dusting.

The color blue had a relatively liberal interpretation ranging from light to dark, with and without green tones. The point consistently made is that the capocielo should be as decorative as the means of the church will allow.

A modern-day commentary on general principles regarding the church and its furnishings is amazingly close to what Borromeo stipulated almost 400 years ago. "There should be some kind of canopy over the altar. This may hang from the roof of the church or project from the wall (a baldacchino or tester) or may stand on columns (a ciborium or civory). It should cover not only the altar but also the footpace (platform), or at least the priest celebrating. The high altar should not stand immediately against the wall of the church; at the consecration of an altar the rubrics require that the consecrating bishop go around it."(c)

4. The two altar cruets are containers for water and wine. All church furnishings are thoroughly discussed by Borromeo in the second volume of the Instructiones. He advises that the cruets be transparent crystal and not painted glass. Each must have a tight-fitting tin or silver stopper. The cruet dish may, if means allow, be silver with some decoration.

However, the bottom of the dish must be left plain so that when the cruets are carried they will neither topple nor rattle!(d)

An alternative to this nice and shelf was the credentia or abacus, a small table on the Epistle side of the altar.(e) It was to be either of marble or wood, and large enough to hold the cruets and other objects necessary for Mass.

5. The practice of ringing a bell to emphasize certain parts of the Mass began during the twelfth century. Bells ranged in shape from truncated cones, to hemispheres, to squares. Various materials were used such as gold, silver, bronze, copper, iron, some glass, porcelain and terra cotta. The museum at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan has an unusual collection of bells from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

In Borromeo's instructions on preparations for Mass (AEM,, 1854) he reminds the sacristans to see whether a portable bell is needed and to ring it four to six single strokes at the words Sursum corda, at the Sanctus, and at the elevation of the host and chalice. For these places that can comply with the fixed bell he advises: "Uscito dalla sacristia, dia segno della Messa con alcuni botti dal campanello attaccato fuori della porta di essa sacristia" (AEM, 1855).

In Milan today, some altar bells are still in the position advocated by Borromeo. The writer has seen some rural, single-nave churches, where the altar bell is attached directly to the side of the main altar itself.

6. The railings described here are approximately 4 feet, 1½ inches high and must not be confused with communion rails (see Fig. 15.1). Other prescriptions concerning altar rails that separate the altar and the place reserved for the choir and the rest of the temple where the faithful stand are found in the decrees of the fourth Provincial Council of 1576 (AEM, 319-20). Durandus also describes the tradition of the medieval church: "the rails by which the altar is divided from the choir teacheth the separation of things celestial from things terrestrial" (I, 31).

7. Fig.15.1 follows this norm exactly.

8. This was a simple solution in order to keep the altar cloths from billowing out from the front and/or sides of the altar.

9. This horizontal frame or telaio is no longer in use. The antependium or altar frontal was either a hanging or a framed panel that covered the front of an altar. Many fabric panels were used, having various embroidered religious symbols, and varying in color, depending upon the time of the liturgical year. The colors of the Ambrosian Rite remain the same: white, red, green, violet, and black.

Prior to Vatican II, the antependium was required for every altar on which Mass was to be offered. It could be dispensed with if the altar front was ornamented with metal decoration i.e., S. Ambrogio, Milan), precious stone, or with figures; or if the front were formed in the style of a sepulchre. Borromeo in volume Ii of this treatise specifies that the top part of the antependium should have a silk and gold fringe: the color of the silk corresponding to the liturgical function.

10. Literally, the gradines are shelves or steps attached to the back part of an altar. Normally candlesticks and reliquaries were placed there - allowing an uncluttered altar table.

11. The main altar is a fixed altar; that is, a permanent structure consisting of the support and the mensa consecrated together as one whole. It is called fixed not only because of its permanence but also because the mensa is so firmly united to the support that one cannot be separated from the other without causing the desecration of the altar.

The mensa which is superimposed on the support should be a single entire natural stone. Borromeo allows that if the slab is not quite large enough to fit on the support (for example, in the case where an older support is in good condition and the mensa is cracked or broken and must be replaced) then provided that the greater part of the dimension is met, the perimeter may be supplied with bricks.

12. The sepulchre or cavity for the relics is a small square or oblong opening made in the mensa or in the support of the mensa, in which the relics are placed. No special dimensions are prescribed. The stone cover must also be a single piece and should be fitted so that it is flush with the surface of the table.

13. This waxed linen cloth, also known as the cere-cloth or chrismale, had a twofold purpose: to prevent the altar cloth from being stained by the Holy Oils used during the ceremonies of consecration; and also to prevent the dampness of the stone from getting through the altar cloth.

14. The altar stone that is used when a consecrated altar may not be available is regarded by Borromeo as a smaller but entire mensa. This mensa would be slipped into the frame-like table top that is on an altar support, thus providing a liturgical altar stone with relics, etc. this particular altar is canonically known as a movable altar but is popularly called an altar stone. Hence, the altar stone or portable altar is not fixed to the table but rather fits down into a frame in such a way that its edges are discernible, but not so that it projects more than a fraction of an inch above the table top. This is so simply that the celebrant may assure himself that the chalice and the Host are set upon the altar stone.


(a) The Synod of Epaon was summoned by King Sigismund of Burgundy in 517 with the purpose of improving church discipline. Epano or Epaunum was situated in the vicinity of Agaunum (S. Maurice in the Canton Vallais). See Karl J. von Hefele, Histoire des conciles après les documents originaux, ed. and trans. by H. Leclercq (New York, 1973), vol. II, 2, pp. 1031-1042.

(b) Tegmen omnino habeat, vel fornicatum, vel saltem ex asseribus, aut panno pretiosiori confectum; ubi scilicet fornix non est, quae totum altare, ac praeterea sacerdotem celebrantem tegat; aut si fornix est, ab altari tamen ita distet, ut ea saepe purgari facile et commode non queat. AEM, 319-320.

(c) Adrian Fortescue and J. B. O'Connell, Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, 10th ed. (Maryland, 1958), p. 27.

(d) AEM, 1566.

(e) The Epistle side is where the Epistle is read during the Mass; it is usually on the right side as one faces the altar; the Gospel side is on the left. If the church is oriented eastward, the Gospel side normally would be the north, the Epistle side the south.


After having briefly given instructions regarding the major and minor chapels and altars, we will now give indications about the places, vases and loculi in which the sacred relics are kept and preserved.

The bodies of the Saints are kept piously and appropriately above all in that subterranean part of the church known as “confessio” or in the vernacular as “scurolo” if the church has one, and in or beneath the stone altars, as is the ancient custom. Therefore it will be proper to prepare an ark of marble or at least of solid stone, smoothly polished inside, furnished with a gabled lid of the same material, in which, tightly closed, the sacred bodies can be kept. It will be firmly set inside or beneath the altars.

The relics can also be kept in another conspicuous place in the church, aside from the altars. In this case the ark must be of a more precious marble, sculptured outside and distinguished for its pious and religious ornamentation.

Supported by four or more small marble columns, finely made, and if the characteristics of the site are such that it can easily be done, the ark will be decorously placed either in the interior of the church itself, size permitting, or in a more important chapel, except the one where the Most Holy Eucharist is kept. If it is located in the central part of the church, it must be far from the walls and any other construction. If it is located in a chapel, it can be placed either in the back part or next to the altar. It will be set against the wall, or partially enclosed in an appropriate concave recess in the wall. It will be set four cubits above the floor of the chapel. Every ark, then, set in some conspicuous place whether raised above the floor or in the wall, must have an adequate and decorous iron railing, in accordance with the site. If the bodies of the saints are already kept in some other place beneath the floor, and not in the altar or beneath it, then this place will be completely covered over and furnished on all sides with iron railings, closely worked in the upper part.

So that the bodies of the Saints or the sacred bones will be preserved incorrupt and inviolate forever free from all dirt and dust, and safe from all affront, the following precaution is to be taken. Every ark, set in a conspicuous place or beneath the altar, will be extremely solid and compact outside, and held together on all sides by iron and lead bars so that not even the smallest crack can be seen. Moreover another casket will be enclosed inside, of gold, silver or gilded tin, of solid make, in which the sacred bodies are preserved. When they are placed in this casket they will be wrapped and covered in silk cloth or in an even more precious veil, appropriate in color to the Saint whose sacred bones they enclose, in conformity with ecclesiastical norms and rites. The casket, or case, or the loculi or the vases, of whatever type, will be ritually blessed with the prescribed prayer from the Pontifical or Ritual book before the holy relics are enclosed therein.

In order to separate and distinguish the bodies of different Saints put into the same ark, it will be carved out into two or three compartments, on the basis of the number of sacred bodies or sacred relics. Or it will be adequately and appropriately divided by partitions of marble slabs or in some other way, or at least subdivided by the caskets of silver or tin.

A bronze tablet will be closed in every ark, on which the names of the Saints will be engraved. An inscription will also be engraved in the stone of the ark, precisely indicating the names and the bodies of the Saints, when they were deposited in the church and then transferred and other information of the kind, as long as it is certain.

So that the heads of the Saints, separated from their bodies, can be exhibited for the veneration of the faithful on specific days, they will be properly kept separately. They will be enclosed in a gold or silver reliquary, or if this is not possible, in gilded bronze, which reproduces the shape and features of the head with the neck and half bust.(1)

So that the bodies of the saints, still intact and with all their limbs, which are kept either within the altar or in a conspicuous place, can sometimes be seen, the altar or ark will be made so as to have a small window on the front. This will be decorated and well made, provided with an iron or bronze grate, solidly closed as indicated below, through which the bodies can be seen.(2)

In those churches in which important relics or limbs of Saints are preserved, the precise place in which they are kept can be constructed in one or the other of the forms described below, on the example of the holy Roman basilicas.

The first type of location

A platform will be built in an aisle of the church, if large, on the Gospel side, four or five cubits from the columns or piers of the aisle. This platform itself will also be approximately five cubits large and will be supported by four columns in marble or solid stone, six or eight cubits high.

The cabinet in which the sacred relics are kept will be placed on this platform. The cabinet will be in marble or another stone, finely decorated and appropriate, lined inside in walnut or a more precious wood, and lined with silk in the color which, according to the rite of the church, is appropriate to the holy relics kept inside. It will have a small door, closed with panels covered on the outside in bronze and lined inside in silk of the same color as above. Two bolts will be used to close the door, and at least two locks and the same number of keys, no two alike.

At the top of the columns, on the flat part of the platform, a dais should be erected, a cubit and a half wide and as long as the platform itself. It will have a railing in the front part, either of bronze, or iron, or marble, or other solid stone, or turned wood. There will be no stairs leading up to the platform, either spiral or otherwise, but portable wooden ladders will be used only on specific days when the sacred relics are shown to the people.(3)

The second type of location

If a church is not large enough for what has been described above, and has important relics, a podium will be built outside the main chapel on the Gospel side, approximately in the center, but closer to the high altar, or near the wall at the head of the nave. The podium will be attached to the wall, and will be as long and wide as prescribed above for the preceding form. A cabinet in which to preserve the relics will be set into the wall to which the podium is fastened and mortared. The cabinet will be of marble or some other solid stone, lined inside with panels of oak or some other wood, treated so as to last a long time, and decorated everywhere in silk of the appropriate color, according to the tradition of the Church, to the saints whose relics are kept within. This cabinet will be closed with bronze-covered doors and two different locks, as above.

Stone or wooden steps can be added to reach the podium, provided that they can conveniently be placed at the back of the cabinet and not occupy space in the church. Otherwise, a portable ladder will be used, as above.(4)

Third type of location

The third type will be used in churches which have relics but in which it has not been possible to establish in precedence, nor have available, a place corresponding to the first or second type as prescribed above.

In the main chapel, that is within the enclosure, on the Gospel side, a cabinet should be set into the wall, if possible facing the high altar. It will be as wide, long, high and deep as required by the number and size of the holy relics to be preserved therein.

The base of the cabinet will be four cubits above the chapel floor. Inside it will be completely lined with wooden panels and decorated all around in silk of the color befitting the relics. It will be tightly shut with doors clad in bronze, well made, with a solid lock, and double keys, each one differently made. In this finely made cabinet the relics, enclosed in containers or boxes, will be kept in good order.

Containers and loculi for the relics to be kept in the locations prescribed above

The containers in which the relics are kept will be of gold, silver or crystal or of some other metal, finely worked and gilded, depending on how important the relics are and how much the church where they are kept can afford.

There will be as many containers as there are kinds of relics, so that one, two, or more kinds, carefully separated and in distinct order, can be kept in each container. Each container will be covered by a veil, different in color depending on the type of relic it contains.

If the sacred relics are so small that containers, which would be too large, are not required, but where even smaller containers would suffice, they will be preserved as follows. A panel of walnut or some other wood, well smoothed, or also in a more precious material, such as ivory or silver will be chosen. Finely worked by the craftsman, it will be as long and wide as necessary for the use it is to be put to. As many small cavities or compartments as there are relics to preserve will be carved out to the depth of three ounces. These compartments will be surrounded at the top by small gilded ornamental frames.

The panel, thus prepared, will be glazed so that each compartment is protected by transparent glass. The glass covering will be furnished with a frame of gilded wood or more precious material, which serves as decoration and at the same time keeps it firmly in place. Moreover each sacred relic will be doubly wrapped in silk taffeta or "ormesino", or in some other quality of finer silk, interwoven with gold and silver, in different colors, as are proper, according to the rite of Holy Mother Church, to the saints, the apostles, or martyrs, virgins, or confessors, whose relics are kept there.(5)

For each of the relics whose name is known, an inscription on parchment, in clear letters but small in size, will be attached to whatever kind of compartment, cabinet, container the relics are kept in, or rather to the silk in which they are wrapped. This inscription will specify what the relics kept there are and to which saint they belong.

If there is reliable evidence that some of the relics belong to certain saints, but they are intermingled so that it is impossible to say that they belong to this or that saint, these relics will be placed in a single compartment or container, on which the names of each of the saints whose relics are kept therein will be inscribed. The same will be done in naming the container or compartment where the inscriptions have been separated from the relics and mixed so that it is impossible to find a way to identify them, despite the presence of the above-named inscriptions.

Then if there are relics the name of which is unknown, they will be kept in a single compartment with this inscription: "Holy relics of which the names are unknown".

On one wall of the cabinet in which the sacred relics are kept, the effigies of the saints to whom the most important relics kept within belong, will be appropriately and piously painted.

Two rods of ivorywood, or of that known as "braxilio" or some other suitable type, three cubits long, will be made. At the top they will have a silver plate and pairs of small hooks. Here the faithful will hang their rosaries to touch the holy relics, or better, their containers.

Finally in any church in which there are relics or bodies of saints, a bronze or marble plaque will be set in a conspicuous and important place, such as on the column of the main chapel on the Gospel side, or some other similar place, and firmly attached to the wall or the column. Incised in large letters will be a brief outline of the story of the relics kept there.(6)


Chaper XVI, pp

1. On 15 February 1593. There was a decree that no relics could be transferred without permission from the Apostolic See.

2. See Fig. 16.1.

3. See Fig. 16.2.

4. These stairs were often constructed within the wall against which the reliquary was placed. The entrance to these stairs was on the opposite side of the wall, or simply attached to that side of the wall. The stairs connected with a doorway that cut through the wall (see Figs. 16.3 and16.4). At St. Peter's, Rome, there are four reliquary closets with platforms built into the piers of the central cupola. The stairs to reach them are within the piers themselves.

5. See Figs. 16.5 and 16.6.

6. See Figs. 16.7 and 16.8.


According to the decree of the Council of Trent and the Provincial constitutions,(1) the bishop must take great care that the sacred images are piously and religiously depicted. Moreover a heavy punishment or fine for painters and sculptors who depart from the prescribed rules in the representations mentioned above has been provided for.

A sanction has also been provided for the ecclesiastical rectors who allow an unusual image to be depicted or placed in their church, contrary to the rules prescribed by the Tridentine decree.(2)

What is to be avoided and what is to be observed in the sacred images

First of all no sacred image containing a false dogma or that offers the uneducated an occasion for dangerous error, or that is at variance with the Sacred Scriptures or Church tradition, is to be depicted in the church or elsewhere. Conversely, the image must conform to the truths of the Scriptures, the traditions, ecclesiastical histories, customs and usages of the Mother Church.(3)

Moreover in painting or sculpting sacred images, just as nothing false, uncertain or apocryphal, superstitious, or unusual is to be depicted, so whatever is profane, base or obscene, dishonest or provocative will be strictly avoided. Likewise all that is outlandish, which does not incite men to piety, or which can offend the soul and eyes of the faithful is forbidden.

Furthermore, although attempts must be made to seek as accurate as possible a semblance of the saint, care will be taken not to purposefully reproduce the likeness of another person, living or dead.

Images of beasts of burden, dogs, fish and other brute animals are not to be shown in the church or other holy places, unless the depiction of the holy story, in accordance with the custom of the Mother Church, specifically requires it.(4)

The dignity of sacred images

The representation of the sacred images will correspond in all things to the dignity and holiness of the prototypes, fittingly and decorously, in the appearance, position and adornment of the person.

Distinguishing characteristics of the saints

Those things that for their meaning as something sacred are painted on or attached to the images of the saints, must conform, in an adequate and decorous manner, to what is specified by the church. Examples are the nimbus or crown, similar to a round shield, placed around the heads of the saints, palms held by martyrs, the miter and crosier which are given to Bishops, and other like things, as well as the distinctive attribute of each saint.

Moreover, care must be taken that the representation corresponds to historical truth, to church practice, to the criteria prescribed by the Fathers.

Care must be taken that the nimbus of Christ the Lord is distinguished from those of the saints by a cross. Finally care must be taken not to attribute the nimbus to anyone who has not been canonized by the Church.

Locations unsuitable for sacred pictures

No holy image is to be depicted on the ground, not even in the Church, nor in humid places, where with time the painting would be ruined and deteriorate; neither under windows, from which rain water could drip, nor in the proximity of points where nails [ubi clavialiquando figendi sunt Latin, ponerse clavos Sp.] are to be fixed at any time, nor, we repeat, on the ground or in dirty and muddy places.

In locations of this kind, not even the stories of the saints or depictions of symbols of the sacred mysteries will be represented.(5)

Rite for blessing the images

Not only must one pay attention to the location but also to the ancient Ecclesiastical rite. In other words, the images of the saints, once made, will be consecrated by solemn benediction and those specific prayers prescribed in the Pontifical or Ceremonial book.

The names of the saints that must sometimes be inscribed

It is not untoward that, in many of the sacred images depicted in a church, the names of the saints represented are written under the lesser known figures. This is an ancient practice, as confirmed by St. Paulinus in this line:

"Martyribus mediam pia nomina signant." [Let the pious names be marked among the martyrs].(6)

Accessories and ornamental additions

The accessories, that is the elements the painters and sculptors usually add to the images for decoration, shall not be profane, nor sensual, nor solely for aesthetic delight, nor incompatible with the sacred picture, such as for example the deformed human heads commonly called "mascaroni", or the birds, or the sea, or the green fields painted to please and delight the eye and for decoration. [They may be used] only if they are an integral part of the sacred story represented, or unless they are ex-votos, in which human heads or other things, mentioned above, are painted to explain the meaning.

The ornaments and apparel painted onto the sacred images must have nothing unsuitable, or which, in other words, has little or nothing to do with sanctity.

Votive panels

Care must also be taken, as prescribed above, regarding the ex-votos, offerings, wax images and other objects habitually hung in the churches according to ancient practice and tradition, in remembrance of health recovered, or danger avoided, or a divine grace miraculously received, for frequently they are false, indecorous, indecent and superstitious depictions.


Chapter XVII, pp.

1. During the first Provincial Council of 1565 Borromeo referred to the Tridentine Synod and reiterated the regulations that no one might display a sacred image in any place or church without Episcopal approval, and that nothing false, profane, tasteless, preposterous or inconsistent with ecclesiastical history and tradition was to be exhibited.(h)

2. Another practical approach in this period of ecclesiastical reorganization under Borromeo was his suggestion to call a mass meeting of artists and inform them of their obligations. At the same time he also advised that "in order that bishops might more easily execute these and other like prescriptions of the Council of Trent, let them call together the painters and sculptors of their dioceses and inform all equally about things to be observed in producing sacred images; and that they [the bishops] were to see to it that no painter or sculptor publicly or privately produced any sacred image without consulting the parish priest."(i)

Punishments, fines and penalties were frequently mentioned by Borromeo; for example, in concluding the above advice, he added that "if any transgress, let them be punished, the artists themselves as well as those at whose expense or by whose order the images are produced."(j)

At the fourth Provincial Council (1576) eleven years later, and one year before the norms, the movement of Counter Reformation art was still at a point where the threat of punishment appeared to be an added impetus to obedience. Borromeo stated that "for painters and sculptors, let there be established by the authority of the bishop a heavy fine and punishment as well as ecclesiastical interdicts if, contrary to the decree of that same Tridentine Council, they paint or fashion anything that is excessively, unnaturally, or hurriedly done, anything that is profane or tasteless."(k) As in the Instructiones, Borromeo follows with a warning to the pastors of churches "who have permitted the placing of any inaccurate sacred image that is contrary to the sanction of that Council [Trent], even through their churches be exempt, let there be established also the penalty of excommunication or fine at the bishop's discretion in assessing the degree of fault."(l)

3. The language used by Borromeo is similar to that found in the Trent proceedings.

If any abuses shall have found their way into these holy and salutary observances, the holy Council desires earnestly that they be completely removed, so that no representation of false doctrines and such as might be the occasion of grave error to the uneducated be exhibited. (Trent, 216)

But now, if these things, either painted images or formed statues, by reason of the temerity or ignorance of the artists, or by chance of the kind that seem in no way tolerable, let the Bishops, when they have obtained the counsel for learned and skilled men, see to it that these works are completely removed or at least in some way corrected. (AEM, 37)(m)

4. The warning that animals were not a part of religious iconography was clearly expressed by Borromeo in 1576 when he decreed that "representations of beasts of burden, dogs or other brute animals must not be made in church; since on the sanction of the Tridentine Council it is wrong for anything tasteless or profane to appear in church and this clearly was also forbidden at the seventh ecumenical Synod of Nicaea. But if the expression of sacred history after the practice of the Holy Mother Church demands that it occasionally be done in different ways, clearly this is not forbidden."(n)

5. "If any sacred paintings or painted images are of unseemly appearance by reason of being all but effaced by age, decay, location or dirt, let the Bishop order them renovated by those whose concern is pious and religious painting, or if this is not possible, totally destroyed. Paintings of saints expressed in images which have been damaged by age must not be turned to any vile, sordid, or profane use; rather, as has been sanctioned by the decree of the blessed Clement, priest and martyr, in the case of altar curtains and hangings which have been consumed by time, they should be burned; then the ashes, moreover, lest they be stepped upon, should be placed beneath the pavement. Likewise

sacred statues, if deformed, should be removed and placed under the pavement of the church or at least under the ground of the cemetery."(o)

6. St. Paulinus was elected Bishop of Nola near Naples in 409. He chose his predecessor St. Felix as patron and built a basilica in his honor.


(h) Cum sacrosancta Tridentina Synodus

(i) Saec et reliqua

(j) Quod si

(k) Pictoribus et

(l) Rectoribus

(m) Quod se quae

(n) Effigies iumentorum,

(o) Si que sacrae


Instructions will now be provided regarding the lamps and the suspended lighting fixtures on which the lamps are hung, located in the presence of the Most Holy Sacrament, the relics or the sacred images.(1)

Above all, depending on the characteristics and importance of the church, the lamps will be of silver or brass, as is the custom in the church; although we know that in the major basilicas there were also some in gold, and they will have a small glass container inside for the light. In really cold mountain zones, where the glass containers often break in winter on account of the cold, small bronze [brass] containers may be used inside the lamps.

The form of the lamps

Since the form of the lamps varied in time, they are all acceptable provided they correspond to the customs of the church. The oblong forms, once most common, are however to be preferred. These lamps are wide at the top and in the bottom part, they get narrower in the middle almost as if they were tied, and are hung by three chains of the same metal, which are attached to the upper rim.

The form of the lighting fixtures

The lighting fixture, which supports a certain number of hanging lamps, round and fairly high, in the shape of a tower, can have dolphin supports for the lamps. This kind of lighting fixture is known to be ancient and is called “phara canthara”.

This type of lighting fixture should be used in the more important churches, especially if it is in brass and well made.

A second type of lighting fixture can consist of a small solid beam, all gilded and decorated with cornices. It may also have wooden dolphins on the upper part as was once the custom.

It will be as long as required for the number of lamps used for light.

A third type of lighting fixture, triangular in shape, can also be used when three hanging lamps are employed.

In the smaller churches three or five lamps will be hung on an elongated type of lighting fixture. In the larger churches there will be seven or thirteen. Arranged in an orderly row, they will be about half a cubit apart.

The number of lamps

Many lamps can be hung on the round lighting fixture, in the shape of a tower or column, depending on its structure. However care must be taken that there is an uneven number of lamps on every lighting fixture.

The location of the lighting fixture

Each lighting fixture, even if it has only one lamp, will be hung not at the side, but directly opposite, at a prescribed distance from, the altar, or the sacred relics, or the sacred image, after the addition of a guide rope on which to suspend it.

It will be hung far enough away from the altar steps so that if drops of oil should fall, they will not stain the priest or the cleric, when at the beginning of Mass both are on the lowest altar step. It will be raised up no less than seven cubits from the floor of the church, or more, depending on the characteristics of the building.

If only one of the lamps is to be lighted, it will be the one in the center.(2)


Chapter XVIII, pp.

1.The practice of arranging several lamps on a suspended circular frame eventually led to the chandelier.

2.Liturgical ceremonies such as Vespers and evening vigil services necessitated an

improved system of illumination. Borromeo merely records the established methods with no recourse to religious symbolism.(a)


(a) Onofrio Panvinio in his description of the major Roman basilicas discusses similar solutions for St. John Lteran, St. Lawrence outside-the-walls, and St. Mary Major; pp. 165, 204, 293, 305.


After having explained the foregoing, it is time to give indications on the characteristics and form of the baptistery.

In each cathedral, and also in each parish church, as prescribed in our provincial Councils(1), and in all the other churches where the care of the souls is exercised, or where the Bishop has given permission for a specific reason, a baptistery with a sacrarium(2) will be built, in the form and way indicated below, according to the needs and size of each church.(3)

The location and form of the baptistery chapel

In each cathedral and provostal church, archipresbyterate(4) or other designation, which is the head church of the district, the location and form of the baptistery will be as follows.

A location will be chosen, as the architect sees fit, distant from the facade of the church, depending on the layout of the land, facing south. Here a shrine or chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist will be built. It will have a volume of about thirty-three cubits, dignified in structure to correspond to the characteristics of the church.

It will be round, octagonal, or hexagonal, or another shape which will not however go beyond the confines of a perfect circle. The most suitable and decorous form is the octagon(5). The roof of the building will be vaulted, and, depending on the shape, will have a prominent top part, and be covered with lead sheets. A cupola will also be part of the fastigium from which the baptistery will receive light from all sides.

The floor will be of marble or solid stone, tessellated, or, where this is not possible, at least in brickwork. It will be raised three or more steps above the street level, just as long as it is no higher than the floor of the church.

The entrance will face west, and be equipped with a small vestibule and will have the prescribed form for a church door.

The number of windows will depend upon the form of the building and the judgement of a skilled architect. Each will have the form approved by the architect on the basis of what the construction requires.

The height of the entire building, up to the to part of the roof, will be in proportion to its width, according to the general architectural criteria, and as the architect sees fit.

The altar of the baptistery chapel

Inside only one altar is to be built, two cubits from the wall facing east, if there is sufficient space in the chapel. It will have the shape and characteristics indicated for the other altars, and like them will be equipped, enclosed, furnished and decorated. The sacred representation of St. John the Baptist baptizing Christ the Lord will be depicted on the wall above the altar.

If it is impossible to build an altar as indicated and of that size, there will be an image or sacred painting of St. John the Baptist on the wall in its place.(6)

Location of the baptistery when it is not possible to erect it separate from the church

Where the chapel of St. John the Baptist is not separate from the church, and cannot be built for lack of funds, then, with the consent of the Bishop, a baptistery of the form indicated below can be placed in the chapel in the church.

Differences in the baptistery according to the Roman and the Ambrosian rites

We will now describe the form of the baptistery, according to the way in which baptism is administered today.

By the form of the baptistery of Roman rite we mean the one suitable for baptism by effusion, since in almost all churches of Roman rite the most frequent custom and practice today is to baptize in this way.

The second form, built for baptism by immersion, we have called Ambrosian baptistery, since in churches of Ambrosian rite immersion is still retained.(7)

Site and form of the baptistery of Roman rite

The baptistery must be at the center of the chapel. It will be eleven cubits wide and deep so that at least three steps will lead down into it from the floor of the chapel. This descent and this relative depth will make it resemble a sepulcher.(8) At the foot of the lowest step there will be an empty space, seven cubits and sixteen ounces in diameter. At the center of this space will be placed the baptismal font or basin, into which the water flows. It will be three cubits wide, excluding the rims, calculated on the central axis, and two cubits deep. It will be round or octagonal, or some other shape, as is appropriate to the shape of the chapel. If possible, it will be made of a single block of marble or some other stone. Or it will be made of two or more slabs of marble or stone, eight ounces thick.

These slabs will be solid and not porous. They will fit together tightly, strongly and properly joined together. Inside they will be perfectly smooth. Outside they will be decorated by pious sculpture that conforms to good taste.

If it is not made of a monolith, the bottom of the basin will be covered and reinforced, lined with slabs of marble or granite, carefully set together and joined with bitumen. On all sides it will slope gently down towards the center and will have a few grooves, so that the water can be guided towards the hole at the center, dug out under the base of a small column. Below the bottom of the basin, underground, there will be a small sacrarium-like cistern, into which the water that runs down from the head of the child being baptized will flow.

At the center of this bottom or place a small marble column will be fixed or rise up set on a triangular or square or hexagonal base, or of some other shape as thought suitable, well and decorously worked and decorated.

The baptismal font, in which the water will be kept for the entire year, will be placed in an adequate and decorous fashion on the upper part of the small column. This vase will be round or octagonal or of some other shape, corresponding to that of the chapel and the basin below. It will be two cubits wide, and about twelve ounces, or a bit more, deep, depending on the size of the church. It can be about sixteen ounces higher than the lower basin, calculating the height perpendicularly from the top of the rim of the lower basin to the top of the rim of the upper font.

The silver spoon

A silver spoon will be used to pour the water on the head of the child being baptized. It will be attached to the upper font by a handle, somewhat curved in at the top. On the left side the rim of the spoon will have a raised ridge, like a channel, from which the water will be gently poured on the head of the child.

Site and form of the baptistery of Ambrosian rite

What has been said above concerns the site and form of the Roman baptistery. Now follow the site and form of that of Ambrosian rite.

The baptistery will be located at the center of the chapel. It will be made in such a way as to resemble a sepulcher, and stairs will lead down into it, as prescribed regarding the form of the Roman baptistery.

The baptismal basin must be in the shape which, from ancient remains of baptisteries, we know to be extremely old. It will be used for the baptisteries to be built in cathedrals, district, provostal, or archipresbyteral churches.

The basin will be of marble or solid stone, not porous. If possible the baptismal font will be made of a single block of marble, like a sepulcher. If a single block is not possible, there will be two, and if not even this is possible, the basin can be made of several square blocks, compactly and tightly joined with bitumen.(9)

The blocks, eight ounces thick, must be smoothly polished inside and decorated outside with pious and decorous sculpture. The shape, as for the baptistery of Roman rite, will be octagonal or round, or other, in keeping with the building.

It will be two cubits high, from the bottom to the top. It will be three cubits wide, calculating the empty space. In the lower part, on the eastern side, there will be a hole of three ounces, from which, when the baptismal water is renewed, the old water will flow into the sacrarium, which, as explained below, will be built beneath, like a small cistern.

This small hole will be tightly closed with an oak or ash plug wrapped in oakum, or some other even more secure system. The bottom will be solid and whole if the basin consists of a single stone. If it is formed of more than one block, the bottom will be carefully and diligently made in brickwork, and so firmly tiled that there are absolutely no cracks through which even the slightest amount of water could run out. The bottom will slope gently towards the hole. At the center of the chapel or place indicated a basin of the type described above, solidly built, will therefore be set.

A small cistern into which the old baptismal water flows when it is renewed will be excavated in the eastern part, as a sacrarium, in the floor around the baptistery basin.

This cistern adjoining the baptismal font, will have a small door, one cubit square, with strong door panels, lock and bolt, and will be opened only when, after opening the hole in the basin, the water will be emptied into it.

Details common to Roman and Ambrosian baptisteries

The following can be elements common to both the Roman and Ambrosian baptisteries, as far as the construction is concerned: the cover or ciborium, the size of the site, the enclosure, the decoration, the ceiling and the canopy, as will be described individually below.

The ciborium

The covering known as ciborium suitable for both types of baptisteries, will be of marble or solid stone in the more important churches. (A stable structure formed of small slender columns or piers, with considerable space between the columns, will support the ciborium and it will be two cubits high. In the baptistery of Roman rite, these small columns or piers will be attached to the top of the rim of the baptismal font. In that of Ambrosian rite they will be set on the rim of the baptismal font itself. An architrave and a frieze, as well as a cornice, will be set at the top of the columns as an appropriate ornament, on the advice of the architect. The entire structure will have an orbicular or pyramidal marble covering. At the top a statue of St. John the Baptist baptizing Christ will be set. The spaces between the small piers will be closed by bronze panels, decorated with some pious story, which can be removed when the baptistery is in use.

The lid

In order to keep the baptismal water clean, a lid made of two walnut panels will be used for the baptistery basin, both of Roman and Ambrosian rite, built in the prescribed form, and also for baptisteries of different form, which will be described below. The panels will be joined in the center by iron hinges, and placed between the ciborium and the basin. This lid will completely cover and close the opening of the basin itself, in accordance with its shape and proportions.

Where, according to the Ambrosian rite, baptism is by immersion, this lid will be used only in the larger baptisteries, so that it does not impede the immersion of the child, while it can be used in all the baptisteries of Roman rite, where baptism is administered by effusion.(11)

The site of the one and the other baptistery

The site of both baptisteries will be of the same shape as the baptismal font and the chapel. The floor will be consolidated with marble tesserae and will be enclosed by a colonnade on the topmost step.

The colonnade

The form of the colonnade should correspond to the structure of the baptistery. It will consist of eight single columns, or sixteen coupled columns. If it is hexagonal, there will be six or twelve columns, as required by the shape. It will be decorated and enclosed at the top by a frieze and cornice, with the advice of the architect. It will be covered by a coffered, or vaulted or arched ceiling, solidly made with plastered canework, and incrusted and decorated with molded and gilded stuccowork. Railings will be set between the columns in the colonnade, according to the criteria prescribed above for the chapel railings.

The canopy

The canopy will be used to cover the entire ciborium. It will be of silk or half-silk fabric, and will be white, a color conforming to the mystical significance of the sacrament. However a canopy of some other suitable fabric, of the same color, can also be used.

The ambry for the Holy Chrism, etc.

The ambry in which to keep the container of the Holy Chrism and the oil of the catechumens, the ritual book of the sacraments, the towels, and all other things needed for the administration of baptism, whether in the baptistery of Roman or of Ambrosian rite, can be put on one side of the baptistery chapel, in the wall or set against the wall, as the architect sees fit.

It will be tightly closed with panels, lock and bolt, and decorated with worked marble or sculptured pious images. Inside it will have partitions clearly distinguished according to the kind of objects that are to be kept there and their use, and it will be lined with panels of poplar or some other wood, to keep out the dampness of the wall or of the marble. It will then be completely lined in white silk.

The smaller kind of baptistery

Where a lack of space or funds makes it impossible to build a chapel of St. John the Baptist and the baptistery as wide and high [as described above], they will both be made in the prescribed form, but smaller, so that the baptistery, without its colonnade, will be enclosed by an iron railing set around the single step which leads down. It will be covered only by the chapel ceiling, since the modest size of the building makes it impossible for it to have one all its own.

The cover or ciborium may also be built in wood, even joined to the ambry, in the prescribed form, if it cannot be made in marble.(12)

Another form of chapel or site, to be used both in the baptistery of Roman and of Ambrosian rite

In every parish church, or lesser church, where permission has been given to build a baptismal font, the chapel will be built near the main entrance, inside, on the Gospel side. It will be like the other side chapels built for the altars.

All things prescribed for the other chapels with altars, regarding the floor, the entrance, length, width, height, internal space, vault, railings, etc. will be observed.

In churches where a chapel of the established size cannot, for lack of space, be built, one that provides at least sufficient space for the baptistery essentials, as described above, will be built. There will also be enough space for the priest who administers baptism and for the godparents. If the chapel cannot be built as prescribed on the Gospel side, it will be built, as the Bishop sees fit, on the other side, if it can be done here in the prescribed form and more easily, as explained below.

If then for lack of space it is impossible to build even a small chapel, not even on the other side, then on the Gospel side, near the door, the wall will be considerably curved, making it project outwards in a semicircle. The baptistery will be properly set up, all or in part, in this concavity, and will be enclosed on the other three sides by iron railings.

Where lastly not even a baptistery of this type can be built, it will be placed on the same side against the wall, respecting however the criteria that it is not blocked or occupied by the door made on that side. It will be furnished, as above, with iron railings, so that between it and the baptistery font there is a space of one cubit or a bit more, depending on the characteristics of the site. Precaution must be taken also in all other forms of baptisteries which will be described below that the door to one side of the main portal, is not obstructed by the baptistery.

Above all care must be taken that, if possible, the baptistery is not placed right against the wall when the church, even if without aisles, is sufficiently large. In this case the site of the baptistery will be in the corner near the door, on the Gospel side, the same distance of two cubits or more from each of the walls, depending on the space, with iron railings. It will be square or octagonal or similar, always respecting the precaution mentioned above. The baptistery will be at the center of this site, whatever form it is in, so that it is at least a cubit and a half, if possible, from the railing enclosure.

If the church has aisles and relatively narrow bays, the baptistery will be located within the limits of the bay closest to the main door, on the Gospel side or in the space between the bay and the main door. It will be enclosed by iron railings. This space will be square or octagonal or other in shape, whatever seems most suitable and decorous depending on the characteristics of the place.

All that has been prescribed above regarding the shape and height of the railing of the chapels must be observed also for the baptistery railings. If the Bishop thinks that the baptistery built in the church, in whatever place and in whatever form, cannot be enclosed, for lack of funds, by iron railings or marble enclosure, it will at least be furnished with wooden railings, as has been prescribed for chapels.

Placement of the baptistery on the right side

In those cases where, as the Bishop sees fit, it is more opportune to locate the baptistery, in conformity to the prescribed criteria, on the right side of the church rather than on the left, it will be placed on that side, in conformity however otherwise with the following criteria: the baptistery chapel, or apse, or the near wall will be decorated with a painting of St. John the Baptist baptizing Christ the Lord. The baptistery will be built in this chapel or location in this site. It will be entered by going down one or more steps, in the form described above with regards to all the rest, and suitable to the Roman or Ambrosian church, if there are funds. If there are not, the following form, according to the Roman rite, is to be applied.

Second form of baptistery of Roman rite

The basin will be round or of some other appropriate form as seems best, in marble or solid stone, two cubits and a half in diameter, eight ounces or at the most ten, deep, slightly concave at the bottom, with its grooves. It will be placed on a base or on a column, no more than two cubits high from the floor to the rim of the basin. There will be a hole at the center, about a finger wide, which goes through the column or base and leads to a small cistern, put in below to collect the baptismal water that is poured.

The other basin

Moreover, at the center of this basin, there will be another one, also in marble, of a similar shape but smaller in size, that is one cubit and eight ounces in diameter, including the thickness of the basin. It will be supported by a marble or stone support, resting on the lower basin. The baptismal water will be kept in this smaller basin.(13)

Second form of baptistery of Ambrosian rite

The second form of baptistery of Ambrosian rite will be as follows. There will be a basin in the form and size prescribed above for the Roman rite, but it will not have a hole in the center. It will be deeply scooped out, and it will not have an upper basin.

If however the basin is not of solid stone, another basin of tin or tinned bronze will be set within so that the water cannot gradually seep out, until one of solid stone, neither porous nor cracked, can be procured.

The sacrarium

The sacrarium to be used in this baptistery of Ambrosian rite can be of one or the other kind as will be described below, as long as the baptistery and sacrarium are enclosed in a single enclosure.

Details common to both second forms of baptistery

The floor of the baptistery in the form described above, whether of Roman or Ambrosian rite, will be set at a depth so that access will require at least one step, if not three. The basin of the baptistery, supported by the small column, must however project.

The baptistery which, entirely or in part, is set outside the chapel or in a hemicycle, whether it touches the wall, or is at a distance, will have a covering either vaulted, supported by two or more columns, somewhat at a distance from the wall itself, or made of worked wooden panels, decorated with pious painting, or of painted cloth. The wood or cloth covering will be supported by iron chains hung from the ceiling or by some other solid structure.

The ciborium and the ambry

The ciborium and the ambry, common to both forms, will be as follows: the ciborium will be pyramidal in shape, in finely worked walnut panels and, if possible, also appropriately painted and gilded. These panels, compact and well joined, will fit perfectly one to the other, and their joints should be covered with very fine strips of wood or molding inserted so that no dust or other kind of dirt can penetrate into the baptistery.

The ciborium will rest on the rim of the lower basin of the baptistery of Roman rite, and on the top of the rim of the baptismal font in that of Ambrosian rite. In the upper part of the ciborium a small ambry, in which to keep the holy oils and other objects needed for administering baptism, will be set. It will be about eight ounces from the upper part of the basin. Inside it will be carefully lined with white silk.

Another form of ciborium

The ciborium can also be of another form, and that is in wood, as the preceding, and supported by small columns and piers of the same material, exactly as for the marble ciborium which has been described above.

Door panels of the ciborium

The door panels of the ciborium, of whatever form it may be, should face the front wall of the church, so that the face of the priest who is baptizing and the head of the child being baptized are turned eastward. The doors will open not inwards but outwards and will be large, so that when open, the whole half of the baptistery is within reach. They will be securely closed with key, lock and bolt.

Third form of baptistery, only for the Roman rite

The third form of baptistery follows. Suitable for the Roman rite, it can be permitted only there where the Bishop, because of a grave lack of funds, thinks it necessary to give his permission.

A block of solid worked marble, of oval form, and two cubits and eight ounces long, and one cubit and twelve ounces wide, will be procured. Two basins will be chiseled out of this block, three ounces apart from each other, and they will be smoothed. They must be round in form and equal in width and depth. A small column, in the prescribed form, will also be set under the oval block.

Of these two basins, one, closest to the main altar, will serve to keep the baptismal water. The other, into which the water will be poured during baptism, will be closer to the wall opposite the main altar. At the bottom of this last basin there will be a channel to take the water to a hole, put into one side of the basin, and which leads to the interior of the empty column, so that the water can flow to a small underground cistern.

This baptistery too will be covered by a wooden ciborium in the form prescribed above, with a small ambry and canopy.

So much for the baptistery. Brief instructions regarding the sacrarium now follow.


Chapter XIX, pp.

1. The sacrarium was a receptacle within the font or in its immediate area (see Chapter 20 for a full treatment). This requirement was a means to prevent the blessed water from flowing from the person's head either onto the floor or back into the font. Borromeo devoted considerable attention to this matter and gave detailed descriptions of how to cope with it. In the center of the baptistry there was to be a receptacle 4 feet 1½ inches wide and 2 feet 9 inches high, having the same shape as the building. In the middle of this there was to be a small marble column, bearing a bowl 2 feet 9 inches wide and 8¼ inches deep. A silver shell was also provided by means of which the consecrated water in the font was poured over the head of the child, the drops being allowed to fall into the secondary receptacle and led away by a drain into a small cistern which was to serve as a sacrarium.

An alternative was to have a small font with a bowl 3 feet 5½ inches in diameter and 5 to 7 inches in depth, set on a pillar 2 feet 9 inches high. In the middle of this was to be placed a similarly shaped vessel, 1 foot 10 inches in diameter to hold the consecrated water. The last of the alternatives was a single bowl divided by a partition, with a small cistern adjacent to the font. The methods finally adopted for the Roman rite were either holding a small bowl under the child's head or, more generally and following the norms, the placing of a partition within the bowl itself.(e)

2. First Provincial Council (1565)

Quae pertinent ad baptismi administrationem, AEM, 43-44,

Fourth Provincial Council (1576)

Quae pertinent ad sacramentum kBaptismi, AEM, 344-48.

3. Singulae Parochiales ecclesias singulos fontes habeant, in quibus diligenter toto anno servetur aqua baptismalis, solemni ritu benedicta. AEM, 44.

4. An archpresbyterate church is the main church of a district, which is a vestige of the small medieval diocese that was under the jurisdiction of an archpriest rather than a bishop.

5. The earliest baptistries of the third and fourth centuries were square, such as the early one at St. John Lateran, Rome. This too underwent significant changes, eventually into octagonal form. This font is typical of the kind that Borromeo has in mind.

A question arises as to why Borromeo supported a centrally planned baptistry and then chose to build a rectangular one at the Milan Duomo, which church, he felt, should set an example for all others. Again one refers to his biographer Giussani, who, after describing Tibaldi's baptistry (see Figs. 19.2, 19.3), adds: "Fabbricò però questo battistero solamente per modo di provvisione, avendo intenzione di erigere una magnifica cappella fuori della chiesa per simile effetto."(f)

Throughout Italy and especially in the north, preference was given to the octagonal plan. This basic shape was linked with the mystical meaning of the number eight, which signified the beginning of the new creation. The eighth day was the day of resurrection, the Lord's day; consequently it became the symbol of all that was permanent or eternal. The inscription found in the octagonal baptistry of the basilica of S. Thecla, Milan, was supposedly composed by St. Ambrose. In eight distichs it states that the edifice was octagonal and that its shape and that of the octagonal piscina corresponded to the significance of the number; for eight is the number of salvation, the regeneration of the death of the old Adam, the beginning of new life.(g) The inscription reads: "Octochorum sanctos templum surrezit in usus, Octogonus fone est numere dignus eo. Hoc numero decuit sacri baptiematis aulam surgere, quo populis vera salus rediit."

6. This was also specified in 1576 at the fourth Provincial Council: Decebit etiam in cappella, aut in pariete proximo, S. Ioannis imago Christum Dominum baptisantis. AEM, 345.

7. There were four principal methods of baptizing: (1) submersion or total immersion (rare); (2) immersion, when the head was dipped with or without the candidate standing in the water; (3) affusion, when water was poured over the head; and (4) aspersion, when water was sprinkled on the head.

In the Ambrosian rite today, for infant baptism, the water is heated and the priest, holding the child with both hands, tips the infant slightly downwards to that the crown of the head touches the water which has been warmed to prevent any health danger to the child. The Roman rite, using affusion, pours the water over the child's forehead. Naturally, infant baptism has been greatly responsible for the shape of the font itself. When a small child is to be baptized, a large font is scarcely necessary. Actually, stone or metal basins began to appear as early as the sixth century, and with the established custom of immersion, the larger fonts took on the dimensions of smaller structures.

8. The purpose of the steps was to emphasize descent, a symbolic reminder that the Christian was "buried with Christ in baptism" (Romans vi:4, Colossians ii:12), attention being directed to the belief that through baptism there was a spiritual death and resurrection for the candidate.

9. This instruction is a repetition of that given at the Council in1576.

Fons baptismalis e marmore, aut e solido lapide constet; qui (see p. 275 of your dissertation)

10. The fourth Provincial Council (1576) anticipated the publication of the norms and suggestions pertinent to the ciborium. (h)

The ciborium (also known as the tegurium) became the ritualistic covering over the altar, which in the east was also thought of as the tomb and throne of Christ. It was first used as a sepulchral shelter over the relics and remains of the dead, with the result that throughout the Middle Ages it retained both its sepulchral and heavenly symbolism. Something of this mystic nature and appeal was carried over to the baptistry.(i)

11. This table is actually a large folding lid, still very much in sue throughout Lombardy.(j)

12. See Figs. 19.4. 19.5, and 19.6.

Another church, S. Maria Podone, no longer functions as a canonical parish; hence, baptisms are no longer performed there. Still open for daily Mass, the church, as well as the sacristy and bell tower, are fairly accessible to the historian. The outer wall to the left of the façade (see Fig. 19.7) was the only external clue of a once operative baptistry. Inside, a wooden door with the iconographic curiosity of a lamb sitting on a book with eight seals leads to what represents and astonishing adaptation. Nothing of its former splendor remains. The ambry, at first barely visible, ultimately reveals an added attraction: a combination two-in-one ambry and sacrarium (see Fig. 19.9). When the lower shelf is removed (propped against the wall in Fig. 19.8), a sacrarium is revealed between the outer and inner walls. The three holes permit a system of ventilation and are located about 6 inches down into the sacrarium in the outer wall only. The drain of the sacrarium continues directly into the earth.

13. See Figs. 19.10 and 19.11.


(e) John G. Davies, The Architectural Setting of Baptism (London, 1962), pp. 113-14.

(f) Giussani, II, 10.

(g) Krautheimer, p. 29.

(h) Haveat operimentum vel ciborium ad sacra olea…

(i) E. Baldwin Smith, The Dome (Princeton, 1950), pp. 54-57.

(j) Tabella habeat item intrinsecus…


In addition to the sacrarium joined to the baptistery, a second sacrarium for other uses will be built in every cathedral, provostal, archipresbyteral, parochial church, or of any other kind in which mass is sometimes celebrated. It will be built in one or the other of the forms prescribed below.

It will be located in the main chapel, if it is convenient and does not present any obstacle, or in another point in the church closer to the sacristy, which is more suitable for the purpose, as long as it is out of sight of the people. Or it can be built in the sacristy itself, if it is large, and above all if the church is much used and has a large clergy.(1)

First form of the sacrarium

The first form of the sacrarium is that of a marble or solid stone basin, concave, like a baptismal font. It will be one cubit long and sixteen ounces wide, and will be round or oval, or square, or some other form, whatever occupies least space. At the center of the concavity at the bottom it will have a square hole, about five ounces per side.

It will be supported on a square pier or other shape, depending on that of the basin, with a small base, so that it will measure two cubits from the floor of the church to the top of its rim.

There will be a small drain in correspondence to the hole and this will pass through the center of the pier. It will also be square and five ounces wide. Water, ashes, or other things, will be thrown in and flushed out. A cistern will be dug out below this drain, where everything that has been poured or thrown out will be collected.

This sacrarium will have a walnut cover, sloping upwards, almost like a pyramid. It will be hermetically closed with a bolt, lock and key.(2)

Second form of sacrarium

This will be the second form of the sacrarium. A small concave opening will be made in the wall, twenty ounces or a cubit deep, depending on the thickness of the wall, a cubit wide or somewhat more and one and a half cubits high, and it will be about two cubits from the floor of the church.

The bottom of the opening will be a hollowed out solid stone, with a hole, as above, square in form, and a conduit with a small cistern beneath it.

The sacrarium will be closed by small doors with a lock and key.(3)


Chapter XX, pp.

1. See Fig. 20.1.

2. Present day regulations are: for the first washing of the sacred linens there should be installed in the priests' sacristy a sacrarium; that is, a basin with its drain connected directly with the soil below the sacristy. Into this sacrarium are poured the used baptismal water, ashes, etc., as prescribed by the rubrics. It is recommended that this sacrarium be enclosed in a cabinet or closet.

3. The sacraria seen in Figs. 20.2 and 20.3 are solitary clues indicating the site of a vanished altar. Originally both were lateral altars, opposite baptistry sites, presently used for the storage of church furnishings.


What has so far been said of the sacrarium is sufficient. Now the holy water font will be dealt with. It should be of marble or solid stone, not porous or with cracks, and it will be supported by an appropriately worked column shaft.

It will be placed not without, but within the church, in sight of those entering, if possible on the right side.(1) A holy water font will be set near the men's entrance, another near the women's.

It will not be set against the wall, but will be at a reasonable distance therefrom, depending on the space of the site. It will be supported by a column, as mentioned above, or by a pillar or a base, which do not bear any profane images.(2)

It will have a suitable sprinkler, attached to the rim with a small chain, in brass, ivory or even iron, if well made, or some other suitable material. In its upper part, the sprinkler will have bristles rather than a sponge.

It can terminate in a sponge if this is enclosed in a small sphere of silver, brass or tin, with holes all around and with bristles attached outside.(3)


Chapter XXI, p.

1. The outside fonts, for the most part, served the biological necessities of the animal kingdom as well as the human: thus, for the sake of propriety, fonts were moved inside the church. However, several rural churches have retained their exterior fonts, see Figs. 21.1 and 21.2.

In his advice to the clergy, Borromeo maintained that within the door of every parochial church there was to be a stone holy water font accessible to the people. Fonts outside of the churches were to be removed. The holy water was to be changed every week, and this was to be done before Mass with the priest dressed in a surplice and stole.

2. Here again the instructions are both technical and functional with no reference to medieval symbolism. Chapter 24 will deal expressly with the division of sexes.

3. Psalm refers to the rite of purification: "Sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be cleansed; wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow." The bristles replace the branches of hyssop. These are still in vogue today. although no longer attached to the holy water font, these sprinklers are used to bless the faithful during the Sunday Asperges.


Attention must be given to the ambones in the major churches and above all in cathedral basilicas. Examples in the Roman basilicas were large, of fine make, decorated with panels of marble or also of bronze with finely wrought sacred images.(1)

The two ambones

According to the size of the church, there can also be two: one higher from which, on the more important solemnities, the Gospel is read and the other, from which the Epistle or excerpts from the Holy Scriptures will be read, a bit lower.


One ambo only

There can also be one ambo only, as seen in many churches, both for the reading of the Gospel and for that of the Epistle. However the part from which the Gospel is read will be a bit higher, that from which the Epistle is read will be a step lower.

There will then be an even lower place, below the ambo, or elsewhere, with a space reserved for the cantors and clerics and where certain chants will be sung on the solemnities and in specific days, according to the ancient custom of the Church, above all between [the reading of] the Epistle and the Gospel.

Where possible the ambo will have two flights of stairs: one on the east, to ascend; the other, on the west, to descend.(2)

Site of the ambo

If only one ambo is to be put in the church, it will be located on the Gospel side. If there are two, the one from which the Epistle is read, will be located on the Epistle side. The other one will be on the Gospel side so that the deacon, who reads the Gospel from this ambo, faces the southern part of the church, the one in which the men are gathered.

Ambones must be in marble or other stone, and will be decorated with pious sculptures.

They can also be built in brick, but in that case they should be decorated with finely worked and decorated slabs of marble or stone, or also plaques of gilded bronze, as seen today.(3)


Chapter XXII, pp.

1. Among the Roman basilicas still retaining ambones are S. Maria in Cosmedin, S. Maria in Ara Coeli, and S. Clemente.

2. The ambo at S. Clemente is an excellent example of what Borromeo describes in the norms. The Gospel side is richly ornamented, has ascending and descending steps, the Gospel lectern is the highest point of the ambo and has a column which serves as a candlestick. The Epistle side is lower and simpler. On the opposite side, under the candlestick is the reserved space for the cantors (see Fig. 22.1).

3. Durandus, I.33: "The pulpit in the church is the life of the perfect, and is so called from being public or being placed in public."

The procedure at the Milan Duomo was to use a single pulpit for all readings. It was, however, a provisional situation, because two pulpits were commissioned by Borromeo and designed by Tibaldi. These were not begun until 1587 and were only completed during the time of Federico Borromeo in 1602.

The pulpit

In all parish churches where it is not possible to build an ambo from which the Gospel can be read and the sermon given, a pulpit will be placed on the Gospel side. It will be of most solid worked wooden panels, decorous in their make and form. The Gospel can be read and the sermon given from the pulpit.

Care must be taken that both ambones and pulpit are located in the center of the body of the church and in a prominent position so that the preacher or the reader can be seen and heard by all. But they must not be too far from the high altar, in keeping with the plan of the church and the decorum. This is because it will be more convenient for the priest who, as has been established, must preach during the celebration of the Mass.


After describing the form of the ambo and the pulpit, from which the sacred reading or sermon is given, a few instructions must be given regarding the structure in wood, built to hear the confessions of the penitents, proper and decorous, which we call the confessional.

Number of confessionals

In the cathedral church as many confessionals will be built as the number of confessors deemed suitable or necessary in relation to the size of the crowds who come for the jubilee(1) or in times of indulgences, or for the solemnities.(2)

In every collegiate church, secular or regular, there will be as many [confessionals] as are actually required, in agreement with the number of confessor priests who are normally needed when there are large crowds or who are usually employed there.

In every parish church there will be two confessionals so that the men (often displaying a certain amount of irreverence regarding the holy place or the holy action and not without offence to the pious objects) will not be intermingled with the women, nor crowded together with them when there is a large number for confession, but separated. In this way the men confess in one confessional, the women in the other; as is the case in many of the churches in this province, in which there are distinct parts for men and women.(3) In those cases where the distinction has not been confirmed by a provincial decree, one confessional will be for the use of the parish priest, and the other for that of another confessor priest if, with the permission and approval of the Bishop, it is at times necessary to have him called in when there are a great number of penitents.

In the parish church in which there are several parish priests, prebendary or other priests, as well as coadjutor, who exercise the ministry of the confession, there must be just as many confessionals as their number. What has been established above with regards to the two confessionals to be set in all parish churches, must also be extended to every church, even if it is not a parish church, but is nevertheless subject to a parish by whatever parish right, or annexed, or added, or instituted within the limits of the parish itself, and in which any priest who administers confession, or a parish priest, resides or is accustomed to residing with whatever right or whatever cause.

In non-parish churches where there are schools of Christian doctrine, there will be at least one confessional, or two, if the Christian school is attended by both sexes, or even more, where, during the period of activity of the Christian school, by provincial decree, use is made of several priest confessors.

Form of the confessional(4)

The prescribed form to be used in building the confessional is described below. Once this has been observed, some decoration may be added, such as carved moldings on the front or some other type of suitable ornament.

First of all the confessional will be made entirely of worked wooden panels, either walnut, or some other type of wood. These will enclose it on both sides and on the back and will cover the upper part, while it will be completely open in the front part, and must not be closed in any way.

It can however have, above all in the more frequented churches, a latticework door or a wooden gate, the parts of which are about four ounces apart, furnished with lock and key so that, when the confessor is not there, laymen, vagabonds or dirty people cannot idly sit or sleep therein, with irreverence of the sacred function there exercised.

The platform

The platform for the confessional, upon which the feet of the confessor and of the penitent rest, will be at the most eight ounces above the floor, two cubits wide and about four long.

The seat for the confessor

Inside the seat for the confessor will be about one cubit and three ounces high from the platform, one cubit and a half wide, from right to left, and only one cubit from the front to the back.

Height of the confessional.

The total height of the structure of the confessional, from the platform to the top, will be four cubits.

The wooden armrest for the confessor to lean on

A small wooden armrest will be set on the inner part of the panel between the confessor and penitent on which the confessor can rest his arm. It will be like a cross-bar, so that it can be lowered and raised, as desired.

The bench for the penitent

The bench for the penitent will be on the outer part. It will be fourteen ounces wide at the bottom and rest on the platform of the confessional, set against the panel that separates the confessor and penitent, and sloping upwards from the bottom to the top. From the bottom it will be one cubit and twenty ounces high. A small slightly inclined board will be set on the upper end. On this the penitent can lean with joined hands while kneeling during confession. This board will be twelve ounces wide and one cubit and a half long.

The kneeler

There will be a step on which the penitent can kneel at the bottom part of this bench. It will be eight ounces high from the platform, sixteen wide and as long as the stool.

The intermediate opening

There will be an opening in the middle of the partition between the confessor and the penitent. The base will be one cubit and eight ounces higher than the seat of the confessor. It will be sixteen ounces high and twelve wide.(5) The small opening will be divided into three equal parts by two small columns or small supports in the panel itself.

An iron sheet with many small closely set holes, the size of a chick pea, will be applied on the side of the penitent. On the side of the confessor it will be lined with thin fabric, light serge cloth, or a cotton muslin called bunting.

Representation of the crucifix

On the side of the penitent, on the outside, a paper picture of the crucifix, piously made, will be placed above the small opening.

What is to be attached to some of the panels of the confessional

A board will be attached to the front part of the wooden partition panel situated between the confessor and the penitent. It will measure one cubit across, so that the slightly larger part will be facing the penitent, and the smaller one the confessor.

On the part of this board facing the confessor, that is on the inside, a picture of Christ or the Blessed Virgin Mary will be attached, and below it the preparatory prayer, printed, to be used by confessors who prepare to hear the confessions, as well as the formula for absolution.

On the partition on the other side of the confessional which has no opening, the letter of the process “In Coena Domini”, as promulgated each year by our most holy Lord [the Pope], will be attached inside.(6)

The table of Penitential Canons will be placed on another board at the back of the confessional.

Above the small opening, on the side of the confessor, there will be affixed the list of cases for which the bishop reserves for himself the right of absolution, and of those reserved for any other right to the bishop or the supreme Roman Pontiff.

Alms boxes are not to be placed in the confessional

In no case are alms boxes to be set in the confessional or nearby under any pretext.(7)

Location of the confessionals in the church

The confessionals will be located at the sides of the church, outside the area of the main chapel, in a spacious open location, some on the south side, and some on the north side.

Occasionally, with the bishop’s approval, depending on the space, they can be located in other places in the church, as in some large chapels, or at their entrance or on the threshold, so that the confessor is within the enclosure and the penitent outside. In this way the enclosure will keep at a distance those who, coming up to the holy confession in a disorderly way, are too close to the person confessing, and can easily disturb both the penitent and the confessor.

The location of the confessor and of the penitent

If the confessional in the church is set on the Gospel side, then the penitent’s bench and the small opening will be on the confessor’s right. They will be on his left if the confessional is located on the Epistle side, so that the confessor is always in the upper part of the church, and the penitent is facing the main altar and the head of the church.


Chapter XXIII, pp.

1. Pre-Exilic Judaism determined that every fiftieth year would be a Jubilee Year or a year of remission (Lev 25.25-54), during which time debts were pardoned and slaves were freed. The medieval popes translated the idea into a spiritual concept of man's punishment for sins being pardoned and his slavery to sin, freed through grace. In 1200 Pope Boniface VIII issued the bull Antiquorum habet which decreed that every one hundred years was to be a universal jubilee. The bull was engraved in marble and, interestingly enough, is still to be found to the side of the Porta Santa (Holy Door) at St. Peter's in Rome. In 1342, Pope Clement VI considered man's life span too short to profit from the one-hundred-year jubilee and called for them to be at fifty-year intervals. In 1389, Urban VI reduced the time to thirty-three years, thus commemorating the life span of Christ, and in 1470, Paul II announced that jubilee celebrations would occur every twenty-five years, a custom still in practice today.

2. The first provincial council of 1565 advised confession and communion for all the faithful, especially during the octave of Christmas and from Passion Sunday through the Easter Octave. AEM, 42, 52.

The Avvertenze, often in the form of pamphlets or letters, were instructions given to the clergy in the vernacular. These Avvertenze make up a corpus of material concerning liturgy, ritual, and morals, typical of mid-sixteenth-century Milan. The particular announcement cited here indicates the increased possibilities for sacramental participation over a period of nine years, and suggests a less rigorous attitude on the part of Borromeo. Times included now are: eight or more days after Christmas; during Lent and the octave of Easter; for several days during the times of a jubilee celebration; and other solemn feasts. (As regards which "solemn feasts," Borromeo is not specific.) AEM, 1873.

3. The practice of separating men from women for confession had repercussions as late as 1952, when the editors of S. Carlo Borromeo e l'arte sacra in de fabbrica ecclesiae, added the following remark to their Italian translation of this chapter on confessionals:

Un problema che oggi si vorrebbe risolvere almento per la Lombardia, dove è conservato l'uso di confessionali distinti per gli uomini e per le donne è di far sì che al confessionale per le donne possano accedere per via del tutto distinta e disimpegnata gli uomini I quali fra l'altro non amano confessarsi alla grata; in una parola un confessionale a doppio uso che non obblighi il confessore come avviene là dove il numero dei confessori è scarso, il sacerdote a fare la spola tra I due confessionali ora in uso.

Castiglioni and Marcora, p. 118.

The Avvertenze specify that "wooden confessionals should be used in church, as has been ordained by the Provincial Council; and those that are for women should be located in an open area of the church." AEM, 1899.

4. In 1565, at the first provincial council, Borromeo issued the first directives for confession and confessionals. During the next nineteen years he was repeatedly to spell out the rite of the sacrament, which certainly underscored the fact that the "newer" form of the box was of comparatively recent vintage. The most important documents describing the new practice, with the precision and attentive detail that one learns to expect from Borromeo, are found in the Constitutions from the first council of 1565 (AEM,52).

Barocchi states that one cannot help but notice the precise care with which Borromeo applies himself to define the Counter Reformation "secret" confessional, which substituted the simple and open medieval bench upon which the confessor sat and listened to a kneeling penitent. She supports this by referring to the fourth Provincial Council, AEM, 356-59, in the section of the Constitutions, Quae pertinent ad sacramentum poenitentiae, and to the general decrees issued for apostolic visitations, under the guidelines for confessionals ( AEM, 1187-88).

5. Borromeo does not at any time discuss the possibility of designing a confessional that would have openings on both sides of the confessor. (See Figs. 23.3 and 23.6)

6. The Bull In Coena Domini is so called because it was read from the pulpits each year on Holy Thursday. It contained various censures and the "excommunications" of the princes who had violated the laws of immunity and ecclesiastical prerogatives An interesting study on the attitude of Borromeo towards this document is that of Bertani, La bolla "In Coena Domini" e S. Carlo (Milan).

7. The practice of alms giving began in the late sixth century. Although confession to a priest was sufficient and the community no longer participated in the process of a single person's confession, two interesting features of the system at that time were that penance could be commuted into some other good work, and that occasionally one was also "redeemed" by the payment of a sum of money that would be turned over to a charitable purpose. The second feature, as might have been foreseen, led to numerous abuses, and the richer sort of penitent was in a position of advantage when it came to availing himself of "redemption" in this rather special sense. The abuse comes to an end, at least in Milan, with Borromeo's codification.***


Since in line with ancient custom, to which the blessed Chrysostom(1) bears witness, and which was once frequently encountered in many places in this province, that men must be separated from women in church, the criteria for the division of the church can be as follows.(2) A wooden partition will be set up in the church, particularly in the most important, in the middle of the nave, leading in a straight line from the entrance of the main chapel to the principal entrance.(3)

This partition will be affixed to solid small wooden columns, five cubits apart, firmly attached to the floor. If the wooden panels, from which it is constructed, must at times be removed, they will be set into grooves [tracks] gouged out or made otherwise on either side of the columns. The partition will be about five cubits high. It will begin in the main doorway so that the entrance is divided in half, thus providing for separate access into the church for men and for women.

There will be a few openings in given places in the partition. Closed with door panels and bolts, they will be opened only when it is necessary to go from one side to the other.(4) So that the faithful may more easily and conveniently see the preacher, the partition, in correspondence to the place where the sermon is given, must be considerably lower at this time. The upper part will therefore consist of panels attached with iron hinges and held in place on both sides by small bolts. When necessary, they can be opened and lowered, hanging down from the hinges.

Sometimes in the churches when Mass is celebrated on one side of the partition, those who are on the other side also participate in the Mass. In this case the same criteria regarding the lowering of the partition may be applied.

The hinges for lowering the panels will be two cubits from the floor, so that the faithful, when kneeling, can see the priest celebrating on the other side. If only the sermon is to be heard, then they will be three cubits from the floor.


Chapter XXIV

1. About the year 400, Chrysostom, in one of his sermons spoke of the women "up above," referring to the gallery of the old Hagia Sophia.(a)

2. At the Ambrosiana Library there is a manuscript from the diary of Gian Battista Casali in which he records that on February 12, 1576 a partition was set up in the Duomo for the jubilee and that it extended from the choir to the main door at the height of 10 cubits. This was done, says Casali, so that the men went to the bishop's side and the women to that of the Madonna. During this construction of the partition, carpenters were also working on the Duomo confessionals.(b)

3. See fig. 24.1.

4. See Fig. 24.2.


(a) Thomas F. Mathews, The Early Churches of Constantinople: Architecture and Liturgy (Pennsylvania, 1971), p. 130.

(b) Memoria come nel 1576 a di 12 febraro fu metuto una cesata (Milanese = cesata, Latin = tabulatum) per tramezzare la chiesa del domo per il santo Giubileo, la quale cesata era longa dal coro fin fuor de la porta mastra braccia 10. Et in testa de ditta cesata fuor che da la ditta porta gliera una frontera de asse. Et questo si fece accio li homini andasse da una banda cioe da ver il vescovato et le donne de la banda de ver la Madona de l'arboro. Et questo separare le donne da li humini ei face accio se stasse con magior devotione in chiesa. Et quando si fece la ditta cesata si fece ancora quei belli confessionari in domo. Ms., Gian Battista Casali, fol. 51.


In churches in which the Bishop permits “bradelle” [predellas] to be used, they will have the shape now to be described. They will be placed in the part reserved for the women and they will serve both for sitting and for kneeling. The part of the church reserved for the women is that on the north, unless the Bishop, on account of the characteristics of the site or for some other reason, has decided otherwise.

Three boards, or three small oak beams, five ounces thick, three cubits and sixteen ounces long, eight ounces high, will be set upright on the floor of the church, three cubits from each other, upon which the same number of wooden boards of whatever kind will be laid. These boards will be eight ounces wide and equidistant from each other, that is one in the middle and the other two at the ends, forming low benches “bradellas” in groups of three, which can, if necessary, be removed should they create an obstruction.(1) They will be narrower where the site does not require them to be wider.

This then is the form of the “bradelle”. As many of these as the Bishop sees fit, depending on the size of the church, will be distributed along the length of the church in their given place, one cubit apart.

They must be about eight cubits or more from the chapel of the main altar, depending on the size of the church. A passageway four or more cubits wide will be left between them and the partition, always depending on the overall size of the church, and the same distance will be between them and the other side.

They will not be placed near the altars, but at some distance. A transversal passageway as wide as prescribed above will be left at the center of the zone reserved for the “bradelle”.

On the other hand on the side of the church reserved for the men there will be no

“bradelle” to kneel on. If they are permitted, these will be made of wooden boards, will be oblong in form, and will have no boards at the back as backrests. Most of them will be set close to the walls or between the bays, in a straight line.

It must be possible to move and take them all away if necessary, and they will be arranged so as not to be in the way, and also so that those who are seated do not turn their backs to the Most Holy Sacrament. Lastly they must not be set against the altars.


Chapter XXV

1. See Fig. 25.1.


We have given the dispositions regarding the interior of the church. There will now be given others regarding that which is annexed to the church, first of all, the bell tower, known as campanile.

When a bell tower is to be built, the criteria given below will be observed. The bell tower will be square or of some other shape, as the architect sees fit, depending on the criteria followed in building the church and the location. Its height will be in proportion to the size of the church, conforming to the judgement of the architect.


It will have various levels, as many as the architect will see fit. The lowest one will be vaulted, the other upper ones will consist of solid rafters, and the top floor will also be vaulted.


Every level will have windows, and they will be built on all sides, rather elongated and elegant, in keeping with the structure of the church.

The windows on the topmost level, marked by small columns or pillars, will be larger on all sides of the bell tower, or will have another form, as the architect decides, according to the type of building.


The stairs will also correspond to the criteria followed in building the church and where possible will be spiral or of some other form, in stone or wood, so it will be easy to climb to the belfry and not dangerous.


The fastigium will not be triangular, but circular and pyramidal. At the top, as required by its mystical significance, the figure of a rooster, solidly fastened, may support a cross. (1)


The entrance will have solid door panels, bolt and lock, so that it will always be closed except when it is necessary to ring the bells.

Location of the bell tower

The bell tower will be built at the head of the atrium or portico, in the part closest to the entrance to the church. Where there is no atrium, it will be on the right of those entering, and separated on all sides from the walls of the church, so that it is possible to walk around it.(2)

Number of bells

If the bell tower belongs to the cathedral, it will have seven bells, or at least five. If it belongs to a collegiate church, three, the large, middle-size, and small. If it is a parish church it will have the same number or at least two. Each one will have a different sound, in harmony with each other, depending on the requirements and meaning of the various divine offices celebrated.(3)

The clock

It will also be appropriate to place a clock on the bell tower. It will be skillfully made and suitable in shape to that of the building, so that an interior mechanism will mark every hour with the sound of a bell, while outside it will be with a star moving in a circle and set in a conspicuous place.(4)

Another form of bell tower

The regulations given above regarding the shape of the bell tower and the clock will apply for the more important churches.

Where however the site and the lack of funds do not allow such a costly bell tower to be built, it can be located on the corner of the church to the right of those entering, projecting out, and not far from the door. It will have the form advised by the architect. Access will be via an internal door, from the church, and not outside, with door panels and lock, as described above.(5)

Brick piers in place of the bell tower

There where funds are so scarce that it is absolutely impossible to build a bell tower, until such time as it is possible, one could in the meanwhile build brick piers joined with arches, set onto the upper part of the church wall, in which the bells can be hung.(6)

It will however be necessary to choose a suitable place, so that the bell ropes do not hang into the main chapel or into some other chapel, or the middle of the church door or in some other similar place. The ropes themselves, then, must be passed through a wooden tube, inserted in the vault of the arch so that, when pulled, the brickwork will not gradually wear away.

Blessing of the bells and what is to be avoided in their casting

The bells are not to be placed either in the bell tower or elsewhere if they have not first been consecrated with a solemn blessing and with prayer, according to the institution of the Church. This consecration will be noted somewhere in the bell tower or the church.

Moreover the bells must not have profane sculptures or inscriptions in any point, but rather the image of the patron Saint of the church or of some other sacred figure, and a pious inscription.


Chapter XXVI, pp

1. According to Durandus (I, 23), the cone was the summit of a church, had great height, and was round. The figure of a cock on top of this summit was probably a later practice which was a symbolic recall of the ad galli cantum or morning call of the rooster, now replaced by the bells. Durandus' lengthy discourse continues to comment on the "ever watchful cock who even in the depth of the night giveth notice of how the hours pass, wakeneth the sleepers, predicteth the approach of day, but first exciteth himself to crow by striking his sides with his wings." As a "weathercock," he faces the wind and turns boldly to meet threats and arguments lest they should be guilty when the wolf cometh, of leaving the sheep and fleeing…. The iron rod, whereon the cock sitteth … and that rod surmounted by a cross" recalls Borromeo's wording. The rationale is that the cross as the termination of the weathercock displays the solidity above the changeable vane. The symbolic interpretation of the cock is that of perpetual vigilance.

2. Palladio (IV, 5) writes that towers are built near churches so that the "bells hung in towers call the people to the divine offices. Towers are not made use of by any but Christians."

3. Fourth Provincial Council (1576):

Parochialis ecclesia, si campanae tres grandiorem scilicet, mediam, et minimam habere non possit; saltem duas, ubi fieri potest, habeat; easque distincto soni concentu inter se recte consentientes, pro varia divinorum Officiorum quae fiunt, ratione, et significations. (AEM, 323).

That the bells "called" by different strokes of ringing or by different sounds is frequently implied in the Acta. Two examples are cited here, both taken from the general instructions to the clergy.

On feasts, in the early afternoon the bell will call the boys and girls to come to church to learn Christian Doctrine….(e)

The bells will not be rung for the dead after the Ave Maria that is sounded as a notice of their death, neither when the dead is brought to be buried; not until an hour later.(f)

4. By the fourteenth century great tower clocks were sufficiently developed to mark the quarter hours on smaller bells and the full hour on a deep bourdon. Unfortunately only an isolated few of these remain (Fig. 26.4).

5. Example of the brick piers as a support for the bell. Frequently found on minor churches in the rural areas.


(e) Le feste, dopo il desinare, diano segno con la campana a I putti, et putte, accio vengano alla chiesa per imparar la dottrina Christiana….AEM, 1969.

(f) Non si suonino campane per I morti dopo l'Ave Maria, che si suonera per segno della loro morte, se non quando il morto si portara alla sepoltura; et al piu per un hora avanti.


Instructions regarding sepulchers and cemeteries now follow.

Since the canons have sanctioned the custom of burying Bishops, priests and other ecclesiastics in the church, a few instructions are required regarding their burial.(1)

The burial place of the Bishop in the cathedral basilica can be in front of the doors or entrance to the choir. If however there is no suitable place here, another more in keeping with the pious and venerable name and the dignity of the Bishop will be chosen, just as long as it is not in the choir, nor in the main chapel, but beyond their confines, in another more suitable and important part of the church. It will be distinguished from the other canonical sepulchers by its site and episcopal insignia.

To the right of the bishop's tomb there will be two tombs for the canons. These should be quite far from the former and in them the canons and those on whom the chapter conferred a capitular rank shall be buried.

There will also be two tombs on the left side, not too close, in which the other priests of the cathedral basilica will be buried, as well as the clerics and other ecclesiastical ministers.

In collegiate churches there will be three sepulchers, also in front of the choir, or in another even worthier place, but not in the choir, nor in the main chapel, or in any other chapel. Only the provosts, archpriests, or rectors by another name, will be buried in the middle sepulcher. In the second the canons will be buried, in the third the other priests, clerics, ecclesiastical ministers.

In each parish church, there should also be two sepulchers in the place indicated above: one for the parish priests or rectors, the other for the parish clerics.

Where it is not possible to find space for the common burials, either in the atrium or the portico or the hall, or the cemetery, at least four of this type will be prepared inside in the entrance to the church.

It has been decreed that no other sepulchers of laymen should have a place in the church unless the Bishop allows it.(2) If it is allowed that they be placed or built there, they may not be placed or built near the altars, as provided for by the Council of Bari,(3) and the tomb opening shall be at least three cubits distant from the altar footpace. They will not be built within the confines of the choir and the main chapel, or within the railings of the minor chapels, which [railings] separate the celebrating priest from the people. The tombs will be vaulted, and will not project in any way from the floor of the church, but will be perfectly level with it.

They will be arranged in an orderly row on both sides of the church, to the right and to the left, where it is permitted, so that they correspond to each other.

Double cover of the sepulcher

The sepulchers will have a double cover, so that they will not become malodorous. These covers, square or of some other suitable form depending on the characteristics of the site, will be of solid stone.

A certain space will be left between the two covers. The lower cover will be of rough stone, the upper of smooth stone, level with the floor of the church and fitting tightly around the tomb opening.(4)

The ring for the tomb

A ring will be put in the center of the upper cover to raise it, but in such a way that it does not project. Therefore a depression will be made in the cover the same size as the thickness of the ring, into which it will be set.

Nor should another arrangement be overlooked, and that is that the cover be raised by two pins of considerable thickness. They will be put through on both sides of the upper part of the cover and must not project, while on the lower part, since the pins are longer than the thickness of the cover, each will be firmly attached to an iron crosspiece. The cover can then be supported by this when it is raised by means of cords tied to each pin.(5)

Moreover no cross or other images or sacred effigies are to be sculpted or represented in any other way on the upper cover, for they would otherwise be defiled by dust, mud or spittle or trodden on by those who go by. No sculptured ornament is to be made, either carved letters or inscriptions or anything else that projects, nothing will be inscribed or represented in mosaic, even though it did not project, without the previous approval of the Bishop.


Instructions regarding cemeteries ought to be given together with those regarding sepulchers. We desire that the ancient custom of burying the dead in cemeteries, so praised by the Fathers of the Church, be restored when possible, on the basis of the decree of the provincial council, by the Bishops of our province.(6)

Some cemeteries, as can be seen, are in the portico or atrium of the church, that is on the front, some in the back, others on the north side, others on the south, some all around, and up to now there has been no prohibition saying they should be set in one part only or in all.

But the cemeteries which are in the front or in the atrium of the church, while it is true that they serve, just by being seen, to arouse charitable feelings towards the deceased faithful, or to call our attention to the human condition, still, since they are continuously being passed through on the way to and through the church, they can easily become a place where animals pass, or servitudes, for public walking places, meetings and other actions of men, unfitting for that sacred place, and therefore often, as also for other reasons, that occur daily in human life, they are violated. Therefore if they can be set up on one of the sides, they should not be allowed on the front of the church, in the atriums or porticoes.

Preferably they should be set on the northern side of the church, or on the side where it is easier to avoid daily passage to the ecclesiastical buildings, views from the windows, dripping drains, and other servitudes of the kind.

The size of the cemeteries should be in relation to the size of the church to which they are attached, the size of the site, and the number of parishioners. They can be oblong or square in shape, depending on the judgement of the architect and the characteristics of the site. They must not be without walls, but must be surrounded on all sides. The walls must be about seven cubits high from the ground. Where, due to the poverty of the place, such high walls cannot be built, they will be made at least high enough to stop animals from coming in, and that is not less than three cubits.(7) Where there are rocks on the cemetery boundary, they can serve as wall.

Outside, the walls made by hand will be plastered white. In the more important sites it will be suitable to have the inside [of the cemetery] lined on all sides with porticoes, and decorated with sacred paintings and stories. The sepulchers in these porticoes can be arranged in straight rows and at equal distance one from the other, in the prescribed form.

Where the cemeteries have no porticoes, the walls at least must be decorated with a few sacred paintings, set in determined points.

A cross in brass, or marble, or some other stone, will be placed at the center of the cemetery. It will be set on a marble or stone column, or on a pier, and furnished with a suitable covering, or it can be in wood, and high.

Where possible, a small chapel, facing east, will be built, in which the prayers for the dead are sometimes recited. It will have a holy water font in the prescribed form with a sprinkler, not attached but movable for aspersion

The ossuary

Inside there will then be a specific place, surrounded by walls and, where possible, covered with a roof and vault, and visible to all, where the bones of the dead as they are exhumed can be placed in orderly form.

Cemetery entrances

There can be three entrances at the front of the cemetery, unless the site also requires them to be on the side. If the cemetery is contiguous with the church at some point, it will also have a door on that side which leads into the church when necessary, on the occasion of the divine office of the Dead, or for processions. Above the principal entrance, set on the front of the cemetery, outside, will be placed an image of the holy and sacred cross, with the image of a head or skull of a dead man at the extremity of the cross. The entrances, on whatever side they are, will have solid door panels to close them, with bolts and locks and they will be opened only when needed.

No vines, trees, bushes, shrubs of any kind should be in the cemetery, neither those that bear fruit, nor those that bear no fruit or berries. Nor should there be any hay or grass which serves as pasture. There should be no stacks of wood or beams or piles of masonry or stones, and in general anything that disagrees with the sanctity, religion and decorum of this place. (8)


Chapter XXVII, pp

1. As recorded by Giussani (II, X) Borromeo planned that the burial site for archbishops and canons in the Duomo would be at the foot of the steps leading to the choir. Priests were to be entombed to the right of the choir entrance, deacons and subdeacons to the left while the archbishops were to be placed in the center.(a) This, however, did not come about. After Borromeo's death, s a result of the growth of his cult, this site was taken up by an arrangement similar to a confessio in order to display his casket more prominently.

2. Funerary monuments lined the walls within the churches that housed them. Bishop Giberti of Verona had legislated against them in his Constitutiones condemning them for an elaborateness greater than that of altars as works commissioned by those who were full of vain and worldly pride. From the liturgical aspect, Giberti declared that these massive tombs crowded the church interiors and he ruled that future burial within the church building was prohibited, except for those prepared tombs already in existence, or with direct permission of the bishop. Future tombs were to be underground vaults since the structural height above ground often contradicted the concept that dust should literally return to dust.

Undoubtedly Giberti's diocesan legislation inspired Borromeo as well as directives of the twenty-fifth session of the Council of Trent which stated that sacred places should not have impediments and spatial disruptions. Although wall-tombs were not specifically mentioned by the Council, tombs and votive altars were the major causes of disrupted spaces.

In 1565 at the first Provincial Council Borromeo spoke out strongly against the abuse of fashionable and in many cases artistically valuable tombs. he declared:

Insolent custom of our times with regard to burial is not to be accepted in which decaying bodies are placed in a high and decorated place in churches, as though they were relics of saints bodies. All around are hung weapons, banners, trophies, and other signs and monuments of victory, so that the churches seem to be not Divine Temples but camps of war.

Detesting, therefore, this ambitious arrogance in the decoration of the bodies of the dead and considering the interest of church decorum, we order that such sepulchers placed in a high position, those included within walls, or those added so that they project from a part of the walls (unless they be of marble or bronze), where the bodies are contained in them or whether they are empty, we order that within three months all this kind of ornamentation and apparatus be removed and taken completely away. We order that the bones and ashes be buried in a sacred place, deep in the earth so that the sepulcher is level with the ground.

If anyone be buried in the church in the future let him be entombed in the ground only, and the tomb in which he is placed be vaulted and level with the rest of the church pavement.

Bishops should give their attention to the carrying out of these orders and they should, if necessary, get help from the magistrates.(b)

The following year a bull promulgated by Pope Pius V, Cum primus Apostalatus (1 April 1566), ordered that all sarcophagi above the ground, modest or monumental, were to be removed from all churches and their contents were to be placed in deep underground vaults, or properly buried.

Although this study may not indicate it as so, Borromeo apparently practiced a reasonable amount of patience as reform attitudes developed. One of the first instances of pressure for the removal of a tomb is an ordinance dated 6 March 1570. At that time Borromeo insisted that the monumental sepulcher of Bernabò Visconti be taken from its place in the church of S. Giovanni in Conca and be brought elsewhere (Fig. 27.1).(c)

3. This Council was held in 529 at Vaison-la-Romaine, southeast France. See our notes.

4. See Figs. 27.2 and 27.3.

5. See Fig. 27.3.

6. Apparently many cemeteries had fallen into both disuse and misuse. Fruit trees and vegetables were planted by townsfolk who found the surrounding walls a protection against animals eating their crops. Others, instead, left their cattle to graze, protected by the cemetery walls, and still others prepared hay and stored wood. Borromeo's ordinance is a clue to the abuses: "Moreover, from cemeteries, all vines, fruit trees, and other non- fruit bearing trees, shrubs, and bushes are to be pulled up or cut down. In the future, nothing should be planted or sown in these sacred places. Hay should not be made, nor should fodder be prepared for beasts and given to them there" (AEM, 325). In the context of the above, the advice given by Borromeo in 1565 is clarified. He said that bishops were to be warned that the custom of burying the dead in cemeteries had lapsed and that it should be restored by ridding burial sites of usurpers.(d)

7. As regards the cemetery wall Borromeo writes that the bishop diligently take care that the cemeteries are surrounded by a wall of some kind and that the entrance to the cemetery is closed to animals. This is at the fourth Provincial Council of 1576, a year prior to the Instructiones. He also asks that vines, ivy, and other like plants which adhere as they grow be entirely removed. The walls should be kept clean of brambles, briars, and similar growth.(e)

8. In 1578 Borromeo sent a general notice to all the clergy. It stated that all cemeteries were to be closed in and their entrance was to have an iron or at least a wooden gate arranged so that animals were kept out. Should it be possible to keep out the dogs as well, this would be an excellent thing. Vines, trees, and fruit was to be taken out from cemeteries and the sacred place was to be cleaned up. All this was to be done within a space of at most two months. If not, a penalty would be given to the rector by the Archbishop.(f)


(a) Disegnò inoltre le sepolture degli arcivescovi e de' canonici, volendo che fossero poste al piede de' primi gradini per i quali si ascende al coro, con quest' ordine: che alla destra vi si ponessero i preti, alla sinistra I diaconi e i suddiaconi ed in mezzo gli arcivescovi.

(b)Son est ferenda nostri temporis insolentia sepulcrorum,….

(c)Arch. Arciv. Mil., section X. S. Alessandro, vol. IV, 2.

(d) Monemus vero Episcopos, kut morem multis locis intermissum, mortuos in coemeteriis sepeliendi, restituendum curent, inde submotis, si qui ed usurparint. AEM, 111.

(e) AEM, 323, 325.

(f) Tuto clasa sint coemeteria omnia, et in eorum ingreseu crata ferrea, vel saltem lignea apponatur, ut in ea brutis impediatur accessue:…



Of the structures annexed to the church, the sacristy is of particular importance. Brief instructions regarding it will now be given.

The sacristy, which by the ancients was sometimes called "camera" or "secretarium", and that is the place in which the sacred furnishings were kept, must be constructed for every church, of any kind whatsoever. The size will be in proportion to the size of the cathedral, the collegiate and parish church, and in proportion to the number of ministers and the amount of sacred furnishings, and even a bit larger.

It is permissible to have two sacristies in the more important and frequently visited churches, one for the furnishings of the choir and the chapter, the other for the chaplains, for the other church ministers and for the remaining furnishings.

It will be sufficiently far from the main chapel or altar, to allow the priest about to celebrate Mass, together with those who will assist him, to move from there towards the altar in procession, as is the ancient custom, with a mystical significance.(1)

In the other parish churches and the less important ones, for reasons of convenience, it can be permitted, as decided on by the Bishop, that the sacristy be closer to the main chapel or high altar. Care must however be taken that it is not too far from the priest's residence.

Site of the sacristy and its windows

Every sacristy, as far as possible, will face east and south.

It will be built so as not to obstruct the sources of light of the main chapel. It will have two or more windows, where possible one across from the other, and preferably on the right and on the left, so that it will be possible to ventilate the place and it will not be humid and moldy. If there should be mold resulting from the damp it will be eliminated by opening the windows every so often.

The windows will be enclosed and furnished with double iron grates, or particularly solid and closely set single grates, or also of glass and iron wire net, as has been prescribed for church windows.

The sacristy will be covered with a vault, or at least coffered.

The sacristy floor

The floor will not be made of boards, but will be made as follows, that is it will have small vaults placed underneath so that because of the humidity the floor where possible will be raised above the level of the ground, so that the sacred vestments will not mold and be ruined because of the conditions of the site or place.

To make even surer of this, any earth accumulated outside next to the walls and sources of dripping which cause humidity will be removed. The ground outside will be covered with gravel and consolidated by rubble and lime.

Sacristy entrance

The entrance to the sacristy door will not be off the main chapel, unless, in the less important churches, the Bishop does not decide to the contrary. It will open onto a place to which the faithful also have access, that is the central part of the church.

It will have a door of very solid panels, a solid latch, and a very strong lock and key.

Other thinner panels will be in front of the entrance panels, either outside or inside.(2) The lower part of these will be of worked wooden panels, and cloth will be placed in the upper part, so that one cannot enter or look into the sacristy. This second pair of doors will close by themselves with a latch and a counterweight, skillfully made. It is permitted to open a small window also with grating, and permanently closed on the outside, in the upper part of the door. It will be opened only from the inside when necessary so that an answer can be given from the sacristy to someone outside who is making a request.

Location of the holy image and the altar in the sacristy

In every sacristy, in the most conspicuous place, there will be a sacred icon and, if the sacristy is large enough, an altar or a table or a cabinet in the shape of an altar, furnished with a cross and candlesticks and covered with a cloth, where the priests preparing to celebrate may put on their sacred vestments.

The oratory or the altar in the sacristy

There will then be an oratory in some part of the sacristy, projecting either within or without, in a suitable location and like a small cubicle, where the priest preparing to celebrate Mass retires and, collecting his thoughts, meditates and prays a while. There will be a small altar, on which there will be a picture or a crucifix or some other pious image to which the prayers are piously addressed. There will also be a low bench on which to kneel during prayers.(3)

If the sacristy is just too small and narrow for an oratory of this kind, at least a low bench or a "bradella" will be set at one of the sides, the most suitable for prayer. This area will be screened with a curtain or a cloth, and the priest can kneel and pray here. A sacred image will be hung on the wall, as above.

Prayer tablet

There will be a tablet with the preparatory prayers for the celebration of Mass in every oratory, of whatever kind.


There will also be a lavabo for washing hands. It will be in solid stone and there will be one or more spouts as needed. In the lower part there will be a concave basin in stone or solid marble to receive the water which flows into it. It will have a hole from which, through a conduit, the water will be sent to a small cistern underground or elsewhere, in the most convenient place to send it away from the walls of the sacristy.

Where the availability of funds is more modest, in place of the lavabo, prescribed in solid marble, a pail can be used, hung up and with a spigot in the form of a rooster welded on from which the water for the ablutions runs out slowly. Below it there will be, as described above, a basin.

The lavabo and the basin, well built and decorated, will be placed, entirely or in part, in a small apse-shaped recess in the wall. If they project outside, they must not obstruct the sacristy space.

A clean white towel will be hung on a roller near the lavabo.(4)

The wardrobe for sacred vestments

There will be a large walnut wardrobe. in which the sacred vestments will be kept. It will be two cubits and five ounces above the level of the sacristy floor. It will have drawers that can be removed, well apportioned and long, into which the sacred vestments will be put, according to their color, spread out, apart from each other and in order.

Above it there will be small cabinets, or below to one side of the drawers, built separately, there will be small cupboards where the sacred chalices, patens, corporals, purificators, veils and other like things carefully cleaned will be kept in order and in easy reach. On the other side there will be cupboards in which those that must be washed will be put.(5)

Both the ambry and the small closets will be closed with small well-made panels, each with separate locks and keys.

There will be as many ambries as are required by the number of sacred furnishings. (6) If we are going to use ambry, we have to be consistent.

Racks for hanging the sacred vestments

In the sacristy there will also be racks, well made, connected to movable cords and pulleys. On them the sacred vestments will, as required, be hung and spread out.

The book cabinets

There will then be other cabinets, built in the same way as those prescribed above. One will be for the purpose of keeping the ecclesiastical books used for psalmody or other choir or church needs. Another one will be for law books and all the public and private documents concerning the church, and this when the church does not have a more suitable and safe archive. A third cabinet, if it is a parish church, will be used to keep determined parish registers, that is those registers of marriage, baptisms, confirmations, and others of the kind, as well as, in a separate place, the pontifical letters, episcopal edicts, Bishop's pastoral letters that are promulgated from time to time, as well as other writings regarding the spiritual government of the church or of the souls, committed to parochial care.

These three cabinets will be carefully closed, each with a different key. A single cabinet can be built in their place, well divided inside into shelves for the various types of books and documents, there where the dearth of codices or documents, or the small size of the church, has no need of two or three, as above.

On the most important wardrobe

In the more important sacristies there can be a wardrobe for the more precious vestments.

It will be as long as allowed by the size of the sacristy, seven cubits high, two cubits deep. The lower part of the wardrobe, two cubits high, will have removable drawers or compartments. The upper part, somewhat narrower at the back and gradually widening on the front, will not be divided into compartments, but, without partitions, it will have on either side, in proportion to the depth of the wardrobe, thin straight laths, attached to movable hooks, to each of which, at the top, a pole will be solidly fixed, held up by a support attached below. The sacred vestments, well spread out, will be hung on these.(7)

The wardrobe for the canons' vestments

If the church is a cathedral or collegiate church, it will also have wardrobes in which to keep the surplices and the other vestments usually used in the choir by the canons and the other choir ministers. Or, in place of the wardrobes, there can be suitable storage chests, set all around the sacristy, which can also serve as benches for the chapter, when it is held in this place.


Chapter XXVIII, pp

1. The entrance procession for a solemn Mass is an intricate part of the liturgy. The book of ceremonies for the Ambrosian rite prescribed that the procession be led by acolytes swinging lighted incense thuribles to and fro. These were followed by another group of acolytes holding candles, then came various ministers and finally the celebrant.

2. See Fig. 28.1.

3. See Fig. 28.2.

4. In larger churches this is called the "kneeling-room" and often it is incorporated in the carpentry of closets, ambries, and library shelves (Fig. 28.3). The inset picture shows the open door of the small prayer room.

5. See Figs. 28.4, 28.5 and 28.6.

6. See Figs. 28.7 and 28.8.

7. See Figs. 28.9 and 28.10.


In every parish or collegiate church another room will be built near the sacristy or at least near the cemetery, specifically to keep the biers, large wooden candleholders, the cenotaphs, oil containers, poles, ladders, brooms, hoes, shovels, stands for crosses, various articles for cleaning, and other similar things, so that the church and the sacristy will be completely free from any unsuitable object that might get in the way.

This closet will have a door, tightly closed with panels, latch and lock.


After briefly presenting instructions regarding the church building and the annexed parts, instructions regarding oratories are herewith given. One type of oratory is the one in which Mass is occasionally celebrated, and the other, erected by the wayside, is the one in which it is not celebrated.

The simple church or oratory will have a nave only, no less than twelve cubits long, ten wide and as high as is best in relation to the site. At its head it will have a chapel, facing east if possible, eight cubits or more wide, depending on the site, long and high in relation to its width.

There will be a single step at the entrance, with railings in the prescribed form. The altar, the floor, the vaulted ceiling, the windows, the cruet niche, the bell hung at the side and the rest will be as prescribed for the minor chapels and altars. The altar will have two steps, one of which will consist of the footpace of the altar itself.

From the base of the footpace to the bottom of the railing there will be a space of at least two cubits.

The windows of the oratory will be set up high enough so that it is impossible to look in from outside.

There will be a door opposite the altar, and a round window, like an oculus, in the prescribed structure. Near the door, inside, there will be a basin for the holy water in the shape indicated.

Annexed to the main chapel, the oratory will have a sacristy, if possible facing south, its size depending on the size of the oratory, furnished with the furnishings and other necessary objects, as prescribed.

On the other side, corresponding to the sacristy, there can be a small bell tower, different however from that of the parish church, or at least two stone piers will be built on the upper part of the wall, to which a single bell will be attached, according to the prescribed criteria.

If more than one Mass is to be celebrated in the oratory at the same time, chapels in the form prescribed above can be built on either side of and not far from the main chapel.

The form and building criteria of the other parts that belong to the oratory will correspond to those indicated for the structure of the church.


Oratories where Mass is not celebrated, generally built by the wayside, will be erected not in the fields, but along the public way, so that the travelers, piously impressed by the sight, will stop a bit to pray.

The site where they are to be built will be where the road is somewhat higher and rather far from where the vehicles pass, so that it will be better protected from mud and muddy water.

These oratories will be square, or round in shape, or some other form, whatever seems most suitable to the characteristics of the site, and well covered, so that the holy images will be protected from the rain.

Outside they will be plastered and inside whitewashed and decorated with a Crucifix or an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or some other saint, or again with a picture of a pious subject hung on the wall. They must not have altars.

On the front every oratory will have three small windows with solid grates, through which one can look inside to pray when kneeling. Two will be at the sides of the door, and the third in the door panel.

If the oratory is small, it can have only one, the window on the door. It will then have a door with valves and key.

Oratories that are so narrow that they cannot have even door panels which open in, will have no entrance at all, but will be closed by wooden railings in place of the door, while the rest of the building will be as prescribed.

If the sides are not closed by brick walls, there too they will be enclosed by wooden railings.

It will moreover not be inappropriate to enclose it all around with a fence to keep horses, beasts of burden and other animals away.

They [the oratories] will be kept free from brambles and thorns and other shrubs of the kind, that spring up by themselves, and trees, scrubs and bushes will be kept at a distance, so that the branches do not cover and damage the roof.

Since sacred representations which are as a rule painted on the outer wall of the oratory, and are thus exposed, can be soiled with mud or dust or be defiled in an even more indecent way, images painted on the exterior walls or set thereon in some other way must be up high, where they can be protected from all damage.


Having described the form of other churches, we now follow with instructions regarding the church for nuns. This church may be built so as to consist of a nave only and it will face east if the site of the monastery permits. Its size should be in proportion to the site; it may have either a vaulted or coffered ceiling and as for the rest, it will be built as has been prescribed above.

The high altar

There shall not be a main chapel, but a transverse wall, which divides the innermost part of the church from the outer one where the priest celebrates mass. The altar should abut this transverse wall, at the center of the wall, and will correspond in height, length and width to the regulations given for a high altar.

There will be three steps leading up to the altar, including the footpace: each step will conform to the prescribed measurements and form. The footpace will conform to the criteria previously provided regarding the construction of the high altar.

The window to be set above the high altar

A window will be set into the transverse wall, in view of the altar, from which the nuns can see and hear the Mass.(1)

The window will be as wide as the altar and about two cubits high. The window ledge will be at least one cubit and ten ounces higher than the altar table.(2) The window will have two similar iron grills, set about twelve ounces one from the other. The bars of each grill will be closely spaced, with no more than three ounces between them, and strongly joined together and set in so that they can not easily be pulled out or separated. On the inside the window will have shutters, with bolt and key. These can be opened sideways, or be raised with a pulley and rope.(3)

The altar can have an arch over it, making the wall thicker [at that point], or else by constructing two small columns or piers not far from the wall, on which to support the vaulted or arched opening. These small columns will be at a distance of two cubits from either end of the altar.

If there is no vault, the altar will have a wooden covering or a canopy of silk or fabric, appropriately decorated, called capocoelium.

The window through which the sacred vestments are passed

In the transverse wall between the inner and outer church, on the side of the nuns’ sacristy, there will be an opening,(4) with a rota through which the vestments needed for celebrating the Holy Mass may be passed.

The rota and the window will be about three cubits from the floor. The rota itself will be designed so that it will fit completely into the thickness of the wall, which in that point will be made thicker by applying extra plaster.

The window will be furnished with paired shutters on both sides, one set on the nuns’ side and one on the exterior. They will all be properly locked. The structure of the window and the rota will follow the prescriptions given below regarding the construction of the rotae in general.

The small opening for administering Holy Communion

On the other side of the altar, in the same transverse wall, there will be another small opening, decorated with pious sculpture and gilding, through which the nuns receive Communion. (5) The window ledge will be flat and will be two cubits and sixteen ounces above the church floor. Outside the window will be one cubit, twelve ounces wide, and one cubit eighteen ounces high, [while inside it will be smaller, as explained below] so that, to the eye, it will appear wider outside, and narrower inside.

This aperture will exploit the entire thickness of the wall, one cubit deep, in such a way that inside on the nuns’ side [with the sides of the opening slanting back], the wall will be no more than two or three ounces thick. In this part of the wall, one cubit square, the small window, eight ounces high, and six wide, through which the sacred Eucharist will be given to the nuns, will be opened.

On its inner side the small aperture will have well made iron or bronze shutters, closed with a bolt and lock. On the outer side there will be somewhat larger shutters, which cover the entire opening, with lock, key and bolt.

On the church floor, directly under the small window, a small footstool will be set, eight ounces high, which can be covered with a carpet, for the priest to stand on while administering Holy Communion to the nuns. The footstool can be higher or lower, depending on the height of the priest.

On the inner side, where the nuns are, another footstool can be set, no less than two cubits per side, with a few steps leading up so that when the nuns kneel on it their mouths will be on a level with the small window through which they receive Holy Communion. No board obstacles must protrude from the wall, so that the nun receiving the sacrament will more easily be able to come close to the small opening.(6)

The window for holy relics

In addition, another opening will be set on the exterior part of the wall, above the small window through which the Holy Communion is received. The holy relics, if there are any, will be kept here rightly and in order. On the inside this window will be sixteen ounces high and twelve wide, with an iron grate and clear glass, covered with silk and closed by door valves, so that the holy relics can be seen but not touched.

On the outside, facing the outer church, it will be made so that it can accommodate the reliquary containers and vases. It will have solid door valves, with three locks and three bolts, to be closed with three keys each different from the other.(7)

The opening for the holy oil for the sick

Above the rota opening, an ambry will be built, according to the prescribed rules, to keep the holy oil for the sick. This ambry will open only on the outer side, facing the church, and will be furnished with solid door valves, a lock and key. Whenever there are no other relics in the church, except for those in the altar, this ambry will be set over the small window through which Holy Communion is distributed.

The altar steps

At a distance of six cubits from the lowest step of the footpace of the altar, three other steps, or more depending on the site and as the architect advises, will be built leading down into the central part of the church where the floor will be somewhat lower than where the altar stands. Iron railings will be set on the topmost step, as prescribed.

None of the steps are to be higher than eight ounces, or wider than twenty-four, and they will be built in a transverse direction to the church, or they will be as long as the opening in the iron railing.

The sacristy

A small sacristy will be built at the head of the church with an entrance within the confines of the railing. It will be used by the priest when removing his sacred vestments.

Care must be taken in building it so that there are no windows or rotae or other openings of any kind from which anything can be seen or heard in the nuns’ monastery.(8) For this reason the lavabo, which will be built in the outer part of the sacristy for washing hands, should not have any pipes through which water can be received from inside the monastery, then to be emptied out elsewhere. There are moreover to be no structures of any kind above the sacristy to which the nuns can have access.

There will be an oratory and one altar for the priests to be used when they put on their vestments and a lavabo in the prescribed shape to wash their hands, which however is not to be set against the wall between the sacristy and the monastery. There will be a clothes press for storing the sacred vestments, and nothing else.

The chapels

There are to be two chapels in the body of the nuns’ church, one on the right and the other on the left and in the form prescribed, so that should it be necessary, more than one Mass could be celebrated at the same time.

The altar window

Care must be taken that the window above the altar, equipped with iron grating, be made in such a way that it is not possible to see the public street, especially if public functions (9) are held there or if crowds pass by. Therefore a small atrium will be built in front of the door of the church, with a side entrance, and not opposite the church door. Or, if this is not possible, the entrance to the church will be at the side, as the architect sees fit, depending on the characteristics of the site.

The inner church

The inner church will have a nave only, without chapels. The floor will all be on the same level, and not elevated by steps in any part. It will however be one or one and a half cubits lower than the floor on which the altar is located outside.

Great care must be taken that the inner church, which is the nuns’ church, is not built near a public road. If the nature of the site makes this impossible, then there must be no windows on the wall facing the street, but light will come from the part adjacent to the monastery. It will be the opposite in the outer church, where the windows will open on the public street and not on the monastery.

The bell tower

The bell tower must be joined to the nuns’ inner church. Neither the door, nor the windows, nor even a crack will face the outer church.

The height will be in proportion to the church, but lower than what the structure and shape demand.(10)

The ground floor will have a very solid vault. Here, or on one side, there can be a narrow small door through which to climb, if necessary, to the top of the tower. There will be no other entrances elsewhere.

The holes for the bell ropes will be small, so that nothing but the draw-ropes can pass through.(11)The small door will be very solid, closed with two bolts, two locks, two different keys. The other levels can be of wood and will receive light from narrow grated windows.

The top, however, will have windows as customary.


Chapter XXXII, pp

1. The function of this dividing wall is evident although its origin remains unclear. The wall was constructed to terminate at the point of the impost level thus dividing the room into two distinct sections while allowing an unbroken spatial articulation which was assured by the fact that one had a total view of the ceiling of the two contiguous chambers. The idea of combining two churches on the longitudinal axis, even if only unified by a continuous view of the ceiling, was not a new concept during this period since one knows that it was used for the specific exigencies that divided the winter from the summer church during the Middle Ages. What is new, however is the fact that it appears in female monastic churches sometime during the early Cinquecento. An examination of women's monastery churches and of constitutional archives prior to that time indicate that it was not in use.

The early constitutions of Fiesole, c. 1306, mention a grate or communal parlor (locutorium) which was in the church, ad cratem autem sive comune locutorium quod in ecclesia esse debet, … and that two parlors (parlatoria) furnished with iron bars could be located in the church through which the nuns could speak and be spoken to: Concedimus etiam quod in ecclesia duo parlatoria ferramentis munita fieri possint unde responsum recipiant et reddant secundum modum prescriptum…(b) The Florentine constitutions of Cosimo de'Pazzi (1508), describe the grate as ecclesie locutorium, and at the hospital of S. Maria Nuova the arrangement is also found to be much the same: vadino a parlargli alla serrata della capella, e stieno le monache drenta nello spedale, e secolari drenta nella cappella.(c) These citations, as well as a survey of architectural treatises of the late Quattrocento and early Cinquecento lead one to assume that the practice of constructing a transverse wall had not yet been widely adopted by 1545 and that visiting and conversation with outsiders originally took place in the church. Indeed, the adoption of a single nave using a radical architectural wall is an episode of relative importance in the history of church architecture since the wall broke the architectonic language of the basilica style.(d)(e)

2. Figure 32.1 is a plan of the monastery church of S. Agnese which was destroyed after the French Revolution. The design is that of Martino Bassi who submitted this plan in 1588 when it was decided to renovate the church. A comparison of this plan with later descriptions of the monastery indicate that Bassi's plan was not adopted. The design is in the Ferrari collection at Ambrosiana Library, S 150.sup., 280x430mm, brown ink with pencil additions. The description in the left margin reads:

Design of the interior and exterior church for the Reverend Sisters of S. Agnese of Milan.

A.B….Interior church for the nuns, width 29 by 38 length

C.D….Exterior church, width the same as interior church by 30 length, three lateral chapels.

As Borromeo advises, Bassi plans that the altar rest against the center part of the wall; three steps to ascend the altar are indicated as well as the opening in the wall to allow for the nuns to see and hear Mass. As required, the width of the grille (designated by the dots between B and C is the same length as the altar).

The simplicity of the plan is determined by the typical or distinctive function of the church of a female monastery; that is, the nuns were to be isolated from everyone including the confessors and priests celebrating Mass. The interior church had the required choir stalls and a cloistered entrance connecting with a private courtyard and the rest of the monastic complex.

3. The window or grating of the main altar had been discussed by Borromeo in the first Provincial Council of 1565. he cautioned that all windows and grilles through which the nuns could look into the church (with the exception of the small opening through which they received Communion) were to be covered with a linen cloth which was to be removed only at the moment of elevating the Eucharist during Mass. The arrangement of this window was to be such that the priest could not see the nuns. AEM, 141.

In 1576 following the fourth Provincial Council, Borromeo's terms became even more precise; however, it should be remembered that at this time he was reviewing the final drafts of these norms. he specifies that no windows except those allowed by the 1565 regulations are legal and that not even the smallest chink or fissure from which one may peer out is to be tolerated. The grille through which the elevation of the Eucharist was seen by the nuns could not be higher than two cubits and twelve ounces (1.09m) from the altar and its width was to be the same as the altar. This opening was to have iron bars set two palms apart and fixed securely into place. However, the iron rods by which the bars were fastened were not to be removable and were to be no more than three ounces (5.45cm) distant from each other. In the event that a window was located in such a position that the nuns could see into the exterior church, a brick wall was to be built to block their view. AEM, 479.

4. See Fig. 33.1.

5. See Fig. 32.2.

6. The Council of 1576 prescribed that the small window used for Communion, facing the outer church, should be sufficiently high so that the priest would not have to bend his knee in order to give the Sacrament. The opening was to be closed with small wooden doors that were flush with the wall. The confessor was to keep the keys. AEM, 479.

7. The fourth Provincial Council of 1576 stated that the sacred relics were to be concealed in an aperture which according to the Instructiones was to be built in the wall of the interior church but which opened towards the exterior. The small reliquary was to (AEM, 479)be closed with three keys: one of which was kept by the bishop, another by the confessor, and the last by the superior of the monastery.

8. Proceedings from the fourth Provincial Council (1576), when compared to the first, offer some clues as to the difficulty of enforcing these changes and reforms. Eleven years after his initial announcements concerning the rota Borromeo insists again upon the closing up or the removal of all rotae except those for visiting, confessions, and the one in the sacristy. AEM, 479.

9. Spectaculum: any sacred or secular event such as processions, meetings, rallies, fairs, games, or general gatherings.

10. See Fig. 32.3.

11. See Figs. 32.4 and 32.5.


(b) Trexler, p. 93.

(c) Archivio di Stato, Firenze, Santa Maria Nuova, 588, 132rv (1544-1545). Herafter cited as ASF.

(d) Filarete's treatise, c. 1460-64), describes the ideal feminine monastic church as one having a matroneo (women's gallery) with a grille, located on the second floor along the lateral walls of the church.

(e) A valuable index with manuscript references noting the impact of Borromeo's visitations and legislations may be found in an article by Liliana Grassi, "Iconologia delle chiese monastiche femminili dall'alto medioevo ai secoli XVI-XVII," Arte lombarda, IX:1 (1964), 131-50.


We shall now give some brief instructions regarding the monastery for nuns adjoining the church.

The site for building this monastery will be chosen in conformity with the Agathean directives, and will of course be removed from the monasteries of monks and buildings of the regular clergy, but also from the canonical and clerical edifices in general, from collegiate churches, towers, public walls, ramparts, outposts, earthworks, the citadel and particularly high buildings, any of which might allow a view into the monastery. Where possible, the monastery will not adjoin a secular building, but will have an intervening space.

It will be far from piazzas, markets, shops, roads, where there is traffic of beasts of burden, wagons, vehicles of various kinds, as well as away from places where crowds come together, gather and where there is great clamor.

Again care should be taken not to locate the monastery in a secret obscure place, far from human contact. Neither should it be situated outside the city walls, or those of the town and the area in general, decreed unsuitable to the nuns’ monastery by the Council of Trent.

The places of the monastery, to be described individually and in detail below, according to their function, are as follows, beginning with those on the ground floor:

  • Small chapter room [atriolum]
  • Dining room, called “refectorium”
  • Wine cellar
  • Kitchen
  • Calefactory [warming room:hypocaust]
  • Washroom
  • Workroom
  • Portico
  • Interior and exterior parlors
  • Doors
  • Rotae
  • Bakehouse
  • Laundry
  • Tonsorium
  • Administrative offices
  • Food dispensary
  • Pharmacy

Places on the upper floor

  • Dormitory hall or dormitory cells
  • Novitiate school
  • Wardrobe
  • Granary

Separate places

  • Infirmary
  • School for young girls
  • Kitchen garden and garden
  • Prison and place of retreat
  • Interior and exterior place for Confession
  • Temporary exterior lodgings for outside laborers
  • Temporary lodgings for the priest-confessor

Small chapter room

The size of the room in which the nuns’ chapter meetings take place should be in proportion to the number of nuns, and should have benches on all sides.

It should not be oblong or narrow in form, but as square as possible, so that any exhortation or admonition that the superior may give can be readily heard everywhere. The lighting in the chapter room should be dim rather than bright and the room should be decorated with some kind of painting, especially in the part where the superior’s chair is located, meant to arouse pious feelings.

Refectory and wine cellar

The dining room, called refectory, should be in the location most convenient to the other parts of the monastery. It will be large enough so that not only all the nuns residing in the monastery at the time can be comfortably seated along the walls, but also those who are likely to be received into the monastery in the future, depending on its size and resources.

It will have at the head a decoration of sacred images, appropriately and piously painted. At the center of one of the side walls there will be a pulpit, from which spiritual reading can be distinctly heard everywhere. There will be windows on both sides to provide light. The wine cellar will be built below the refectory, and will also have windows set at regular intervals.

Another area should be set close both to the refectory and the wine cellar, so that the person responsible for the wine cellar will have a place to store bottles, earthenware vessels and other recipients for water and wine. Or, if possible, a small courtyard with a well can serve the same purpose.


The kitchen should be located as close as possible to the refectory so that the dishes can be handed through a window or a small passageway in-between to the nuns who serve in the refectory. The kitchen will be spacious and with a fireplace in proportion to its size, and a small stove where the food can be cooked.

The following rooms should be annexed to the kitchen: a small room for apportioning cooked foods; a small room to be used as pantry for daily food and provisions; a place for washing dishes, pots and food utensils; a courtyard with a well, separated from the rest; if movable wooden pipes are already being used to bring in water, then pipes of lead or wood, or of some other kind, can be fitted on to direct the water, when needed, to the washroom and the kitchen.

There should be another similar yard for chickens.


The place with the vessel or water basin where the nuns gather to wash their hands before the tables are blessed, must be built not far from the refectory and the chapter hall, and in size will be proportionate to the number of nuns.

Here the washbowl, in marble, bronze or some other material, attached to the wall, will have as many spouts as the length requires. Underneath there will be a concave sloping drain, along which the water will flow elsewhere when it leaves the basin through holes.


The calefactory or warming room, which is called “hypocaustum”, is a room with a fireplace where the nuns can gather around the fire in winter to warm themselves. It can be built near the refectory and the washroom, and will be large enough to hold all the nuns. It will have a wide fireplace which can be built facing any direction whatsoever, or set against the wall, or built in the wall of the room, so that one can warm oneself wherever one is.


The workroom in which the nuns gather at certain hours for handwork should be well lighted, without areas in the half-light. The light required for the work, either weaving, or embroidery or sewing, will come from all sides. It will moreover be spacious, and built so as to be as full of light as possible.


The porticoes will be simple, that is consisting of a simple order of columns or small piers, and unostentatious in structure rather than magnificent and sumptuous. These porticoes will be built in the form of a square.

Like the other places described above, they can have a coffered ceiling or some other wooden covering. However for durability, as well as precaution against fire, they should preferably be vaulted.

Cells for conversations

The cells for conversations [or parlatorium], both inner and outer, should be built in a place that is not remote and hidden, but in plain sight and close to the door of the monastery reception room.

The windows in the inner parlatorium will receive light from the interior of the monastery; those of the external parlatorium from the part facing outwards. Except for the window or windows specifically made for the conversations [locutory windows], care will also be taken that there be no other aperture between one parlatorium and the other.

Locutory windows

The locutory window will have a double iron grating, with a space of about twelve ounces between them. The grating will have firmly fixed bars set no more than three ounces apart.

There will also be a sheet of iron, not much wider than the window on all sides, which will be attached to the wall on the inner side, that of the monastery, and sealed with pitch, so that it touches the grating on the inside. It will contain numerous holes the size of a chickpea, about three ounces apart.

At the center there will be a small square window, measuring sixteen ounces square, closed with bolt, lock, and key.

On the inside the window will then be covered by a black cloth, stretched on a frame that can be opened.

In these monasteries where the rule in force is that the nuns shall in no way be seen from the locutory window, it will have a simple iron grating, will be covered with iron sheeting without the small window, and it will not be possible to open the cloth frame.

Wherever, because of the number of nuns, two, three, or more windows are required, they should be built in a single place or cell, if convenient, in the prescribed manner, but so that they are set in an orderly row, four or five cubits apart from each other. They can also be separated by partitions, as long as these have a window or opening from which every nun who is having a conversation can be seen by the others who are speaking at the other windows.

Nor shall a rotating turn [rota] be set up in any place for conversation except in one place, in an opening built specifically for that purpose.

Doors [Entrance doorways]

As is logical, only two doorways will be built in the monastery. One, called the reception door, will be for normal use, the other for beasts of burden, wagons and vehicles.

The reception doorway will be located in a place that is neither dark nor hidden, but will be clearly visible and convenient for all parts of the monastery. It will not be large and will have solid door valves, with two layers of planks. It will be closed by two bars or double bolts and locks with different keys. A small door will be set into the door valves. It will also be furnished with strong door panels, double bolts and locks with different keys, so that there is no need to open the large door for minor reasons.

In the door valves there will be a wicket, round or square, or of some other shape, but no larger than five or six ounces on all sides. It will have an iron sheet with tiny holes, no larger than a millet seed. Inside it will be covered by a thick cloth or a thin panel, which can be turned when looking out.

This door must be placed in such a manner that, when opened, the nuns inside cannot see the public street, with the view closed off by an intervening vestibule. Or the door will be opened at one side, and the view will not be directly into the monastery, but of a wall near the vestibule. The doorsill will be of marble or solid stone, and closely fitted to the door itself.

There will be solid jambs, tightly fitted to the door valves all along the sides, on either side of the door.

The various parts both of the door and of the small door must be compact and well joined so as not to leave even the smallest crack.

A small room should be constructed near the door, where the [doorkeeper nuns] portresses can do their work and are ready to answer those who knock. There will also be a rota nearby, which opens into the portresses’ cell or not far off.

The second or carriage doorway, should be built in a clearly visible place, and will be large enough to allow vehicles, carts and wagons to enter. It will have a stone or marble sill, as above, so that not even the smallest object can pass through. There should be no small door. It will be furnished with door valves, sturdy bars, double keys, of different kinds, like the others. Moreover there can be two sets of door valves, one inside on the side of the nuns, the other outside, on the public way. This doorway will be constructed in a part of the monastery convenient for access to the woodshed and the coal cellar, used for the kitchen, and the wine storeroom. Four or five cubits from this doorway, inside the monastery, there will be a gate of oak planks or of some other solid material, about three ounces apart. This gate should be as high as the top of the door and securely locked with bars, locks and keys.


The rota, which is placed in the church, or near the door, or in another prescribed place, will be either of bronze or of wood, in which case it will be carefully lined with sheets known as “de tola” [Milanese dialect for tin]. It will be one cubit and eight ounces high, and one cubit wide, but at the opening it must be no wider than sixteen ounces. It will all be well joined and solid, so that in no place will there be a fissure, however small, through which one could look outside.

Inside, on the monastery side, it will have an iron hook or a small firmly attached bolt, to close it. It must not be possible to turn it from the outside, unless the nuns inside have released it. On the inside it will be closed with solid panels, bar, lock and key.


The bakehouse will be built as far as possible from the dormitory and the wardrobe, to avoid danger of fire.

The flour storage will be built nearby, in a higher or lower place, or in some other convenient site. A storeroom for screens, sieves and other equipment needed in processing flour will also be built, unless the storeroom can easily contain them. There will also be a third room where the bread will be made, where in other words the dough is mixed and left to rise: this will be well closed on all sides. Annexed will be a well and a small oven with a cauldron.

In the front part of the oven there will be an opening a cubit in size through which the live charcoals and embers are thrown into the ditch built under the vault of the oven itself.

In the upper part of the oven there will be a small vaporarium, known in the vernacular as

la stufetta”, which could be used for various purposes.

In building the bakehouse the site where dry wood and other materials for lighting the fire are kept must be kept in mind.


The laundry must be close to the garden or vegetable gardens in order to spread the washed wet laundry in an open sunny place. If there are no gardens, a raised structure will be prepared, access to which is by steps, with a suspended "portico" [porch, Lat. porticus pensiles] at the top with upright and transversal rods or poles, from which the garments, blankets, linen, bed linen etc. can be hung to dry in the sun.

This structure will have a good exposure, but will be low enough so that it is impossible to see outside the boundaries of the monastery. If there is no room to build the laundry on the ground floor of the monastery, it can easily be located beneath it.

The laundry will be fairly large, with a floor in brick or some other material. There will be a well, from which to draw water by means of a pulley, that is a type of wheel for drawing water known as “la tromba”. There will also be stone basins for water, and small ovens with cauldrons [furnulos clibanosve cum ahenis]

A deep capacious ditch will be dug beneath this site, into which the water spill will flow.

The coal cellar from which the fuel is taken to heat the cauldrons must also be nearby.

The place for washing hair [tonsorium]

It will be convenient to place a room where the nuns can wash their hair, the couriceum or tonsorium, near the laundry. In it there will be a fireplace, a small stove, a cauldron on the stove to make lye and a receptacle for the dirty water.

Administrative office

A highly convenient and luminous place in the monastery should be chosen for the administrative office. The nuns’ superiors will gather here in a well-built room to examine or conduct the affairs of the monastery.

A wooden structure subdivided into cabinets and bookshelves, all specifically labeled, will be placed around all the walls of the room to keep in good order the monastic account books, first drafts, records of assets and debits, archives, documents and public deeds pertaining to the monastic rights, as well as coffers for money and other objects of the kind.

The room will be closed with two keys, the same number of locks, two bolts and extremely solid double doors.

Food dispensary

We have already spoken about the pantry set aside for daily food. But instructions are also required regarding the food storeroom where the yearly provisions of wheat, pulses, oil and other edible supplies are kept and from which they are taken as needed.

This storeroom should be built in an isolated site; it will be thoroughly covered with stucco or plaster, so that there is not the slightest crack anywhere through which rats or mice might get in.

The room will have boxes, bins, baskets and all kinds of containers, each in its own place. It will be closed with a double lock and two different keys.


The monastery may have a pharmacy for its own use. Even though not all kinds of medicine will be found here, those simple remedies, easy to prepare and which serve to cure or alleviate sudden attacks of illness, should be kept here.

The pharmacy should be located as far as possible from the church, the workplace, and in general from all parts of the monastery which should not be bothered by noise. The many mortars in a pharmacy, where herbs are pounded and medications are prepared, together with the frequent conversations, make it anything but silent.

The pharmacy must not be too hot, but rather cool.

Inside it will be divided by vertical partitions, either set into or attached to the walls, and separated from each other by a fixed space, between which horizontal shelves, resting on solid supports will be set. All the apothecary jars will be arranged in order on them and in certain repositories.

Annexed to the workroom will be a small room where the distilled water and other jars with ointments or medications are kept. This small room will supplement the storage space of the workroom if need be. There will be another cool room in which the herbs and distillation jars are kept, as well as a bit of charcoal. A fireplace will be built in one of these rooms.

There will also be a small basin from which water will flow into a ditch below.

It would be very useful for the pharmacy if it could have a courtyard and well of its own. Otherwise it can be built near a well.

Thus far we have discussed the lower parts of the monastery. We will now move on to the upper parts.

The upper quarters of the monastery: first, the cubicle hall or dormitory

At the beginning we listed the upper parts of the monastery. Among these, the most careful attention and thought is to be given to the cubicle hall, known as the “dormitory”.

One of the first things to consider in choosing the site is that it is not subject to unhealthy air. It should face a direction where, depending on the climate, the air is not heavy or thick, and there is no wind to the contrary.

The site must not be subject to any servitude, as might be the case if one could see inside from some outer part, or if a wall or outside building obstructed light to the monastery windows. Nor should it be possible to look outside from any part of the dormitory.

In line with the criteria followed in building the lower part and the number of nuns, there will be three or four dormitories, one on each side of the cloister. The width and length of each dormitory will depend on the size of the floor below.

At either end of the dormitory light will be let in by rather large windows, six or seven cubits from the floor. These windows will be firmly barred and have clear glass, but in such a way that the upper part can sometimes be opened to allow air to circulate. Should there be need of a small window or two on the long sides of the dormitory, they will be put in only on the part overlooking the cloister.

Each dormitory will be subdivided into small cells, each five or six cubits square, and separated from the others by thickly woven mats or stretched lengths of fabric or curtains.

However if the dormitories are not common halls (as the ancient institutions seem to indicate) and real cubicles, separate and distinct, are built, they should be systematically arranged on both sides of a central passageway and if possible form a square. They will not be spacious, but about seven cubits per side, just large enough to contain a cot. They will be simply and humbly constructed, without any painted decoration.

Each one will have only one small window, and a small door, which will not close with a lock and bolt, but with a type of latch, known [in Italy] as an “alzapiede” or droplatch, attached to the door so it can easily be opened from outside by pulling a string. There will be no fireplace of any sort.

Should it be necessary to build these cells much larger, every precaution should be taken so that there will be enough space for at least three, or more, beds, as the superiors should deem fit, but never only two.

Caution should also be taken that no windows are built from which one can look out beyond the monastery limits.

If it is necessary to have a window in a cell, or in some other higher place, from which one might look out over the vegetable gardens, or the neighboring places, then the window will have the most solid iron grating everywhere. Outside, at a distance of one and a half cubits, a transenna, a marble or sheet-iron barrier, with holes one ounce apart, will completely cover the window and be solidly set into the wall.

But for no reason whatsoever is a window, regardless of size, to be opened overlooking the public way in either the lower parts, or in the upper parts of the monastery.

The dormitory halls, whether they are common quarters or divided into individual cells, are to be built so that they can only be reached by one staircase, or at the most two. Once the doors and entrances of the monastery are closed there will then be no other entrance or possible way to enter or ascend to these halls.


The latrines should be erected in a place separated from but near the dormitory. They should have a certain kind of seat and each one, separated from the others by a partition, will consist of a small space in which the nun can go without being seen by others. The entire latrine area must not only be enclosed, but also without cracks, so that nothing can be seen, and it cannot emit foul odors.

Site of the novitiate school

The novitiate or schoolroom where the novices live should be built in a location separated from those places frequented by the professed nuns. The site should be spacious and situated so that it receives good air. It will be enclosed, with its latrines and all other facilities suitable for its functions.


The communal wardrobe will be built in a sunny airy place, with windows on both sides. Only woolen garments will be kept here.

All around it will have wardrobes five or six cubits high, carefully arranged and separated, each with compartments that are as high as the nuns’ habits are long.

There will be an open longitudinal porch outside the wardrobe door. Iron brackets will be attached to the wall, outside, not too close to each other. Poles or rods will be placed across them so that clothes can be hung up and beaten at specific times.

A room for keeping linen garments and all the linens must be annexed to the wardrobe, unless there is enough space in the wardrobe to contain the linen chests and wardrobes, separated from the rest.

However, if possible, it is best to have this room separate from the wardrobe.

There must then be a third room, also with wardrobes on all sides, in which blankets, mattresses, and other furnishings of the kind, and the fur garments, arranged in orderly fashion and separated, are to be kept. This room however will be built in a cold rather than a sunny site.


The granaries will be built near the [monastery] door. The stairs leading to them will be clearly visible, and with strong doors, each of which closed with a double key, lock and bolt.


After having described the lower and upper parts of the monastery, still to be dealt with are the places and living quarters which must in some way be kept separate from the monastery. First of all we will discuss the infirmary.

The infirmary, that is the place where the sick or convalescent nuns are cared for, should not be built inside the monastery, but a bit further from the door of the reception room. The site must above all be healthful.

The infirmary will consist of lower and upper parts. There will be a dining room about twenty cubits long, and proportionately wide, a kitchen, a pantry, a laundry, a courtyard with its own well, a woodshed, a portico, two or three cells on the lower level, of medium size, which contain each three beds, and have a fireplace, either one apiece or one shared by two rooms. In the upper level there will be four or six moderately large cells, also with a fireplace and separate latrines, as described above.

If there is room for a small garden for the infirmary, it would be well to have one. The enclosure, with only one entrance, will be closed by a single door.

Site for the education of young girls

In monasteries where it is permitted to educate young girls, under the custody of the nuns, living quarters will be constructed for them where they can live separately from the nuns. Every structure will be separate, except for the church. The living quarters will consist of the following parts: a small hall with fireplace, a pantry, a courtyard with well and a small portico, a woodshed, two cubicles on the lower floor; in the upper part, one or more rather large dormitories, each containing at least three or four beds, or more, but no fewer. There will be only one door to the building. Where possible it will be useful to have a garden.

Monastery gardens

The nuns’ vegetable gardens must not be extensive because of the many risks of violating the clausura. Since large tracts cannot be easily surrounded by walls the following should be done: that on the side of the monastery where there would be an opening and view for the general public, a space of one hundred cubits or a bit more on each side will be enclosed all around by walls one cubit and eight ounces thick and no less than sixteen cubits high, calculated from the ground up.

It shall not be desirable to exceed the above allotted space of one hundred cubits square, even if the gardens can be easily enclosed, since they would be too large to be cultivated by the nuns or the resident lay sisters and it would be necessary, against the rules of clausura, to bring in farmhands or workers from outside to cultivate and plant.

No cuttings or other plants, vines, or trees of any kind are to be planted inside, close to the walls, nor outside, unless they are at least six cubits distant. No large trees are to be planted in this plot of land at the back [of the garden] but rather low sparse bushes. No woodpiles or straw or haystacks are to be made. No shed, nor hut, even the tiniest, is to be built.

The ground will not be used for growing hay or as a meadow, but only vegetables, medicinal and kitchen herbs are to be grown and nothing that is not essential.

If water runs through the garden in a ditch or a channel, caution must be taken that this conduit is well covered with stone or cement for a distance of about six cubits from the place where the water flows into the garden, calculating both outside and inside. The opening through which the water enters at the beginning of the stone or masonry covering, and the other opening at the end of the covering, where the water goes out, will be furnished with iron gratings on both sides. The same will be done at the other end of the garden where the water flows out.

The conduit itself can be made without grates if it is covered for the entire length of the garden property through which the water flows. If it is necessary to channel the water either for irrigating the gardens or for the laundry, this can be deviated wherever needed through small holes, and then be rechanneled to the conduit.

Prison and place of retreat

Monasteries should have, as they once did, a strong prison in which to incarcerate any nun, depending on how serious the offence is, who has strayed from discipline and behaved badly.

The prison will be far from the public road and likewise from neighboring buildings, and should more specifically be located on the inside of the upper floor of the monastery, remote from the places where the nuns go and gather.

It will be secure and well built of timber with a solid vault and have a small window one cubit square with strong bars, high up on the wall, through which a little light comes in. It will have a small entrance with two sets of doors. There will be a tiny window in the upper door, closed with a double lock and double bolts. It will also have shackles, as suggested in the old rules, and iron manacles, to chain the imprisoned nuns if need be.

The prison will have no fireplace, and no opening except for a latrine, with narrow pipes.

The place of retreat will be not far from the prison and will be freer and more comfortable than the latter. Here the nuns, separated from the others, will occasionally do salutary penance for lesser sins.

The place to hear the Holy Confession

So far we have described the parts of the monastery. Now we will deal with the adjoining places. First of all care must be given to the place where the nuns go to confession. This place, at a short distance from the church, will have a second room, adjacent on the outside, where the priest confessor can hear their confessions.

The inner room, where the nuns confess, will be on the ground floor so that there will be no need of a staircase, and it will have a good floor or a vault below, so as to prevent cold or humidity. It will be far from noise of any kind and built in all its parts so that the nuns cannot be heard by anyone except the priest confessor. The room should be about six or seven cubits square.

The priest’s cell, equal in size and form, will be built adjoining [the above room], on the outside.

In the wall that is common to both these rooms or cells used for confession there will be a small window a cubit high at the most and about sixteen ounces wide, in proportion to the height. There must be no way in which this small window, well equipped with iron grates and an iron plate with tiny holes, and a black cloth fastened over it, can be opened.

In the same wall there can be a rota, half the size of the others descried above. to pass the priest what he needs. This rota will be solid and well built, as prescribed for the other rotae.

Confessor’s lodgings

Lodgings will also be built, located between the outer door, which opens onto the public street, and the inner door, which opens onto the cloisters. They will consist of two rooms, one below and one above.

The priest can use these lodgings when he needs to stay overnight so that he will be ready to administer the sacraments to any nun who may be seriously ill. These lodgings will have a fireplace, a latrine, and whatever is needed, but no rota, and no window from which one can look or converse with any pretext whatsoever. He will have no other rooms except these two, to keep at bay any occasion for conversation or contact, and no other additional space, however small.

This way there will be fewer, or no, occasions and conveniences to stay there, unless absolutely necessary.

These criteria are also to be followed in building the lodgings below.

External lodgings for servants and temporary farm help

Lodgings for the temporary farm help and the nuns’ servants will be built in the same intermediate space. These lodgings will have two or three cubicles, but no rota or locutory opening. It would not be a bad idea if these lodgings could be somewhat at a distance from the monastic building, so that not even the roofs would touch.

Living quarters of the lay sisters

The criteria to be followed in building the living quarters for unprofessed lay sisters, located beyond the cloistered confines, is that they open and close towards the inside, that is on the side of the nuns. In order to do this it might be useful to follow the recommendations below.

In the same intermediate place outside the cloister confines, living quarters will be built to accommodate as many lay sisters as the monastery will probably need. These living quarters will have all the indispensable parts, that is a common dormitory, kitchen, well, woodshed, and other useful and appropriate places. But care should be taken in building the living quarters not to have any window in the exterior wall, which overlooks the public road, nor any hole or smallest crevice. There is to be only one doorway, built near the monastery enclosure wall, wherever it may be.

In the enclosure wall there will be a hole of about six ounces through which a wooden bolt (pole) of the same thickness (as the wall) will be passed. Pushed across and inserted into the opposite wall for a short distance, it will securely close the doors of the entrance.

At the other end of this bolt (pole), which is on the nuns' side, there will be a key with a lock that can easily be opened and closed by the nuns inside.

If it is impossible to use the transversal pole to close the door, it will be easy to use a bolt that is perpendicular, rather than transversal, to the door opposite the hole, resting on the top of the valves, and closing them tightly.

In these dwelling quarters, on the monastery side, there will be a small window, no larger than five or six ounces, equipped with a sheet of iron with tiny holes, from which the superior can call the lay sisters and check to see that they are inside when the door is closed. And from here the lay sisters, when they are preparing to go out, will ask for her blessing and permission.

A few precautions to keep in mind in building the monastery in general

Above all, in building the monastery extreme care should be given to the enclosure, so that the entire site wherever it may be, whatever its size, be enclosed on every side with proper and solidly built walls.

They will be at least twenty-four cubits high, except for the garden walls, for which measurements have been given above. They will be a cubit or somewhat more thick, but not less. The outer walls will have no chimneys set into them but they are not forbidden on the inner walls, projecting from the surface. There will moreover be no windows, or small windows, or cracks, or fissures through which the slightest glimpse could be had.

In building the individual parts of the monastery which serve the entire community, such as the refectory, the chapter room, the infirmary, the dormitory, the calefactory, the place for washing hands, the workroom and others, but above all the interior of the church, it is important not to disregard, but to be particularly careful that all these places, in which the nuns generally gather in goodly number, are spacious enough to comfortably accommodate not only all the nuns already there, but all those who are likely later on to be received in the monastery, in view of the quantity and the accession of resources and charitable endowments.

But the greatest precaution of all to be taken is that in no outer locutory room, in no lodgings of the priest confessor or of the temporary farm workers and servants, in no external part of the monastery, in no building constructed externally should there be an upper room, to which the nuns have access. Nor should there be any higher room in the inner parts to which outsiders have access, for any reason whatsoever.

Care must also be taken that all the entrances, vestibules, narrow passages and places of this kind to be found in the monastery are brightly lit and visible, and are not dark or in the half-light.

Lastly, there will be a holy picture, piously depicted in every part or corner, entranceway, staircase, and in the reception room of the monastery.


(a) Collins, p. 240.

(a) Dentro ciascuna porta delle chiese Parochiali…

Dicta 1

THE CROSS (1553-54)

The cross that is to be placed either on the high altar or on the tabernacle of the sacred Eucharist, should be approximately square in shape, with the lower part a bit longer and ending in a small tubular appendage so that it [the cross] can be easily removed from its support when it is to be used in processions or other ecclesiastical services.

The cross is to be suitable and fitting in size and decoration to the altar. The cross of the high altar in a cathedral basilica and in collegiate churches will be of gold or (if finances do not permit) of silver plate. This cross is for use in solemnities and Offices; another of gilded brass, suitably chased and decorated, should be used on other days.

The cross to be placed on the high altar in other churches, particularly parish churches, will be of the same material or also of silver.

The support by which the cross is properly held on the altar will be made of gold, silver, or at least of brass, or even gilded wood in churches whose income is small. It will be elegant and made in a graceful form, and sufficiently high and narrow for the tubular appendage to be tightly inserted. A cross to be placed on a minor altar will have the same support and shape but may be considerably smaller and must not be removable. The material will at least be brass or a more precious metal, but it can be wood painted and suitably gilded.

The Chapter cross, or that which is carried in processions, in funerals, and in other sacred ecclesiastical services as is the custom, will have a very strong shaft, suitably painted, on which it will be well fixed.

But where it is customary (as in the Ambrosian church) that a Chapter, or another ecclesiastical body, or the pastors or others who care for souls during ecclesiastical services carry a square cross, measuring two cubits or a little more in height and width, then this cross will not have a shaft, but only a short handle of the same metal. This custom, clearly ancient and tested by use, should definitively be retained.


Borromeo uses the term cross although what is meant is a crucifix or cross with the figure of Christ on it, placed on the altar as an indication that the

Victim offered here is the same as was offered on the Cross(1). Some historians claim that the earliest document to address the placement of an altar cross was issued by the Council of Tours, 567(2). Jungmann (3) maintains that the crucifix was brought to the altar in the eleventh century while Hefele (4) writes that the cross or crucifix can hardly be traced farther back than the thirteenth century and that the Tours reference refers to the placement of Host particles upon the corporal. In his early thirteenth century treatise on Mass Innocent III advises that the altar cross be placed centrally between two candlesticks.

The processional cross, mounted on a tall staff, is carried at the head of a procession. The protocol is to have the figure of Christ facing the directional path of the procession for collegiate groups, religious orders and confraternities, Papal and archiepiscopal crosses are turned so that the crucified Christ faces the prelates(5). The image of a crucified Christ on the cross is documented from the 14th century and was made obligatory by Pius V's post Tridentine missal of 1570 at which time, also, the altar cross became obligatory for the celebration of the mass.

Borromeo's directives merge the altar cross and the processional cross forms. Contemporary rubrics prescribe that the staff and the cross be detachable.

1.1 Processional cross – carried by hand, St. Vitale, Ravenna mosaic, date c. 547


1. Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. I, Altar Crucifix, The Cross and Crucifix in Liturgy, vol. , Processional cross, vol. XII.

2. canon III “Ut corpus Domini in Altari, non in armario, sed sub cruces titulo componatur.

3. Jungmann, 84

4. Hefele, Conciliengeschichte,

5. ath Enc, Processional cross, vol. XII.

Dicta 2


If for economic reasons, the candlesticks of the high altar (which it is said at one time were also made of gold) cannot be made of gold, they are to be made of silver, at least for use in solemn Offices. Their material and workmanship should correspond to the [altar] cross.

The other [candlesticks], however, which are for everyday use, may be made of brass, a suitable metal for use in every church. If, due to limited means, they cannot be made of brass or of a more precious metal, those of turned wood may occasionally be used on other minor altars.

The base of the candlestick, called the “foot”, should be round or better triangular and should correspond as much as possible to the base of the cross. It [the foot] should so extend on every side and be so stable that the candlestick cannot in any way tip over because of the weight or the height of an unusually large candle that is placed on it.

The stem, fittingly, piously, and suitably chased, should gradually taper to the height required by the size of the altar and of the church. Furthermore, at the top it will end in a circular area where a smoothly rounded sharp point [pricket] will be set, on which a pan, also in silver or in brass, will be fixed in which to place the candle.

Since it may come to pass that with use gold or silver candlesticks can wobble or tilt, and that the elements of which the stems are composed can even come apart, it will be useful to run an iron rod through the entire stem of the candlestick, so that it comes out at the top and on which the aforementioned pan or the candle can be inserted.

At the bottom it [the candlestick] will be enclosed in a moveable ring [collar] of sheet iron that will bind together all the elements and keep them joined together and straight.

The Paschal candlestick, of silver plate or of brass, or at least, if the church has limited means, of solid wood turned and completely gilded and piously decorated, should be about five cubits in height. In addition, it should have a very stable base to keep it from falling so that, where it is the custom (just as it was once done), it can be placed on certain designated days in the middle of the church in front of the high altar. If a hanging one is used, there is no need for a base.

The cantharus [two-branched candlestick] (which is the type used in the Ambrosian church) can be of gold or of silver or of cast bronze or of brass, according to the means of the church in which it is used. It will be shorter

than the other candlesticks and also lighter. In addition, it should have a thinner stem, so that it can be held more easily. It is to have a triangular base and a suitable decoration.

The processional candlesticks should be of the same metal and form as those of the high altar, but they can be much shorter and slenderer.


Simple, single candlesticks have been in continuous use in various ceremonies of the Church. There is, however, some question as to when candlesticks came to be placed on an altar. A clue is found in the "Statuta Ecclesiae Antiqua" complied in the latter part of the 5th century. It is a collection of 102 canons on church discipline and ritual and it includes the rite of the Order of Acolyte. The newly ordained acolyte was appraised of his responsibilities and given a candlestick and an unlit candle with the words "Receive the candlestick with the candle and know that it is your duty to light the lights of the church in the name of the Lord." There is little documentary evidence prior to the tenth century that supports the use of candlesticks on an altar during the celebration of the Mass. No mention is made of candlesticks other than acolytes carrying them and placing them on the floor of the sanctuary or near the corners of the altar. By the thirteenth century, according to Durandus(1) "at both corners of the altar, a candlestick is placed to signify the joy of Jews and the Gentiles who rejoiced at the birth of Christ". The placement of two candlesticks on either side of the altar cross is cited by Innocent III (d. 1216) in the Sacro Altaris mysterio(2) as part of the Roman ceremonial. This tenet became standard by the sixteenth century. The lighting of 6 candles upon the altar is now enjoined for every high mass, 4 at every sung mass and 2 for every read mass and 7 for a pontifical mass(3). Clearly, artificial light was needed in the past, but symbolism of Christ as Light of the World inspired the works of artists, musicians, and literary writers. The candle itself made of virgin bees wax was seen as the flesh of Jesus Christ born of a virgin mother. The wick symbolized more particularly the soul of Jesus Christ and the flame of Divinity which absorbed and dominated both(4).


1. Durandus, Rationale I, iii, 27

2. II.c.xxi

3. Caeremoniale Episcorum 1600

4. Catholic Encyclopedia, Altar Candles, vol. I.

The paschal candle has a long history derived from the splendors of the celebration of the Easter vigil in the early Christian centuries. It has become tradition that remains to this day.

(Candles and candlesticks)

Candles and candlesticks were and are of particular importance to the Church. This was not because artificial light was needed in the past, but as St. Jerome said, as a sign of Joy (Mingne, P.L, XXIII, 345). Symbolically the candle itself made of virgin bees wax is seen as the flesh of Jesus Christ born of a virgin mother. The wick symbolizes more particularly the soul of Jesus Christ and the flame of Divinity which absorbs and dominates both. Although candles are carried in procession and for special occasions as well as offerings, use at baptism and funerals, the 4th Council of Carthage (a synod held in southern Gaul, c514) that in conferring the minor order of acolyte, the candidate had delivered to him "a candlestick with a candle". This custom is observed to the present day. Such candles as these when carried by acolytes (as noted in the Gregorian Sacramentary and the "Ordines Romani") were constantly used in the Roman Ceremonial from the 7th century and probably earlier. These candles were placed upon the pavement of the sanctuary and not until later. upon the altars. Innocent III (d.1216) in ***** go to Dicta 1, Cross… de Sacro Altaris mysterio (II.c.xxi) says two candlesticks on either side of the cross are part of the Roman ceremonial. Generally candles were removed at the end of mass but during the 13th century, were left on the altar (Durandus,, I,3,31) The Caeremoniale Episcorum (1600) specified 6 candles for a missa cantata or sung mass, 4 to 6 for a read mass, and for a pontifical mass.

Candles were indeed, celebratory. Pope Hadrian I in 772 had a silver candlestick in the form of a cross put in the presbytery of the Vatican basilica (Cancellieri, vol III de Secretariis, p. 1449) to be lighted four times a year. Mention is also made of another great candelabrum with as many lights as there are days in the year in St. Peter's, (Moroni, vol. vii, p209)

The custom of placing six great permanent candlesticks on the high altar 3 on either side of the altar cross is a matter of law. As prescribed by Borromeo, the "Caeremoniale" prescribes that they should correspond in design and pattern to the crucifix.

Dicta 3


The wick-trimmer should be of the same metal as the candlesticks, twelve ounces in length.

The snuffer for putting out the candles should be made of a light sheet metal, called tolam [metal], of suitable shape.

Dicta 4


The altar card [of silent prayers] should be neither of oak nor of walnut, nor indeed of a dark wood, but of fir or some other light wood of this type, so that the glued page will not become dark.

It should be a little wider than high: on the front it should be becomingly embellished with a frame.

It must be set somewhat above the altar table on a decorated support so that the page of the prayers may be more easily seen.

This indeed is for everyday use.

But that for solemn feasts must be more handsome. It should have a gilded or beautifully painted frame, the page of the silent prayers should be printed in block letters, and its pictures and the capital letters should be illuminated in red and gold.


Originally there was only one card called the Tabella Secretarum set in the middle of the altar. Later two others were added, one with the Gospel of St. John and the other with the prayer Deus qui humanae substantiae (1). For the ordinario the Card of Silent Prayers [tabella secretarum] contains the hymn Gloria in escelsis Deo which may be why the altar cards are commonly called Carte Glorie(2). They were meant as memory aids for the celebrant. The cards are turned face down or removed after Mass when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

In the Ambrosian rite only the one card is used.

These are cards containing some of the prayers from the Ordinary of the Mass. They were meant as memory aids for the celebrant. Originally there was a single card or tablet known as the Tabella Secretarum set in the center of the altar. The first prescription relative to the use of an altar card appeared in the rubrics of the Missal published by Pius V in 1570. Borromeo's norms followed in 1577. In the seventeenth century two side cards were added for the Roman rite while the Ambrosian rite retained its single card. For both rite, the Gloria In Excelsis Deo appeared on the center card and, perhaps, it is from this that the card(s) are known as the "Cartagloria".1 It may not be larger than the door of the Tabernacle.(3) When the cards are not being used after Mass, they should be removed from the altar. Another possible arrangement is to turn the card(s) down on the altar. The only regulation of the Sacred Congregation of Rites is that they are to be removed for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.


1. Cath. Enc., vol. I, Altar Cards

2. Moroni, vol. LXXII, Tabelle dell'altare, p. 198-99

3. A decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (D. 4136, 2), prescribes that the altar card should not be so large that it cover the door of the Tabernacle. Known as the cartagloria, it's purpose is not to decorate the altar but to assist the priest, therefore the printing should not be too small, but rather large. Un decreto della S. Congreg. dei. Riti (D. 4136, 2) prescrive che la tabella non sia cosi alta da coprire la porta del Tabernacolo. Si ricordi poi che la tabella detta anche oggi di cartagloria non e fatta per ornare l'altare, ma per l'utilita del sacerdote, percio il testo stampatovi non dev'essere troppo minuto, ma a caratteri grandi.Castiglioni-Marcora, p.129 n4.1

Dicta 5


The cloths (once called vela or velamina or sindones) that cover the upper part of the altar are to be of linen, or, where no linen is available, of hemp. The more precious ones, which are used on solemn days or for Episcopal services, are also to be of linen or hemp, but more finely woven. The others, for everyday use, should be made of the same type of material, neither too heavy nor too coarse, but their weave should be good, strong, and elegant. However, there are to be no defects such as flock or threads in a bluish or some other color on the altar cloths.

The larger cloths should be long enough to fall down on both sides of the altar three digits above the level of the footpace.

In width they should cover the entire surface of the altar including the gradine [altar shelf] on the altar; unless it is more convenient especially on a high altar, because of the obstacle of the tabernacle, that this be covered and protected separately.

The smaller cloths are to be all of one piece, as they used to be, and should cover the whole upper part or table of the altar. These should be kept distinct and separate from each other.


Even before Constantine the altar was covered by a cloth, often of precious fabric(1). Sometimes a separate white linen cloth was placed on top and the back part was raised and folded over the chalice to serve as a pall. Now they must be of white linen or hemp, often called fair cloths in English, with

“fair” meaning beautiful or spotless.

By the 8th century two or four linen cloths were used to protect the altar from possible spillage. The prescribed cloths are now three(2) under which is the cere-cloth, which Borromeo mentions in his discussion of the altar(3). Symbolically the altar-cloths represent God's faithful, by whom the Lord is encompassed(4), or the shroud of Christ when laid in the sepulcher, or also the purity and devotion of the faithful. An Annunciation where Mary has an open book on a low table covered by a cloth may be symbolic(5).


1. Cath. Enc., vol. I, Altar Cloths

2. Fortescue-O'Connell, p. 6

3. see Book I, p.

4. Pontificale Rom., De ordinat. subdiaconi

5. Miniature Lombarde Codici miniati dall'VIII al XIV secolo. (Testo Luisa Cogliati Arano, Cassa di Risparmio Milano, 1970: fig. 143 Giovanni de' Grassi Libro d'Oro, Florence, Bibl. Naz BR 397 carta 104 verso Annunciation … cloth covers bench with book before Mary)

Dicta 6


The frontal, or pallium, [also known as antependium], that is the cloth that is hung on the front of the altar, must be a little longer than the altar itself, and a bit higher, so that the lowest edge can be hidden under the frame of the altar step.

In the upper part, a palm from the top, it will be decorated with small tassels called frangias [fringe], of gold or silk, according to the color prescribed by the liturgy.

On the back the cloth will be lined with cotton or some other light material; this should extend a palm beyond on the upper part so that it can be folded under the altar cloths. Also, on the inside at the top it should be provided with small tiny rings of brass [aereis] or iron, by which it can be hung and attached to the frame of the altar. A cross, or the image of the Saint or Saints to whom the altar is dedicated, or some other religious effigy will be properly and fittingly sewn onto the outside of the frontal. This was an old custom because we know that Pope Zacharias brought to the altar of St. Peter the Apostle a frontal interwoven with gold, decorated with the image of the Birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

A more precious frontal, to be used for solemn services or days, should be interwoven with silk, gold or silver, or at least the rich fabric, called brocatum [brocade], or beautifully embroidered. But the one for everyday use should be of another kind of silk or half-silk. This is also permitted in churches whose income cannot bear the expense of a more precious frontal. However, existing frontals that are too modest or too short for the height of the altar should be made higher at the top by adding cloth of the same material suitably attached. This seam should be properly hidden by a decoration of small tassels called frangiam [fringes], or other suitable ornament.

Those frontals which are not wide enough, because the altars have been widened, can be properly set aright by fittingly adding bands of the same or of other cloth or silk according to the length of the altars.


According to Moroni(1) the palliotto (arae amiculum, velum, velamen) or frontal, since it covers only the front part of the altar, was originally a simple curtain so that boxes with relics under the altar would not get dusty. Most authors(2) use the term frontal, giving antependium, frequently used by art historians, as the Latin term.

Generally, with the exception of the more precious antependia, they should correspond in color to the color of the feast or office of the day(3). Other exceptions include a white frontal when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed(4). Borromeo here once more displays his willingness to accommodate those churches with limited incomes.


1. Moroni, op. cit. vol. LI, palla ?

2. O'Connell, Jungmann

3. Caerem. Episc., I, XII, ll

4. see also Cath. Enc., vol. ?? (Online Edition 1999).

Dicta 8


The altar cover is to be of such length and width that it can completely cover the mensa and even a little more and should have a short fringe on all sides. It should be green: the one for everyday use should be of linen or hemp, [the cover] for use on solemnities of silk or half-silk.


Also called vesperale or vesperal (Sadlowski, p. 106).

Dicta 9


The covering of the footpace and of the steps of the altar and of the floor too, when necessary, should be rugs or woolen cloths; they should be more precious according to the degree of solemnity and the dignity of the churches.

In width and in length they should extend so that they completely cover the footpace and the altar steps, and extend at least a cubit beyond.


Examples in paintings use of Persian rugs before throne

Dicta 10


The bishop's buskins must be long enough to be stretched to the knees and tied with ribbons in a way that corresponds to the mystical significance.


Buskins, also known as udones, campagi, caligae, sotulares, soculares, subtolares, calzari episcopali. Among the early twelfth-century writers who referred to caligae as being regularly included among the sacred vestments worn by Bishops and Cardinals are Ivo Carnotensis, and Sicardus of Cremona who mentions them as having been made of silk.

These knee-high stockings were originally white and symbolized cleanliness or purity of feet. While the high priests of the Old Covenant were barefoot, the bishop wore special footgear when the holy offering was brought(1) Moroni(2) called the shoes and hose together sandals, saying that they were used in pontifical and other sacred functions by those who had this privilege. Innocent II and Durandus described them as reaching to the knee where they were tied and with varied mystical significance. .”But before the Sandals are put on the feet, they are clad in Buskins, reaching so far as the knee and there girt round, for that the preacher ought to make straight paths for his feet, and confirm the feeble knees; for He that shall do and teach these commandments, the same shall be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And the buskins, being of blue, the colour of the firmament, denote that his feet – that is, his affections – must be heavenly and strong….” “The feet are united with the Sandals by the mediation of the Buskins, which are worn between; and this pictureth the union of the Human Soul with the Godhead, through the mean of Flesh.”(3)

The use of buskins is illustrated in early mosaics but by the eighth century they were reserved to the Pope. By the ninth or tenth century buskins were granted to bishops and other prelates, usually purple in color. However by the sixteenth century liturgical colors were enforced (with the exception of black). The silk buskins from then on matched the color of the vestments of the day.


1. Braun, p. 384

2. Moroni, vol.

3. Durandus on the Sacred Vestments, by the Rev. T.H. Passmore, London, 1899, Chapter VIII, pp. 64 and 65, 69

Dicta 11


The slippers, that is the shoes the bishop uses in the solemn celebration of the mass, should have a sole of one piece and be suitably decorated on the upper part. Once they were open on the top, not without a mystical reason as shown by Pope Innocent III.


The term sandals seems to be preferred to slippers, noting that they resemble the latter(1). In Moroni(2) both names are given when he says that liturgical sandals or slippers (sandalia, campagi) were worn by bishops, priests, deacons and subdeacons until the 9th or 10th century. In 418 Boniface I prescribed use of sandals to all clergy, but they were without ties. In the 10th century they became a specifically Episcopal vestment and up to the 13th were open. Durandus(3) writes that after the bishop puts on the buskins he vests his feet in sandals that have an entire sole underneath but there is lattice hide on the top thus leaving it open, called fenestration by him and by Innocent III. The symbolism to which Borromeo refers is that “[the sandals] must be open above, that they may be unveiled unto the knowledge of heavenly mysteries… They are open on the top, again, because we ought to have hearts ever uplifted unto God…” Sandals also signify the incarnation of the word and used by bishops in the Mass denote that they must keep their feet shod and ready for preaching(4) Since it was customary to kiss the foot of the pope, a cross set on the sandals meant that it was actually the latter that were being kissed(5).

Sandals were made of leather up to the 14th century and then of silk. Only the Pope had velvet sandals. In color they generally matched the Mass vestments with the exception of black.


1. Cath. Enc. Episcopal Sandals

2. Moroni, op. cit. vol.

3. Durandus 62-72

4. Magri, in Moroni.

5. An example of this custom, said to be very old, is in the Chapel of S. Maria ad fontem, near the Lateran baptistery, built by John IV in 640, where two popes have a cross on the tip of their sandals

Dicta 12


The amice (which is also called superhumerale because it is put upon the shoulders) must have, as it once did, a band sewn to it, which can be adjusted around the neck over the chasuble as a collar.

The band will be embellished with a suitable border, and three crosses will be added, one in the middle, and one on each end.

This band will be about one cubit and six ounces long, and about seven ounces wide.

The amice is to be of fine, white linen. The more precious ones, of finer material.

It is to be about two cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide at the side. Tapes will be attached to the two top corners. In order to keep the amice in place, they will be crossed diagonally over the chest, drawn to the back around the waist and then tied on the front.

If an amice is used without the ornamental band, a cross of two ounces is to be embroidered or applied in some other way at the center, two fingers from the upper edge. The edges of the amice, except on that part which touches the neck, should be moderately decorated. Its other parts should be decorated like those of the preceding amice, which had the band.


The term amice comes from the Latin amicire, to envelop, and this cloth is also known as amess, amita, amyss, anabolagium or anagolagium, humerale, superhumera. Its purpose seems to have been to protect the more precious vestments from soiling at the neck and it does probably not come, as thought by Rabanus Maurus, from the Jewish ephod. The first reference as a liturgical garment seems to be in the first Roman Ordo of the middle of the 8th century but it may be earlier(1). Called the “helmet of salvation” in the vesting prayer, it originally covered the head and shoulders when put on. It was then turned down over the chasuble upon arriving at the altar. In the Ambrosian rite it is donned after the alb.

Originally it seems not to have had tapes, for Amalar would have given a mystical meaning to this element when he mentions the amictus as the first.


1. Braun , p. 32, says it was mentioned by Pope Honorius (625-638) as a vestment to be put on, enfolding the neck(2) The use of the apparel as ornament for the amice when turned back over the chasuble dates to the Middle Ages.

2. De Eccles., Offic., II, xvii, in P.L., CV, 1094.

Dicta 13


The alb (so-called for its color and also known as camisium) is to be of fine white cloth, the more precious ones of finer.

It should be four cubits long, and when belted around the waist and draped around the hips, it will reach to the feet. It will moreover be four cubits or a bit more wide.

It will have sleeves one and a half cubits long, and almost a cubit wide at the shoulder seam. The sleeves will reach to the hands, gradually becoming narrower.

It is to be simply sewn and decorated. It will have more elaborate embroidery only at the ends of the sleeves, and at the bottom will have a hem.

In the lowest part of the alb on the front and on the back and at the ends of the sleeves small patches of silk cloth of the same material and color as the chasuble, called grammatae or auriphrygium [apparels or gold apparels], will be sewn on horizontally. They will be decorated with rich fringes. When albs without gold apparels are used, they will measure sixteen cubits at the lower edge, calculating the full width of the skirt. They will be, in other words, a bit wider and longer than those decorated with apparels, so that when properly draped around the hips they will form nice ornamental folds.


The origins of the alb(1), also referred to as tunica linea, camisia (shirt), tunica talaris (because it reached to the feet – tali, ankles) can probably be traced to the tunica alba, or white tunic, normally worn by Roman citizens under the Empire. References in early Christian texts to an alba (2) may or may not refer to the vestment we now call an alb. Braun(3) feels that priests generally wore a white tunic under the chasuble and that it eventually came to be regarded as liturgical. Evidence can be assumed from figures in the Ravenna mosaics and from mention in the Stowe or Lorrha Missal (ascribed to the 9th century). By 818(4) it was an integral part of the priest's attire and was put on after the amice.

According to Rabanus the white alb symbolized self-denial and chastity, and it was ankle length to remind the priest that he was to perform good works to his life's end. The Vesting Prayer in the Lorrha Missal says: “….Holy Father, be pleased to arm me with the tunic of Chastity” at which point the priest puts on the amice and alb.

Although medieval inventories list albs in colors and of linen, satin, velvet and cloth-of-gold, the Council of Trent in 1564 established white linen as the only proper material. This would certainly be in agreement with Durandus(5)

“ made of byssus, or fine linen, ….and even as linen, or byssus, doth win by cunning, being beaten with many blows, that whiteness which by nature it hath not; so also man's flesh, being lashed with many stripes in the exercise of good works, hath by grace that pureness allotted unto it which by nature in cannot have.”

In the Middle Ages the wrists and head opening were adorned with embroideries. They evolved into the oblong patches of rich brocade or embroidery attached to the lower part of the alb and the wrists. The commonest names were parurae, plagulae, grammata, gemmata, aurifrisia. Braun believes that they originally had no mystical meaning for there is nothing in this regards in 12th century texts. The first to mention the alba apparels was Innocent III (1198-1216)(6) while Durandus(7) “It hath also golden broidery and devices for ornament wrought with varied work in divers parts, which hinteth of that which the Prophet saith in the Psalms, Upon thy right hand did stand the queen in a vesture of gold, wrought about with divers colors.(8) Symbolically the apparels near hands and feet stood for Christ's stigmata and the martyr chains. David Baier(9) also says they were intended to recall the wounds on Christ's hands and feet. (Plaga in Latin does mean wound and plagula may have been interpreted as wound). Pocknee(10) and Macalister(11) both mention the fact that the apparels were not always directly attached to the skirt but hung by cords from the girdle, while those on the breast and back were fastened together and suspended loose over the

shoulders. According to McNamee(12) the apparels at the base of the hem symbolized the peg boards that were suspended from the waist of those to be crucified and cites an illustration in Margaret Freeman(13) Braun(14) traces the origins to Northern France. In general usage the term apparel is used for these decorations on alb and amice, while those on other vestments (cope, dalmatic, etc.) are referred to as orphreys.

Currently the alba parata, or alba with apparels can be seen in Seville and

Toledo (Good Friday) as well as occasionally at High Mass in the Cathedral of Milan15.


1. See also Moroni, vol. VII Camice, and vol. LI, Paramenti sacri. Also Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. I.

2. “Expositio Missae” of St. Germanus of Paris (6th cent.) or the so-called Fourth Synod of Carthage (c. 398)

3. Braun, J., Die priesterlichen Gewänder des Abendlandes, Freiburg, 1897.

4. Rabanus, “De Clericorum Institutione”

5. III, 28-32

6. Raiment for the Lord’s Service: A Thousand Years of Western Vestments, Chicago, Ill., Art Institute of Chicago, 1975., Chicago

7. Durandus (Passmore?), p. 30

8. also mentioned by Mariott, Vestiarum Christianum, London, 1868, and Braun, p. 83 with reference to Psalm 44,10.

9. Baier, David, Catholic Liturgics, Paterson, N.J. 1951

10. Pocknee. Liturgical Vesture, 1961)

11. Macalsiter, R.A.S., Ecclesiastical vestments, 1896

12. McNamee, M.B., Vested Angels, Eucharistic Allusions in Early Netherlandish Paintings, Leuven, 1998.

13. “The Iconography of the Merode Altarpiece”, Art Bulletin XVI (1957), 138, illumination c. 1740 in Book of Hours (3080), Bodleian Library, Oxford..

14. Braun, op. cit., p. 82

15. Braun, op. cit., p. 91.

Dicta 14


The cincture [or girdle] (which is called zona by Innocent III) is to be made of white linen, or fine hemp, and it should be seven cubits long. At the ends of the cincture pompons of the same material should be inserted, with small bundles of threads known as tassels (floccos)attached.

The bishop's girdle, in its mystical significance, must have a double strap on the left side, known as “succinctorium” or “succingulum” to tie the stole to the girdle.


What is now generally called cincture was originally a larger and more ornate narrow band, even adorned with gold and precious stones. Durandus mentions those bequeathed by Bishop Riculfus in his will “five girdles, one adorned with gold and precious stones….” The cingulum (translated also as belt, girdle and not to be confused with the cardinal's sash or cincture is used to belt the alb and may be in the form of a cord, a band 3 cm. wide, or a girdle with bands sewn on inside by which to tie it, and with tassels at the ends (1). When the stole is crossed over the breast, the free ends are kept in place by the cincture.

Usually white, the cincture symbolizes purity and chastity (2), “For the girdle doth signify continence,….let your loins be girded about….for that in the loins lust reigneth…” and also recalls the cords with which Christ was scourged. It may however also be in liturgical colors. In the Lorrha Missal when vesting the priest says “…gird my loins with the cincture of Love of Thee.”

The succinctorium (subcinctorium) is variously described. Originally a bishop's vestment (Innocent III) and similar in form and nature to the maniple it is now reserved to the Pope. Mentioned as balteus at end of 10th century, and proecinctorium aabout 1030 in the episcopal ceremonial known as “Missa Illyrica”. Walsh(3) describes it as being in the form of a girdle with a maniple-like appendage on the left side and conjectures that it may have

been used as a sort of pocket for a handkerchief, for the thumbstall, used to keep vestments clean after chrism, or for the metal “apples” used to heat the hands in cold weather. Durandus again says that “though the priests of the law, being girded, must not come at their wives in the time of sacrifice, yet at other times they were free in this matter. But nowadays one girdle is added, for the ministers of today must needs have continence, and therefore must not only be girded, but also under-girded.” span class="SubScript">(4). St. Thomas explains that it originally was meant to secure the stole to the cincture(5).


1. Braun, pp. 101-117

2. Durandus, chapt. IV, p. 33

3. Walsh p. 437

4. Durandus, p. 35

5. See Braun for various interpretations and fig. 54 p. 117 for an idea of what it looked like.

Dicta 15


On the outside the stole (which Damasus also calls orarium and palla linostina) is to be of the same material and color as the surplice: on the inside it should be lined with light silk of the same color.

It should be about six cubits long, so as to extend to below the knees, however it should be six ounces wide. It should gradually flare out at the ends and be decorated with fringes three ounces long. Three crosses are to be placed on it, one in the middle, and the other two at the ends. Each cross, however, should be small and square, about three ounces in length and height.

Nothing should be attached to the priest's stole. However silken cords of the same color with tassels should be attached to the bishop's and the deacon's stole in the middle of both sides so it can be tied properly.


Of the various theories as to the origin of the stole, the most commonly accepted now is that it was either a liturgical napkin (orarium from os, mouth, used to wipe mouth or face) or as a liturgical badge (introduced in 4th century)(1). The derivation from ora, border, of a large vestment is no longer taken in consideration. The term stole is of Gallic origin and came into Italy from the Frankish empire around the 10th century although it was replaced by the word orarium during the 11th and 12th centuries.

The stole is used only by deacons, priests and bishops(2) and is a symbol of the deacon's Ministerium and the yoke of Christ of the priest. It should be put on after the alb but before the chasuble and dalmatic, although in Milan it is still customary for the deacon to wear the stole over his dalmatic. It is worn in various ways. When wearing the alb, the two ends of the stole of the priest(3) are crossed in front. In processions, funerals, synods, in other words when wearing the surplice, administering the sacraments, blessing and preaching, it is worn hanging freely down. Deacons wear it from left to right like a scarf(4). The bishop generally does not wear it crossed because he wears the pectoral cross.

In the Syrian and Coptic Orthodox Church the subdeacon or reader wears the stole crossed in the back, as can be seen in the Last Communion of St. Jerome, 1614, by Domenichini in the Vatican. This painting is in line with the dictates of the Council of Trent in stressing the real presence of Christ in the sacrament with the Host at the center of the painting, despite the fact that the event depicted took place in the 5th century.

Reference to a palla linostina appears in various sources. One is in St. Germanus where it is one of three veils. St. Isidore5 defines linostema as a material woven of flax and wool.

Moroni(6) gives a thorough account of the symbolism of the stole, as does Braun(7). It is seen as the sweet yoke of the law of Christ, the innocence and perseverance of good deeds. It alludes to the cords with which Christ was bound to His Passion and to his cross. Durandus(8) says “Hence it is that the stole is tied in certain knots on the right and on the left, with the Zone or

Girdle, for virtue doth company with virtue and succoureth it…”. “The Stole…is at once a yoke and a burthen. It is a yoke, that is, unto the Priest and a burthen unto the Deacon…”(9) For Amalar(10) the stole hanging freely down demonstrates the deep humility of the priest. The crossing of the stole on the breast(11) recalls the passion. For the deacon, tying the stole on the right side for some means strength in resisting the temptations of the flesh. This usage was established at the Council of Braga, to distinguish it from the military custom of the sword strap.


1. Raiment for the Lord's Service

2. Council of Mainz, 813.

3. As prescribed in 675 in the Fourth Council of Braga, ch. 3, dist. 3.

4. See mosaics in S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura where Saints Stephen and Lawrence deacons have the cloth only over their left shoulder.

5. Orig. 19,22.

6. Moroni, vol. LXX, Stola

7. Braun, Die Liturgischen Gewander

8. Passmore, etc. p. 40

9. op.cit. p. 42

10. Amalar of Mainz, book 2, Chapter 20.

11. S. Bonaventure, De Myst. Missae

Dicta 16

MANIPLE 1560-61

The maniple is to be made of silk, at least the more precious ones, and be of the same color and material as the stole. It should be six ounces wide and two cubits long or a little more. It should also have silken cords attached on both sides, to which a frog, also of silk, should be properly attached. Like the stole, it should also have three crosses woven into it.


The maniple (mappula, sudarium, mantile, fano, manuale, sestace)(1), worn by deacon, priest and bishop, became a liturgical sign of the subdeacon's rank in the 11th and 12th century. It was originally a piece of folded cloth (manipulus or small bundle, sheath) that gradually evolved into a band worn over the left arm.

Already used in 6th century Rome it was probably the pallialinostima referred to in the Liber Pontificalis and later known as mappula. The relief on the altar frontal (palliotto) in the basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan bears witness to its use there in the 9th century. Its use in Gaul and Germany is shown by references to it in Amalar of Metz and others.

Originally, as Alcuin says in 9th century(2) it was a little “kerchief worn on the left hand to wipe off the moisture of the eyes and nose”. Even acolytes wore it in Rome at this time. Raiment says it was used so that the hand would not touch the sacred objects. One of its many symbolic meanings according to Durandus,(3) was that it is a figure of good works and watchfulness and “As touching that which agreeth unto the Head, even Christ, the wearing of the Maniple on the left hand denoteth this, that Christ won His Prize while in the way….and the left hand is this present life, as it is written. It was also seen as a figure of the rope with which Jesus was bound.

In the Instruct. varie in volgare(4), it is specified that the maniple can be tightened or loosened using the usual button and cord.


1. (Braun, p. 515 ff)

2. (J. Walsh, p. 449),

3. Chapt. VI, p. 47

4. Gaisruck, 1844, p. 957

Dicta 17


The bishop's tunic, which is called also tunicellam, should (is to) be woven of light silk. It should (is to) be a little narrower and shorter than the dalmatic described below.


There seems to be some confusion on the terms tunicle, tunicella, dalmatic. What Fortescue-O'Connell(1), has to say on tunicle, tunicella, dalmatic is close to what Borromeo says. “The subdeacon at Mass wears the amice, alb, girdle, maniple, no stole, but a tunicle (tunicella) made in much the same shape as the deacon's dalmatic, but with longer and narrower sleeves (Caer., I, x, I).”

Noonan(2) states that the tunicle was not adopted as an item of vesture in the Church until 829.

In commenting on Durandus, Passmore notes that the “two Tunics” which

Durandus has the bishop wear are actually a dalmatic and a tunicle. The tunic that reached the feet signified Perseverance(3).


1. Foretescue-O'Connell, p. 12

2. Noonan, p. 344

3. Durandus, p. 77

Dicta 18


The dalmatic is to have the shape of a cross and is to be made not with cut- off sleeves, but with full sleeves extending to the hands.

The bishop's dalmatic is to have fuller sleeves than the deacon's, and the latter fuller than the subdeacon's, also known as tunicle [tunicella]. The so- called tunicle should have narrower sleeves.

The bishop's dalmatic should be of the same material as the bishop's tunicle.

It may be two cubits and sixteen ounces long and should extend below the knees about ten ounces. At the top it should measure one cubit and four ounces between the shoulders, broadening at the bottom to about five cubits or more, so that its width be suitable to the meaning of the mystery.

The deacon's and subdeacon's tunicle should be decorated with scarlet bands or narrow stripes on the front and on the back, running from the top to the bottom.

In addition, they will be embellished with gold apparels [auriphrygio], small patches interwoven with gold, sewn at the bottom of the front and the back between the scarlet stripes.

All the edges of the garment, except for around the neck, will be decorated with a small fringe edging. The inside is to be lined with a material of the same color.


Before becoming a liturgical vestment, the dalmatic was an article of clothing used by the higher classes in Rome.

Pope Sylvester I(1) first introduced it as a liturgical vestment and as early as the 5th century it seems to have been used by the bishops of Milan. Circa the 9th century it was adopted almost everywhere in Western Europe for bishops and deacons(2).

Passmore: in his comments on Durandus(3) says that the Dalmatic was currently usually crossed behind by two transverse stripes at top and bottom, to distinguish it from the Subdeacon's Tunicle, which had only one, at the top. The tassels hanging from the meeting points of these stripes at the back were supposed to be a survival of laces which closed and opened the mouth of the dalmatic when it was put on.

For the complex symbolic interpretation dating to the 9th century with Rabanus Maurus and Amalarius of Metz, see also Durandus(4).


1. 314-35

2. Cath. Enc. Vol. Dalmatic

3. Passmore, durandus…..

4. Durandus (or Passmore)

Dicta 19


The bishop's gloves must be interwoven and prominently decorated on the top with a golden circle.


The Latin contexto or intertwined has been interpreted as interwoven or knit. Boniface VIII, died 1303, was wearing knitted white silk gloves.

Sarnelli also says the papal gloves must be “inconsutili” that is knit, like the vestment of the Savior, to denote the integrity of faith.

Latin: contextae esse debent. Contexto can mean intertwined in other words knit or crocheted. Particularly if they are without a seam as Durandus says, p. 91.

Gloves were signs of distinction and were invested with symbolical meaning. They were also called burse of the hand (Greek word chirotecae), and Doctyliotheca, sheath of the fingers. In Latin they were manicae, for they defended the hands from cold. Rabbis called them domus digitorum or house of the fingers in Lexico Talmudico Buxtorfi p. 303, 1406.

Liturgical gloves, or earlier, chirotecae, manicae, wanti, used only by bishops or officiating celebrant at a pontifical mass, were first mentioned in the 10th century. Originally white, they were later (16th cent.) in liturgical colors and with an embroidered medallion, sometimes bejeweled, with or without cuffs.

Among other things Durandus interpreted gloves as symbols of modesty, since the good deeds performed with humility must be kept secret (Latour,

A. “The glove, a badge of office”, Ciba Review, 61, Basle, October 1947, p.

2207-9) as well as (Durandus p. 90-91) referring to chastity and purity (white color). Innocent III (De myster. missae, chap 39) compared them to the goatskin with which Rebecca covered Jacob's hands. As such they were symbols of the sinful nature of man with which the Son of God was clothed through the power of the Holy Spirit. (St. Augustine, De Mendacio c. 10, n. 24 [M.40, 534]).

Even now in the consecration of a bishop the prayer when giving the bishop his gloves is: “Encompass, O Lord, the hands of this Thy minister with the cleanness of the new man who descended from Heaven, so that as Thy beloved Jacob, his hands covered with the skins of young goats, implored and received the paternal benediction, having offered to his Father most

agreeable food and drink, so also this one may deserve to implore and to receive the benediction of Thy grace by means of the saving host offered by his hands…”

See Braun, Die pontificalen Gewänder des Abendlandes…ecc see newadvent bibliog.

Dicta 19


The bishop's gloves must be interwoven1 and prominently decorated on the top with a golden circle.


Gloves were signs of distinction and were invested with symbolical meaning. They were also called burse of the hand (Greek word chirotecae), and Doctyliotheca, sheath of the fingers. In Latin they were manicae, for they defended the hands from cold. Rabbis called them domus digitorum or house of the fingers in Lexico Talmudico p. 303, 14062.

Liturgical gloves, or earlier, chirotecae, manicae, wanti, used only by bishops or officiating celebrant at a pontifical mass, were first mentioned in the 10th century. Originally white, they were later (16th cent.) in liturgical colors and with an embroidered medallion, sometimes bejeweled, with or without cuffs.

Among other things Durandus3 interpreted gloves as symbols of modesty, since the good deeds performed with humility must be kept secret4, as well as referring to chastity and purity (white color). Innocent III5 compared them to the goatskin with which Rebecca covered Jacob's hands. As such they were symbols of the sinful nature of man with which the Son of God was clothed through the power of the Holy Spirit.6.

Even now in the consecration of a bishop the prayer when giving the bishop his gloves is: “Encompass, O Lord, the hands of this Thy minister with the cleanness of the new man who descended from Heaven, so that as Thy

1 The Latin contexto or intertwined has been interpreted as interwoven or knit. Boniface VIII, died 1303, was wearing knitted white silk gloves.

Sarnelli also says the papal gloves must be “inconsutili” that is knit, like the vestment of the Savior, to denote the integrity of faith.

Latin: contextae esse debent. Contexto can mean intertwined in other words knit or crocheted. Particularly if they are without a seam as Durandus says, p. 91.

2 See Moroni, Guanti,vol.33, p. 92:

3 p. 90-91

4 Latour, A. “The glove, a badge of office”, Ciba Review, 61, Basle, October 1947, p. 2207-9)

5 (De myster. missae, chap 39)

6 (St. Augustine, De Mendacio c. 10, n. 24 [M.40, 534])

beloved Jacob, his hands covered with the skins of young goats, implored and received the paternal benediction, having offered to his Father most agreeable food and drink, so also this one may deserve to implore and to receive the benediction of Thy grace by means of the saving host offered by his hands…”

See Braun, Die pontificalen Gewänder des Abendlandes…ecc see newadvent bibliog.

Dicta 20


The chasuble (which some call phelonium and also planetam because of its width) is to be about three cubits or more wide, so that, when it falls from the shoulders, it will make a fold of at least one palm between the shoulders. It is to be of about the same length or a little longer so as to reach the heels. It should also have a band at least eight ounces wide sewn on. This band should extend to the bottom both on the front and on the back. To this another transverse band should be added near the top both in front and in the back to form a cross on both sides.


The chasuble (in Latin also casula planeta) is the most recognizable of the Mass vestments since it is worn on top of the others. Originally a more or less round piece of cloth with a hole for the head, it did seem to look like a

“little house” since it covered the entire figure. The medieval chasuble had a drawback in that it was impossible to lift the arms without lifting the whole front part of the garment. This led to a gradual shortening and change in shape.7

Of note is the comment by Passmore8: “It will be observed that Durandus says nothing about the orfreys or ornamentation of the Chasuble, and does not allude to the Y cross upon it. Yet this undoubtedly existed in his time. Agnellus, in his Life of St. Maximian, who was Bishop of Ravenna in the sixth century, says that Maximian had an altar-cloth embroidered with pictures of his predecessors, and that these Bishops were depicted as

7 see Enc. Cath. Vol. III, for history of chasuble. Also Braun,

8 Passmore, Durandus…

wearing Chasubles with the „auriclave' in front, in shape like the Pallium…It is well known that this cross represents the raising of Our blessed Lord's arms in the crucifixion, and that the straight orfrey often found on the front of the Chasuble is symbolical of the stake to which he was bound when scourged. These significations are of course instances of the evolution of symbolism from utility.

Dicta 21


The skullcap to be worn under the miter should not be of silk but of wool, and should not be square but round in shape.


The clerical skullcap or pileolus (calotte, subbiretum, submitrale, soli-Deo) is worn under the miter. While saying Mass the bishop may not wear the skullcap during the Preface to the Communion and he must also remove it whenever the sanctissimum is exposed. When not worn, it is put on a silver salver on the credence table1

1 Fortescue-O'Connell, p. 78-9

Dicta 22


The precious miter, made of silk interwoven with gold and with embroidery and ornaments of precious stones and pearls, shows the splendor of the Episcopal dignity.

The simple miter should be made of the purest fine white linen.

It will have a gold band around the part placed on the head. It should also have two peaks on the top, one in the front, and the other in the back. It has two ribbons [lappets or fanons] hanging on the shoulders, the ends of which have tasseled fringes.


This tall pointed headdress is worn by bishops and certain other prelates for nearly all religious ceremonies. Something of the sort seems to have been worn by bishops as early as the 8th century. Since the proclamation of Gregory XII in 1280 bishops have the use of three types of miters: the simplex, aurifrigiata, pretiosa. Borromeo seems to have omitted the intermediate gold mitre which at times replaces the heavier precious miter. Both the Catholic Encyclopedia1 and Moroni2 trace the development and together with Durandus3 provide any number of symbolic meanings ranging from knowledge of both testaments (2 horns), to “two fringed bands as spirit and the letter….at ends are fringes of red, denoting that he is prepared to defend the Faith and the Holy Scriptures, yea, even unto blood. [they] also denote a twofold mindfulness .. on Divine acts and of his sins”.

Two horns are also precepts of charity. Bishop's miter is a type of the crown of Thorns.

There are also specific rules as to when each type of miter is to be used and when it is to be removed and reassumed during the services4.

1 Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. Miter, see also Braun….pp 424-498.

2 Moroni, vol. XLV, Mitra, pp. 260-265, 272-277.

3 Passmore, Durandus….

4 Fortescue-O'Connell, p. 15 ff.

Dicta 23


The episcopal ring, made of perfectly pure solid gold, has a bezel with a precious stone on which nothing should be engraved.


Borromeo's precept for the bishop's ring follows that of Innocent III as noted by Durandus1) who also describes its mystical significance, including that of their spiritual marriage with the Church2. In 637 St. Isidore of Seville wrote that by the 5th century the ring was part of the Episcopal insignia. It is given to bishop at his consecration and is always worn on ring finger. The bishop's ordinary ring for daily non-ceremonial use often bears his family arms.

1 De ritibus Ecclesiae lib. II, cap. IX
2 (see Moroni, Vol. II, Anello de' vescovi, 69-71

Dicta 24


The gremial should be about two cubits long, but only one cubit and about twelve ounces wide. On the inside it should be lined with fine silk of the same color. All around it should have an edging [lacinarium] interwoven with gold or silver.


The gremial is a square or rectangular piece of fabric placed on lap of ministers when they are seated during liturgical ceremonies to protect the vestments from being soiled. It is not yet mentioned as such by Durandus and first. appears in the Roman Ordo of Gaetano Stefaneschi about 1311. By 16th cent. limited to bishops and was silk, or linen for ordinations or occasions when oils might be used. For its development and use see Moroni1.

1 Moroni, Vol. XXXIII, Grembiale o gremiale, 21-23.

Dicta 25


The crosier must be pointed at the bottom, straight in the middle and curved at the top.

If it is an episcopal crosier, it should not be decorated with a stole or sudarium. This insignia is what distinguishes the abbot's crosier from the

Episcopal one.

The length of the straight part is three cubits and twelve ounces; its curved part will measure the same number of ounces [twelve] or a little more.

At the end of the straight part is a globular swelling with a circumference of about seven ounces that gradually narrows as it descends, measuring at the bottom five ounces. At this very bottom part there is a point of iron or silver or some other metal.

The straight part of the crosier is covered with unchased solid silver plate. The curved part also is covered with silver plate, but chased and gilded as the silversmith sees fit.

The curved part is connected to the straight part by chased silver work, partially gilded. It has a hexagonal shape and is decorated with sacred images.


The crosier, a sign of spiritual authority, is carried by bishops and abbots. Pope Celestine (d. 432)1 mentions it in a letter to the Bishops of Vienne and Narbonne. There is evidence of the crozier in Gaul and Spain from the sixth century2. Originally a simple wooden staff, three different types were then distinguished: a straight crosier with a crook was called pedum, if it was without a curve but with knobs and a small sphere with cross it was a ferula cambuta or cambuca, or crocia if it was in the shape of a Greek T.

By the time of Innocent III the pope no longer carried a crozier, since it signified jurisdiction received from a superior and the pope received his however only from God.3

Symbolically the crook indicated the love with which the bishop brought those who wandered to the pen (ovile), the length indicated the vigilance in watching over the faithful, and the sharp point at the end the rigor with which the slothful must be goaded.

1 Cath. Enc., Vol IV, Crosier

2 Podhradsky, p. 40

3 Moroni, vol. IV, Bacolo pastorale, 20-23

Dicta 26


The vestment, called a pluvialis [cope], is semicircular in shape, extending down to the heels, about three cubits and six ounces long, and wide according to the width of a semicircle.

It will have fringes along the edges. Only on the front will it be completely open from top to bottom, and decorated on either side with an orphrey interwoven with sacred images. On the back it has an emblem that is called hood (caputium) with a rather short fringe, but with an orphrey that corresponds to the front.

It is to be joined with a morse in front at the top. The inside should be all lined with fine silk or cotton of the same color.


The cope, originally protection against rain, is now principally an episcopal vestment also worn by priests in processions, in choir and at solemn functions4. While it may first have appeared as a liturgical garment in the late eighth century, it was well established as such by the thirteenth5. While Mayo says it is not sacerdotal and has no symbolic meaning6, Durandus says among other things that its length signifies perseverance to the end7.

4 Passmore, Proeme to Durandus, p. 17-18

5Raiment for the Lord’s Service: A Thousand Years of Western Vestments, Chicago, Ill., Art Institute of Chicago, 1975.

6Mayo, p. 146, glossary

7Passmore, Durandus

Dicta 27


The morse [pectoral] (that is the ornament that joins the cope on the breast) should be made of gilded silver with two hooks underneath. It should be set with precious stones or a sacred image.


The morse or pectoral, also called formale in Italian, from formalium alluding to the rationale of the Jewish high priest and from the Tuscan fermaglio, or brooch1. It is worn by pope and bishop and according to Moroni2 the first mention is found in the life of Lorenzo Ghiberti by Vasari3 who sys that Ghiberti made a golden button for Martin V in 1417. In Rome it is worn by the six cardinal bishops4 It can also be made of fabric attached by hooks5.

1 Moroni, vol. Formale

2 op.cit. 318

3 Vasari, The Lives, vol. II, p. 78 (to be checked for correct edition)

4 Moroni, vol. , 317.

5 Thesaurus, 312

Dicta 28


The subdeacon's veil (that is that band which is used by the subdeacon to cover the chalice, when it has been prepared and he brings it to the altar) is to be of extremely fine fabric, interwoven either with gold or silver, and decorated at the sides with edging, at the ends also with gold or silver threads, or with both mixed together. It is to be six cubits long, but as wide as the fabric is wide.


The term humeral veil is a generic term covering that for the acolyte (see dicta 29), for the Blessed Sacrament, for the holy oils, for the subdeacon. Thesaurus, p. 334. The concept is simply that of not touching sacred objects with bare hands. According to Braun (see Cath. Enc., Vol VII, Humeral Veil) the custom is first mentioned in Ordo Rom. XV.

Dicta 29


The ministerial veils (that is those bands which hang from the neck of the minister who carries or holds the miter or other Episcopal vestments) are to be about six cubits long, and as wide as the material of which they are made. They must be made of white, very fine cotton, and they should be decorated at the ends with white silk fringe.


Thesaurus lists 5 types of humeral veils. This one is also called a vimp or vimpa Elliott, Peter J., Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, Ignatius Press, 2002, p. 231 and Noonan, The Church Visible, p. 416 who specifies tht it is not to be confused with the humeral veil (see dicta 28). Moroni derives the word from guimpa, peplum, velum muliebre and traces it back to the Gallic Wuimple. In Borromeo's lists of vestments for various churches, there is mention more than once of “continentiae”.

Dicta 30


On all sides the chalice veil is to measure one cubit and twelve ounces, but it is to be a bit greater in width: the borders will have a light decortion of silk, gold or silver.

However, the more precious one is to be made of gold or silver with gold or silver fringes.


In this form the chalice veil, meant to cover the chalice and the paten until Communion, goes back to the 16th century but was preceded by the so-called offertorium or mappula1.

1 Raiment, p. 27

Dicta 31


The chalice will be of pure gold or, if because of limited means this is not possible, of pure silver, gilded both inside and outside. The foot can be of gilded brass, if it cannot be of gold or silver because the church is too poor. The foot will be proportionately wide, so that the chalice will stand firmly wherever it is set and cannot fall over. It will be octagonal or hexagonal or of some other similar shape.

There will be decorations appertaining to some sacred mystery of the Passion on the surface of the foot. These decorations must not however be of impediment to the hands. In no case are there to be any decorations of a vain and empty nature.

The knop in the middle, suitably decorated, will not have any projections which might make it uncomfortable to hold the chalice or which might hurt the fingers, above all at the moment in which, during the Mass, the celebrating priest holds the chalice using both his thumb and index finger. The cup, considerably narrow at the bottom, is to gradually flare out to the upper lip, which must not curve inwards or outwards.

The largest and most precious chalice, in pure gold and decorated with chased sacred images, used in solemn Masses, will be at least eighteen ounces around. It will be fourteen ounces high in all, and will be more capacious in the cathedral, collegiate, and distinguished parish churches. The small chalice, which is used in the Mass that is not solemn, will be fourteen ounces around and twelve ounces high.


The chalice has a long history, thoroughly traced by authors such as O'Connell1, Sadlowski2, Moroni3.. In early times it was of glass and it is commonly believed that the one used by Christ in the Last Supper was of glass. The chalice broken by the Arians and miraculously put together by Saint Donato, bishop of Arezzo (see illustration?) was of glass. Chalices were also made of copper and pewter until these together with glass and wood were abolished in the council of Reims in 803 by Pope Leo III. Metals other than gold and silver were subject to chemical changes, glass was too

1 O'Connell

2 Sadlowski

3 Moroni, vol, VI, Calice, 256-260: see also Cath. Enc. Vol. III, Chalice

fragile and wood too porous. Like all sacred objects, the chalice could be touched only by the sacred ministers, a law which goes back to the 2nd century.

Dicta 32


The paten should be of the same type of gold or silver as the chalice. If it is of silver, it must be completely gilded; it should not have anything artfully wrought, not even a circle drawn a little deeper by a compass.

The external circular rim is to be thin so as to help collect well and easily the fragments of the sacred host.

It is to have a shallow depression in the middle, nearly as large as the chalice rim.

The larger paten, and the more precious one, which is suitable to the larger chalice, should have a circumference of thirty-eight ounces or more, according to the size of the chalice; the smaller one, thirty-two.


This small shallow plate was originally much larger and seems to have served to collect the offerings of bread made by the faithful and then to distribute the consecrated fragments.

Early patinae, called patinae ministeriales, weighed over twenty pounds1. and were of various materials like the chalice. Around the ninth century the system of consecrating the bread and distributing Communion changed and the priest himself was the one to use a paten at the altar to avoid the danger of scattering particles after the Fraction. These were much smaller and rather like the ones described above and gradually, as early as the tenth century, came to be fitted to the chalice2.

This blessed vessel is also considered “the new sepulcher of the Body and blood of Jesus Christ”3.

1 (Liber Pontificalis (I, pp. 202, 271 etc

2 see Jungmann, J. The Mass of the Roman Rite, Revised edition, Benziger Brothers, Inc., 19961, 473 3 Cath. Enc. Vol. XI, Paten

Dicta 31


The chalice will be of pure gold or, if because of limited means this is not possible, of pure silver, gilded both inside and outside. The foot can be of gilded brass, if it cannot be of gold or silver because the church is too poor. The foot will be proportionately wide, so that the chalice will stand firmly wherever it is set and cannot fall over. It will be octagonal or hexagonal or of some other similar shape.

There will be decorations appertaining to some sacred mystery of the Passion on the surface of the foot. These decorations must not however be of impediment to the hands. In no case are there to be any decorations of a vain and empty nature.

The knop in the middle, suitably decorated, will not have any projections which might make it uncomfortable to hold the chalice or which might hurt the fingers, above all at the moment in which, during the Mass, the celebrating priest holds the chalice using both his thumb and index finger. The cup, considerably narrow at the bottom, is to gradually flare out to the upper lip, which must not curve inwards or outwards.

The largest and most precious chalice, in pure gold and decorated with chased sacred images, used in solemn Masses, will be at least eighteen ounces around. It will be fourteen ounces high in all, and will be more capacious in the cathedral, collegiate, and distinguished parish churches. The small chalice, which is used in the Mass that is not solemn, will be fourteen ounces around and twelve ounces high.


The chalice has a long history, thoroughly traced by authors such as O'Connell, Sadlowski, Moroni1. In early times it was of glass and it is commonly believed that the one used by Christ in the Last Supper was of glass. The chalice broken by the Arians and miraculously put together by Saint Donato, bishop of Arezzo (see illustration?) was of glass. Chalices were also made of copper and pewter until these together with glass and wood were abolished in the council of Reims in 803 by Pope Leo III. Metals other than gold and silver were subject to chemical changes, glass was too fragile and wood too porous. Like all sacred objects, the chalice could be

1 Moroni, vol, VI, Calice, 256-260: see also Cath. Enc. Vol. III, Chalice.

touched only by the sacred ministers, a law which goes back to the 2nd century.

Dicta 32


The paten should be of the same type of gold or silver as the chalice. If it is of silver, it must be completely gilded; it should not have anything artfully wrought, not even a circle drawn a little deeper by a compass.

The external circular rim is to be thin so as to help collect well and easily the fragments of the sacred host.

It is to have a shallow depression in the middle, nearly as large as the chalice rim.

The larger paten, and the more precious one, which is suitable to the larger chalice, should have a circumference of thirty-eight ounces or more, according to the size of the chalice; the smaller one, thirty-two.


This small shallow plate was originally much larger and seems to have served to collect the offerings of bread made by the faithful and then to distribute the consecrated fragments.

Early patinae, called patinae ministeriales, weighed over twenty pounds2 and were of various materials like the chalice. Around the ninth century the system of consecrating the bread and distributing Communion changed and the priest himself was the one to use a paten at the altar to avoid the danger of scattering particles after the Fraction. These were much smaller and rather like the ones described above and gradually, as early as the tenth century, came to be fitted to the chalice3.

This blessed vessel is also considered “the new sepulcher of the Body and blood of Jesus Christ”4.

2 Liber Pontificalis (I, pp. 202, 271 etc.

3 see Jungmann, J. The Mass of the Roman Rite, Revised edition, Benziger Brothers, Inc., 19961, 473 4 Cath. Enc. Vol. XI, Paten

Dicta 33


The burse for the chalice and the paten is to be of linen or hemp. It should be as wide as the paten and made long enough to hold the chalice. It is to be closed on one side and the entire width of the material should be gathered and sewn together circularly, and tied; or it can also be sewn to make two corners, as is frequently done; but then the chalice must be placed into the burse transversally.

Dicta 34


A wooden chalice case to be used with the burse for the chalice and the paten is to be prepared; it is to be of simple work, without any profane decoration. It is to be made in such a way as to contain the chalice with the paten. It will also have a lid, by which it can be closed tightly.

Inside, it will be lined with woolen or pure silken material, called villutum [velvet], outside with leather. It will have a leather strap or a handle to use when it is carried.

Dicta 35


The corporal is to be of pure white linen, simple, not worked, and should have no silk woven into it. At the edges it is to be sewn with a simple hem. It should be at least thirty ounces long, and just as wide: it must be folded in such a way as not to show any of its edges.

In cathedral and collegiate churches there must be other larger corporals according to the size of the high altar.


The corporal was once one of the altar cloths turned up to cover the Chalice1. In the tenth century a council of Reims decreed that “the corporal upon which the Holy Sacrifice was offered must be of the finest and purest linen….because Our Saviour's Body was wrapped not in silk, but in clean linen”. It was never to remain on the altar but should be put in the Missal or with the chalice and paten2.

The Carthusians still use the corporal as pall. By the time of Innocent III there were two kinds of palls or corporals…”one which the deacon spreads

1 Baier-Stapper, p 237, Cath. Enc. Vol. IV, Corporal 2 Regino f Pr m (De Disc. Eccl., cap. Cxviii

out upon the altar, the other which he places folded upon the mouth of the chalice”3).

When a small corporal began to be used for this purpose it led to the introduction of the pall, a term already used in Borromean times4. In his lists

Borromeo combines the two as “corporal with pall”.

Gaisruck5 in volgare specifies that they are to be sewn with the “morinello” or overcast stitch.

3 (De Sacrif. Miss., II, 56

4 Marcora, La pieve di Lecco ai tempi di Federico Borromeo. Dagli atti della Visita Pastorale del 1608, Lecco, Banca Popolare di Lecco, 1979

5 Gaisruck, p. 957

Dicta 36


The burse of the corporal is to have a cross or some other sacred figure interwoven in the center of the front. On the back it should be of the same material and color, but the inside should be lined with half-silk or fine white material. All around it should be about half a cubit wide or a little more. Silken cords with a pom-pom should be inserted in the border, to draw it closed.

Dicta 37


The purificator should be of a material not too heavy but not too light, simply sewn, and should be at least eighteen ounces wide, and equally long, not less. At the center of this purificator a small cross should be embroidered.


The cross embroidered on this small cloth used to wipe the chalice and lips and hands of the priest during mass serves to distinguish it from other finger towels1. Apparently in the Middle Ages just one of these cloths was kept at the altar to be used by all2.

1 Sadlowski, p. 128

2 Cath. Enc. Vol. III, Chalice

Dicta 38


The cruets are not to be of silver, pewter, brass or some other kind of metal, but of unpainted pellucid crystal. They should be clean of dirt in every part, and each one should be properly covered with its pewter or silver lid. The more precious ones, however, should be covered with a golden lid.


Up to the year thousand there seems to have been no specific reference to the small vessels for the wine and water used in the mass. The term ampulla is used in describing the mass of the Cluniac monk Udalrico in the 11th century1 refers to pairs of ampulle in the inventories in Avignon. There were initially no regulations since the wine and water had not yet been consecrated. It was not until the synod of Wurzburg (1298) that they should preferably be of glass, pewter, gold or silver. Those not in glass were presumably marked to show their contents and an inventory of 1311 cites one with a pearl for water and a garnet for wine2. During mass they were to be set on a tray in a niche or table next to the altar on the Epistle side.

1 (Braun 415 ff. and Innocent VI (1353)

2 Braun, 436. Das christliche Altargerat in seinem Sein und in seiner Entwicklung, Munchen

Dicta 39


The cruet tray is to be of pure British pewter; the more precious one of gold, or at least of silver, chased with a pious image. The inner part will be large and flat, not decorated, so that the cruets can stand firmly.


The use of the cruet-tray was prescribed in 1570 in the Missal of Pius V when he institutionalized the use of the water cruet instead of a separate ewer for the washing of the hands1

1 Supp. Eccl. 139,150 See also note for cruets.

Dicta 40


The missal is to be well and firmly bound and glued, with rather thin wooden panels covered with leather. Nothing profane is to be worked or embossed on the leather, except for a large cross or some sacred pious image.

As a decoration for the missal, however, the leaves can be edged with gold. A more precious one, moreover, should also have a gilded leather binding, and be of a large size, and will be imprinted also with more conspicuous [capital] letters.

Dicta 41


The bookmark for the missal is a cross bar to which silken cords [ribbons] are attached. In width it will be proportionate to the thickness of the missal. There will be twelve silken cords distinguished by color for the different services and uses, and about five ounces longer than the missal. The more precious bookmark will have a transverse bar made of solid gold or gilded silver.


Also known as liturgical book headbands, they can either be attached to the binding or to small rods of bone or ivory as well as metal1.

1 Thesaurus, 272

Dicta 42


The covering of the missal should be of such length that even when folded at the bottom, it will be eight ounces longer than the leather cover of the missal. At the top, however, it should not be longer. In addition, it should be wide enough to be easily folded inside on both sides. It should be lined with linen or cotton except for that part, which hangs below, and where the folded material will be the ornament.

The edges of the missal covering on the sides and on the top will be decorated with woven silk borders, but the bottom with tasseled silk fringes. The more precious covering will have the decorated ends, the borders, and the fringes interwoven with gold or silver.


Technically a slip cover or a jacket. The photo gives a clear picture.

Dicta 43


The cushion, which is put under the missal, should not be filled with down, stuffing, or wool trimmings, but with solid wool or with deer's hair.

It should be a cubit long or a little more. It should be about eighteen ounces wide and it should be decorated in each corner by attached tassels and simply sewn. The seams will be covered with decoration of the same type and color.

Nothing else should be put under this cushion, not even a little stand, unless it is necessary to lift up the missal for a priest who is suffering from poor eyesight.

In this case the little stand, much smaller than the cushion, will be stabilized by a thin wooden crossbar that joins the four small slats of the stand in the middle.

Dicta 44


The instrument used by the chaplain to hold the candle during the pontifical masses and services is to be made of silver. The more precious one is to be made of gold, or gilded silver. It will consist of a handle fifteen ounces long with a small disk at the end, in the center of which a lunette [Latin lunula but probably referring to the cup] should be fixed to hold the candle.


We find no mention of the term bugia prior to the 14th century (possibly connected to the Avignon captivity for the term comes from the French bugie, from the Algerian city of Bugia, famous for its production of wax)1. The bugia could also have a thumb ring or a long handle in which to store an extra candle.

In Italian it is also known as palmatoria and was reserved for use by high ranking prelates.

1 Enc. Brit. 1994-2000, Bejaia

Dicta 45


The thurible, incense-boat, and spoon are to be of brass artfully chased and decorated as an expert artisan sees fit.

The more precious ones, however, are to be of silver or gold, when means allow it.

Where the Roman rite is followed this thurible should have a quadruple chain and a lid of the same metal. According to the Ambrosian custom, however, a thurible with a triple chain and without lid is used. The chains will be about two cubits and twelve ounces long.


Incense has always played an important part in religious rites of all times and the use of incense in the Christian religion can be documented in the second century. The earliest mention of a thurible or censer refers to the gift made by Constantine to the Basilica of Saint Peter's1

Once more Durandus2 interpreted the thurible symbolically: the body alluded to the body of Christ, the chains to the 4 cardinal virtues, the fire to the Holy Spirit, the smoke to the prayers rising to the throne of God.

1 Supp. Eccl. P. 262-63

2 Durandus in Rationale divinorum officiorum I, IV, c.x, n 4

Dicta 46


The Episcopal throne, set, according to the tradition of the Fathers, in a place that is both visible and important, must have a covering that is suitable to the solemnities.

Therefore the covering are to be of silk satin not silk velvet, and not interwoven with gold or silver.

The steps are to be covered with rugs or linen cloths.

Dicta 47


The seats of the ministers assisting the bishop are to be made of planks of poplar or fir; a cubit or a little more high. They are to be square in shape, so that they can stand more firmly, and be suitably painted.

Dicta 48


The faldstool is not to be as large and high as the Episcopal throne or cathedra, but much lower. In addition, it must not have anything either on the sides or on the back on which the bishop might support himself when he sits down.

It shall be made of four pieces of walnut [wood], two in the front and two in the back, gilded, and decorated with silver lamina, with a lion head projecting slightly upwards and to the side at each corner. [The faldstool] will have a firm leather seat, not filled with down, but with finely cut hair or stuffing.


The faldstool seems originally to have been a folding chair and was used by a bishop or other prelate when not in his own cathedral. Moroni says that the

lion heads alluded to the throne of Solomon1 In addition to its use as seat, it served as genuflxorium and therefore has two accompanying cushions (see dicta 50).

1 Moroni, Vol. XXIII, Faldistorio

Dicta 49


The covering of the faldstool must be lined with cotton. It should be cut in such a way that, adhering only to the seat, it will hang down to the floor on all sides.

Dicta 50


The cushions of the faldstool, one for kneeling, the other for sitting, shall be made out of silk velvet. They are to be one and a half cubits long and one cubit wide.

Dicta 51


The credence (that is that table on which are placed large vases of gold or silver, important as decoration and necessary for the divine service, and certain vestments, such as the miters, and other things of this type) should be made of well-smoothed poplar or fir boards. It should be five cubits long or a little more in proportion to the size of the church and the choir, two cubits and twelve ounces wide, and the same number of cubits and ounces high. At the back it should have two or more gradines for the vases. It should be supported underneath by two or three oak or walnut trestles to give it firmer support.

The cloth of the credence should be elegantly made of precious linen or byssus [fine linen], and it should be large enough so that in the front and on the sides it touches the floor. On the back, if possible, it should cover the gradines of the credence properly. If it is not possible, the gradines will be covered by another cloth of the same type.

The vases placed on the gradines for the decoration of the credence should have the shape of an ampulla, as will be explained below in the proper place

for vessels dedicated to the preparation of the sacred oils. They should be a cubit or a little taller. The ones that are placed in the middle should be somewhat taller. In addition, they should be made of gold or silver, with chasing that is not profane, but pious and religious.

The water bowls or basins, called fontes, should also be of the same metal, with the same chasing, but their diameter should be one and a half cubits. The pitchers [ewers] should of the same chasing, metal, and size, and be consistent with the decoration of the water basins.


In Italian the proper word for the credence is credenza, if large, and abaco, if small1

Fortescue-O'Connell2 mentions a silver salver on the credence table for the bishop's skull-cap when he does not wear it.

The pitchers are probably what are often termed ewers.

The Latin vasa in this case can well be translated as vases, although in other instances it is better translated as vessels3.

1 Thesaurus des objets religieux, Editions du patrimoine, Paris, 1999. p. 34.

2 P. 78-79.

3 Trans. note

Dicta 52


The linen cloth, which is used to wipe the hands in the sacrifice of the mass, should be made of fine linen and should be two cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. In addition, the material should be decoratively fringed at both ends, and along the sides it should be simply hemmed.

However, that which will be used in the Episcopal mass should be both of more precious linen and of larger size and more important decoration.


Also known as a manuterge or finger towel. There are two kinds of towels, one much larger one used by the priest when washing his hands in the sacristy before mass. See Borromeo's listing of towels for wiping hands1. The cloth mentioned above is used in the Mass and is usually small, serving only for drying the fingers. It is kept on the credence table. It is already mentioned in the 5th century in the Statuta Antiqua2.

1 This work, book II, dicta 94.

2 Cath. Enc. Manuterge,

Dicta 53


These books, that is the Lectionary, the Book of the Epistles, and the Book of the Gospels, should have more beautiful letters; they should be well made and bound together, and be properly and firmly covered for long use. They should be decorated as has been stated for the Missal.

In addition, it would be pious and fitting for the sacred pictures of the liturgical mysteries printed in these books in determined places to be illuminated with minium and gold. Moreover, the covering of these books should be the same as the covering of the Missal described above.


The coverings are slip covers.

Dicta 54


The covering of the fixed lectern should come down to the floor: it should be as wide as the structure of the lectern. The part on which the books are placed should be covered with leather. The covering of a moveable lectern should be as wide as the material is wide, and reach to the floor.

The covering of the podium (suggestum) or pulpit should be the same height as the pulpit itself, and wide enough to cover it completely on every side.

Note: also called cloth panel, or fall.

Dicta 55


The portable holy water pail, suitable for use in Episcopal services, (usui Officiorum Episcopalium accommodatum) is to be made of silver gilded in some parts, and chased with some pious subject.

Also, in cathedral, collegiate, and parish churches, and in other churches which are for some reason distinguished, a pail of the same metal, but not gilded, and chased with pious subjects will be used.

In churches hampered by limited means a pail made of bronze or brass is permitted.


In Borr. 1577, II, p. 144, n. 55 (see Supp. Eccl) poorer churches may use pails in copper, bronze, brass.

Dicta 56


The towel or linen cloth (sabanum) that is used to wipe the head of the baptized is to be made of byssus [fine linen] if it is the more precious one for the use of the bishop; but the one that is used by others is to be made of linen.

It will be properly and suitably bordered on all sides, whether it is of byssus or of linen. It will be three cubits long, and as wide as the material itself.

Dicta 57


The vessels of the basilical cathedral in which the holy oils are prepared must be made of silver, or at least of pure and precious British pewter.

They are to have the shape of an ampulla: that is, with a large and swelling belly, gradually moving up to a round neck without any chasing. They should have a large and open mouth. At the bottom they are to narrow gradually and be rounded off in a globular shape. The foot must be narrow at the top and larger at the bottom, so that it will be very stable.

They are to have two handles, chased where they are joined to the vessel.

They are to have a hemispherical lid, with a small cross affixed to the top, attached [to the vessel] with a pewter or silver hinge so that [when open] it will hang down completely on the back so that it will not hinder the hands of the consecrating Bishop when he blesses the oils with the sign of the cross.

On the top front of the belly a small spout will be properly and firmly soldered, from which to pour the oil. This spout will be wide at the bottom and become gradually smaller as it rises up to the same height as the vessel; at the top it will curve outward into a narrow opening.

Three vessels in the prescribed shape will be prepared: one for the oil of the holy chrism, another for the oil of extreme unction, another for the oil of the catechumens.

Each vessel is to be distinguished by an inscription in gilded capital letters. Each of the vessels of oil will be of the size that is proper to the needs of the basilical cathedral and should in any case be of such size as to be easily carried and handled in the rite of consecration.


These vessels are for the yearly consecration of the oils and are generally only found in the cathedral churches. In the Middle Ages oil containers might be of metal, horn or ivory1. It was not till the Council of Trent that the type of vessel was regulated: amphoras for consecration, small amphoras for reserve, small vessels for administration. The parish churches had their reserves while the smaller vessels that were taken to more distant places were known in English as stocks.

The large amphoras might also have a spigot at the base as noted in Supp. Eccl.2

Great importance was also set on where these oils were to be kept, always under lock and key3. . It was, for instance, believed that evildoers would not be discovered if anointed with blessed oil.

1 Supp. Eccl. 151

2 Supp. Eccl. 152

3 See Borromeo, Book I,, chapter 28, Sacristy and 332, The Church for Nuns

Dicta 58


The veils (which cover the above three vessels of the three holy oils when they are prepared on the day of the Lord's Supper) are to be about one cubit long, and as wide as the cloth is wide; the one for the chrism vessel of white silk, the other two of red silk.


Thesaurus, 289 says that the veil for the oil of the catechumens is usually green.

Dicta 59


The small ministering vessels are to be of the same number as the vessels of the holy oils, distinguished by inscriptions. They will have the same shape and also be made of silver or pewter, not of glass. They will be much smaller, so as to contain less than two pons of oil, with only one handle in the back.


These seem to be the smaller holy oil amphoras which contained the year's supply for parish churches1, in other words the oil reserves.

1 O'Connell

Dicta 60


The scissors should be made of iron, gilded in some places, and be twelve ounces long.

Dicta 61


The basin to be used in various Episcopal ministries should be made of silver, and have a deep bowl, twelve ounces across.

Dicta 62


The book of exorcisms, like the other ecclesiastical books, should be properly bound and have the covering which has been described above for the other volumes.

Dicta 63


The candleholders or candle-bearers [in wood] should be skillfully turned and properly covered with gold or colors on the top part where the large candle is inserted.

On the upper part they will be surrounded by a large iron or tin crown [drip pan], the rim turned up, to catch the drops that fall from the candle.

The other type of candleholders, which are called cancellae (is cancellas in Cb but I believe that is accusative), should be of beautifully turned wood below, but above they should have four prongs to receive the candles. They should be decorated as the others.


Since Borromeo treats the altar candlestick thoroughly in dicta 2 of Book II where they are to be of the same material as the cross, these, called cereostata in Latin, which Supp. Eccl. Supp. gives as altar candlesticks presumably refer to the larger wooden ones (indeed in the Vatican translation1 of Borromeo it says “saranno di legno”).

1 Instructionum Fabricae, translated by Massimo Marinelli, Libreria editirice vaticana, Milan, 2002

Dicta 64


The snuffers will be made of a thin iron sheet [charta ferrea] with a large round opening at the bottom, tapering to a point at the top. They will be properly joined to rods so that the candles, even if placed high, can be put out by the servers who are using the snuffers. Some should be bigger to be used with bigger candles, but some smaller for smaller ones.

Dicta 65


The banner of the patron saint of the town is to be more distinguished both in material and ornamentation than the parish banner and also larger and almost square in shape. The parish banner (which in ecclesiastical terminology is called a siparum or fanon) is to be made of strong cloth interwoven with gold or silver, or of silk. It will be three and a half cubits long and equally wide, so as to have a square shape. It is known from ancient evidence that the distinguished and most venerable banner of the emperor Constantine, which the Romans call labarum, was of this shape and interwoven with a precious cross whose image appeared in heaven.

Therefore it will be of a much more precious material where the income of the parish community permits.

It is to be painted, decorated or interwoven with the image of the saint after whom the church is named. In addition, it will be of the color required, according to the rite of the church, by the image of the saint whose banner is carried.

It will have a decoration of fringes of the same color as the banner, mixed with threads of gold or silver, all around.

It will be hung on a strong wooden shaft, on the top of which a small square cross is fastened. The shaft is to be about two cubits longer than the banner and of the same color as the banner.

Also the banner carried by the women in public supplications to identify the parish district is to be of the material, color, image, and decoration as the one described above. However, it is to be only one cubit long and wide, and with a short and slender shaft, to which likewise a small cross will be fastened on the top.

Dicta 66


The wooden clappers, used according to the church's tradition in the tenebrae of holy week, are to be made of walnut or of oak. They should be one and a half cubits long and one cubit wide. At the top they will have a hole by which to hold them [handgrip], furnished with an iron sheet. There will be four or five tongues of bronze or iron sheet attached to both sides, or the same number of wooden spheres attached to a cord, which make the noise by striking.


Borromeo describes only one type of clapper. Others are also called cog rattles, noise makers, ratchets, rattles, scrapers1.

1 Thesaurus, 352

Dicta 67


The covering of the seat on which the priest who is solemnly celebrating the sacrifice of the mass sits will be of wool or, in the more distinguished basilicas, of silk satin. It will be wide and long enough to cover the back of the seat, running from a little higher than the head of the celebrant down nearly to the floor.

Dicta 68


The hangings in the decoration of the church whether of leather or of wool are not to have any profane images of men or pictures of animals. They are to be decorated with religious and pious pictures representing the sacred mysteries and in particular with reference to the deeds of Christ the Lord, or of the saint after whom the church or chapel is named.

Dicta 69

THE LECTERNS [1574-75]

There are two types of lecterns: one is made by placing a suitable small wooden column or some other suitable support on an appropriate base, or by building a [free-standing] cupboard for the books to be used by the choir. On the top of this support a wooden panel large and long enough to hold the open books is placed in an inclined position. Or it can be made double-faced in such a way that the panels on both sides, which will meet at the top of the upper part, provide room for placing two books. It will be of walnut aptly worked, or of another wood especially painted or gilded.

The other lectern is portable and double. Its parts are made of long and narrow wooden strips joined at the middle by a pin. When lifted and carried they [the parts] come together and when opened spread apart at top and bottom. The top parts will be joined by leather upon which the book will be supported.

Here too the wood of this lectern should be skillfully decorated.

Other lecterns are made in this form, though they are not, so to speak, foldable, and in the upper part they are permanently held by wood instead of leather.

The coverings of the lecterns will have silk bands with self-fringes on both ends, three ounces long, but shorter and more modest on the other sides. The covering is to be lined with cloth. They should be long enough to touch the floor on both sides, and a little wider than the lecterns themselves.

Dicta 70


The books for use in divine offices, such as breviaries, lectionaries and others of this type listed in the first part of this book, are to be exactly like the missal we have described above.

Dicta 71


The veil of the tabernacle of the most Holy Eucharist in churches of the Roman rite will be of silk interwoven with gold or silver, commonly called brocade, or of silver or gold cloth, or at least of simple white silk. In the church of the Ambrosian rite, it will be of the same material, but red, and the size will be in proportion to the size of the main tabernacle. At the top it will be gathered, and with long fringes along its width and with tasseled decoration at either end, as is the custom. The baptistery veil is to be of white silk or at least (that is in churches of poor means) of fine white linen, but of the same size and decoration as above. It will be hung and attached to the top of the ciborium tabernacle underneath the cross.

Dicta 72


The small tabernacle [monstrance] of the most Holy Eucharist is to be of gold or of pure silver, gilded in some parts; it must at least be made of brass [copper], which must be well gilded [to look] like gold.

It is to be round in shape, one cubit high, more or less, according to the size of the large tabernacle and wide enough to hold a large host.

It must have small columns equidistant one from the other all around. These small columns, artfully fashioned, must not be of an uneven number (so as not to be an obstacle to the viewing of the sacred host on the uneven sides), but even, either four, six or eight. If they are eight they are paired.

On the top part of the small columns there is to be a decoration consisting of a Corinthian zoophorus, (known as frieze), and solid cornices upon which the hemispheric or pyramidal top of the tabernacle can rest. Attached to one part of the top will be two clasps or hooks to fasten the top of the tabernacle to the frieze.

A small square cross or the image of Christ the Lord, crucified or resurrected, will be placed on the very top.

The base supporting this type of tabernacle is to be rather wider all around, and have a hexagonal or octagonal shape, so that it will be more stable. In the middle, it will have a knob handsomely decorated but only slightly projecting, so that when held it will not be uncomfortable or injure the fingers. In the lower part of the tabernacle there must be a thin circular disk of gilded silver, proportioned in size [to that of the tabernacle] and slightly raised at the sides, which will serve as bottom and should be removable when required. In the center, on the upper part of this thin sheet a small double lunette of gold or at least of gilded silver must be fixed. Sustained by a short, slender support, this [double lunette], will project out somewhat from the bottom. The two parts will be separated from each other by the thickness of the sacred host but will be made in such a way that although both parts are firmly set into the support, they can if necessary be separated so that the fragments of the sacred host remaining in this small intermediate space can be collected.

On the bottom of this thin sheet there will be a small slender transversal tube through which a silver pin is let which firmly connects that sheet to the tabernacle.

After having built the tabernacle, a vase of circular form, of suitable size, closed on the top and solid, but open at the bottom, of crystal or of fine transparent glass must be prrocured. This will be set within the little columns of the tabernacle, so that the sacred hosts may be seen.


As Borromeo used it, the word tabernaculo in Latin was applied both to the closed aedicule meant to hold the ciborium with the unconsummated sacred species see Book I, chapter 13, as well as the ciborium itself, Latin pyxis. In older references the word tabernaculum is frequently used in the sense of ostensorium.

Theis liturgical object is not found prior to the late Middle Ages after the affirmation of the doctrine of Transubstantiation (IV Latern Council, 1215) and particularly after the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi as an official Church feast by Urban IV in 1264. (previously a prioress in Liege had had a vision and the bishop of Liege had instituted the feast in his diocese in 1246.)

Initially ciboria or reliquaries that had been adapted by adding the lunette were used again from an analogy of the body of Christ with the relic of a saint. Supp. Eccl. p. 115 The earliest type of monstrance in which the Host was displayed was similar to a cup, known in English as cup-monstrance. After the Institution of the Forty Hours' Devotion in the early 16th century four types developed (Braun, 349 and 363 ff). The two most important of these were the architectural monstrance and the rayed monstrance. In 1705 Pope Clement XI recommended the latter shape, them known as ostensorio romano, in his Instructio Clementina, 5. The architectural monstrances, or tower type which were kept in Milan, Diz. Lit. Ambrosiana: Ostensorio, developed into the most elaborate forms, particularly in Spain and Southern Italy.

The tower shape seems to reflect an analogy with the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Dicta 73


The ciborium, which is used to preserve properly and piously the most sacred Eucharist, must be of gold, or at least of pure gilded silver.

When this ciborium is made of silver, if it is not gilded inside and outside, it must at least be gilded inside.

The foot will be six ounces high, so that it can be easily and firmly held.

It will have a knob in the middle, properly decorated, with the least possible projection, so that when the ciborium is held it is not uncomfortable to hold and the fingers are not hurt above all at the time during the mass when the Holy Eucharist is ministered to the people and it [the ciborium] is held between the forefinger and the thumb.

The bowl or cup is to be round or oval, and deep, and proportionately wide to its depth, and at the center of the bottom it will have a slight round protuberance.

At the top of the ciborium there will be a narrow edge all around, projecting slightly from the rim, on which the lid will set.

The lid of the ciborium is to be either round or oval, according to the form of the ciborium, and it will rise in the middle like a pyramid. On both sides there will be small thin hooks [clasps] fit perfectly into the circle below.

A small cross or the image of the crucified or resurrected Christ will be affixed on its top. Where it cannot be done otherwise due to poverty, the lid and ciborium may be made of gilded pewter or brass [copper]1, as the Bishop sees fit.

Called ciborium in English, various earlier names included arca, canistrum, capsa, columba, custodia, tabernaculum and later ciborium2. When, after the Council of Trent, communion became a more common practice, it became larger and took on the shape of a chalice3. The smaller container, without a stem, is a pyx which could contain the Host for Benediction and was kept in the tabernacle, or as the viaticum pyx it was taken to the sick.

1 Baier Stapper, 236 Supp. Eccl.127-133

2 Supp. Eccl. 127-33

3 Baier-Stapper, p. 235

Dicta 74


The little sack in which the pyx [Viaticum pyx] is put when the sacred Eucharist is carried through mountain places and rugged hills by difficult ways is to be of well-woven silk velvet, white for the Roman rite, red according to the Ambrosian tradition. Inside it will be lined with cotton of the same color. It is to be a little larger than the pyx it encloses.

It will have a strongly sewn bottom, nicely gathered, not square, but rosette-shaped. On the top it will have strong silken cords, inserted in certain little holes in such a way that when they are drawn the mouth of the little sack is held tightly closed. These cords will be long enough so that, when necessary, they can be fastened around the neck and the pyx can hang from them.

Dicta 75



The veils to be used for the pyx or for the smaller tabernacle [ostensorium, monstrance] are to be interwoven with gold or silver, or, even better, be of gold or silver cloth with fringes of the same material all around. They are to be of the same size as the veils to be used for the chalices, or larger, according to the size of the pyx.

The larger veil to be used when carrying the most sacred Eucharist are likewise to be interwoven with gold or silver, or, if desired, also be of gold or silver, and be as wide as the fabric is wide, and six cubits long.

Dicta 76


The canopies, the one used to cover the sacred Eucharist and the other used for the solemn processions, are to be of silk or of cloth interwoven with gold or silver. However a less precious canopy can be made of half-silk or at least of “zambelloto”.

The upper part is to be covered with cotton and with an ornament all around of double bands, which will hang down for about twelve ounces and to which rather long fringes will be sewn on every side. Moreover, a shaft will be inserted between the two bands, so that attached and fixed to the cloth, it will keep the sides of the canopy well stretched. Painted poles [staves] will be set at the corners and sides of the canopy, at regular intervals, four or more depending on the size of the canopy, to lift and carry it.

The canopies are to be red, where the Ambrosian rite is followed, white where the Roman rite is used.

The third canopy to be used when the most sacred Eucharist is carried along paths and narrow by-ways shouldis to be such that, when opened into a circle, it will have a diameter of about three cubits and be somewhat pointed at the top. Besides it will be surrounded by a small band of the same material with a fringe all around.

It will be supported by one pole [staff or stave], from the top of which wooden spokes radiate out to support the canopy all around. This pole is to be so bent in the middle that, when held by the person following the priest, it will still fully cover the head of the priest.


These “umbrellas” are variously called canopies, baldachins, coverings or awnings and are used in processions not only for the blessed sacrament but also for high prelates. These umbrellas also have specific meanings, such as the large umbrella with gold and red sections, carried not fully open, that represents a basilical church. A bishop may use a canopy at his solemn reception in his own cathedral city or his first pastoral visitation to towns within his jurisdiction1

Zambellotto is a special fabric for a chasuble made of goat or camel's hair2.

1 Cath enc. Processional Canopies

2 4000 parole, p. 251

Dicta 77


Four lanterns will be prepared for use in carrying the Blessed Sacrament. These will be made of gilded or painted wood, or sometimes of very thin sheet iron. In them there will be small openings properly placed and closed by transparent horn; moreover there will be an iron pricket inside on which to insert or infix the candles. In order to carry them on high, they will be firmly fixed on poles four cubits long.

Dicta 78


The shorter candleholders, which can be used to accompany the sacred Eucharist, must be of the same shape as has been prescribed for the longer ones, but shorter so that, if required, they can be carried in the hand with the candles inserted.

Their color will be either red or white according to the tradition of the church, Ambrosian or Roman.

Dicta 79


The linens, which cover the long benches [rails] prepared for administering the Sacred Eucharist in church, are to be no less than two cubits wide and as long as the benches.

The smaller linens used when the sacred Eucharist is administered in church or to the sick are to be made of pure and fine material. They will be three cubits long and about two wide. They will have no fringes at the ends, except occasionally when determined embellishments are proper.


The purpose of the Communion cloth (also called dominical, manutergium, communion veil or houseling cloth1), was to make sure no particles of the

Host were “lost” when Communion was given. Perhaps the cloth still used

1 the latter term dating to before the 12th century and derived from ME, fr. OE husel sacrifice, Eucharist; akin to Gothic hunsi sacrifice; housel was the popular name for sacramental Communion in England

by women in 8th century Gaul to cover their hands when receiving the Host2 and sometimes called dominical could be considered an ancestor of the Communion cloth, even though Jungmann says it was not the same as the domenicale. ()”3. In Gaul from 6th-9th century laymen received Communion at the cancelli, low rails separating sanctuary from nave. While men had only to wash their hands beforehand, the women were obliged to cover them with a white cloth before receiving the Body of the Lord This cloth was later held by two acolytes 4 when Communion was administered and is still occasionally the practice in some parts of Italy, specifically Emilia Romagna5 and in other countries. Gaisruck (or Ratti, 1792)….specifies that if no more than 10 or 12 take Communion, they can do so at the steps of the altar with cloth held under… “But if it is women the curate will take care to come a few steps down and give them communion at the entrance to the large chapel….with cloth held under.” An interesting survival of this practice appears in S. Gerolamo della Carità in Rome. The balustrade (1658) that separates the Cappella Spada from the rest of the church consists of two marble angels (one with hinged wooden wing) holding a jasper Eucharistic cloth, and attributed to Antonio Giorgetti. A similar device is to be found in S. Biagio in Finale Ligure (Finalborgo) where four marble angels (attributed to Francesco Schiaffino or Domenico Bocciardo, 18th century) on either side of the entrance to the main chapel hold a marble Communion cloth. (fig. 79.2, 79.3)When the Pope in the pontificals gives communion from the throne to cardinal deacons and lay nobles, two prelates uditori di rota support a long veil of white silk with gold lace so that no fragment of the sacred Particle might fall on the ground, as happened to Alexander VI and Innocent X6. Subsequently the cloth covered the Communion bench or rail. In England there are three churches, in addition to Westminster Abbey, where the houseling cloth is still use7. The first known use of the word is in the canons of King Edgar (960)8. The houseling cloth is shown on a font (1480s) in St. Marys, Woodbridge, Sylly Suffolk, and on one in Great Glemham in a scene of the Mass. In the 16th century the cloth began to be laid over a table or bench set up between nave and sanctuary9. There would be a long Communion cloth and shorter cloths to be held by the individual

2 synod of Auxerre, 578 or 585, can. 36: Jungmann, vol. II, p. 380, note 61 3 (Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite)

4 see 14th cent. Psalter of Mary, British Museum, MS Royal 2B viii, fol. 259 v., fig. 79.1

5 as referred to us by the Dominican friar at San Domenico in Bologna

6 Moroni, vol. under Velo, vol. XC

7 in other English churches

8 (website for St. Peters, Ilton).

9 Genoa synod, 1574

communicants, a practice then dropped when the Communion paten came into use. Later the cloth was semi-permanently attached to the Communion rail and flipped over when in use. It remained in the ritus servandus10 of the Roman Missal until the 1960 revision.

10 X.6

Dicta 80


The long benches, which are used in church to give the sacred Eucharist to the faithful, should be about two cubits high and sixteen ounces wide; and they are to be nicely (smoothly) hewn.


The history of the communion rail and of the altar rail frequently coincide. Sources often confuse the two1 and it is difficult to tell whether references are to the same rail or two distinct elements. It is also called a “communion bench” but here too it is seen as an adaptation of the altar-rail2. Mention of rails is found in can. 44 Council of Laodicea3 with reference to communion (limited to men) being given at the altar. That there was a rail in the North

African Church is obvious from Augustine's warning that the guilty were not to approach for communion “lest they be sent away from the rail (de cancellis)4. In Gaul from 6th-9th century laymen received Communion at the cancelli, low rails separating sanctuary from nave5. Up to the Carolingian period the laity would receive Holy Communion at the altar (ratified Synod of Tours 567)6. and the gates were left open, although it was generally a side altar, for it was seldom granted to the laity to receive at the main altar indeed even men, let alone women, were not permitted to enter the sanctuary, a sacred area defined by the altar screen or rails. When the practice of distributing Communion at the choir-screen arose, in parish churches it was turned into a communion rail adorned with Eucharistic symbols7.. According to O'Connell Communion was not received kneeling at an altar rail until the 15th-16th century and there is nothing in the rubrics about such a rail. “If there is a fixed rail, it must have gates…and must be securely fastened if people kneel before it for Communion8. If Communion is given at the High Altar, there is generally a communion rail between the

1 see altar rail article in Cath. Enc. Vol I, “also called the communion-rail”, vol. IV, Communion Bench.

2 Enc. Cath. Vol. IV, Communion Bench, space called the chancel or pectoral.. 3 Jungmann, p. 374

4 Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite

5 see above also Jungmann, vol. II, note 43 on p 380 6 Jungmann , p. 374, notes 3,4,5

7 Baier-Stapper, Catholic Liturgics, NY, 1951, p. 82

8 O'Connell, Church Building and Furnishing. The Church's Way, London, p. 12 ff.

nave and the choir. It should be low enough so that people can kneel at it.”9. The angel balustrade in S. Girolamo della Carita' has evidently been calculated so that the person receiving Communion could kneel. The measurements given in Gaisruck10 correspond to 1 ft. 8 ½ inches. Wigley11 however gives the height of the Communion bench as 2 cubits or 2 ft. 9 in. and 16 ounces wide, or 11 inches.

The fact that Borromeo clearly distinguished between the two12 and saw fit to mention a specific Communion rail and the cloth in book II is of particular interest.


9 Foretescue/O'Connell, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, London, 1934, p. 2.

10 791. Instruct. de Sacram. Comm. (in volgare) “di banchi in numero sufficiente per li circoli o schiere delle Communioni più numerose, com’è la Pasquale, le quali banche siano alte da terra un braccio et un quarto” (Latin: Scabella oblonga, quod opus fuerint, …. quorum scabellorum altitudo sit unius cubiti et sex insuper unciarum

11 (Wigley, note 1, Chapter XV, p. 45. In the chapel railings or altar rails just described, the reader must not seek for instructions on Communion rails. These latter are placed by St. Charles among Church furniture, or rather moveables, which are defined in another book; while this one contains only what relates to the Church structure and its fixtures. For administering Holy Communion to the faithful, our Saintly author prescribes Communion benches, such as may be seen universally in use in the nearest Catholic country to us, Belgium; and he gives about two cubits (2 ft. 9 in.) as the height, and sixteen ounces (11 in.) as the breadth of these benches. This breadth is certainly very suitable for the Holy Table.

12 (see Instructiones, book I, Railings enclosing chapels and altars)

Dicta 81


The vessels used for the purification, if of gold or of silver, are not to have the shape of a chalice. They will in any case at least be of crystal, but must not be like wine cups. Pitchers of pewter are then to be prepared, large enough to contain the wine of purification, as well as smaller ampulla [cruets].

Dicta 82


The cross brought to the sick is to be made of gold, silver, or brass , or painted and gilded wood. The finely made image of Christ the Lord on it should be such as to arouse piety.

Dicta 83


The more precious portable pax-brede will be made of gold or silver; the less precious one of brass. It will be chased with some pious ornamentation and show a pious image [Pietà] in a seemly fashion. It should be eight ounces wide and about twelve ounces long, and have in the back a handle of the same metal.


The kiss has always been considered a sign of respect and not only of love1. The kiss of peace as described by Moroni2 was originally to be exchanged by persons of the same sex and was associated with the receiving of Communion. In the early Middle Ages it apparently led to abuses such as the men furtively kissing the women. The Franciscans seem to be the first to have introduced the instrumentum pacis or osculatorium, known as pax board or pax brede in English. In line with this is the separation of the sexes in the church, not only for Communion, but in general as prescribed by Borromeo3. In Rome the pax brede was adopted in the 15th century but spread in Italy above all in the 16th century4.. As described by Moroni it has a Pietà on it and is of silver, gold or another metal but that it could also be painted.

1 Enc. Cath. Vol VIII, Kiss.

2 Moroni, vol. L, Pace della Messa and XI, p. 226

3 Gaisruck 789 790 (Ratti 1781-2) Il Curato…osservi diligentemente il decreto del primo nostro Concilio provinciale, di communicare gli huomini separatamente dalle donne. [Either by giving each separate days, or setting up 2 altars] li quali siano uno per banda, di modo che non siano necessitate a incontrarsi le donne con gli humini nell'andare e ritornare dalla Communione.

4 Supp. Eccl.p. 315

Dicta 84


The surplice should be made of pure linen or hemp, not unbleached, but white, not too coarse, but rather fine.

It should have long gathered sleeves that reach to the tips of the fingers. They can be about two cubits long. However, they should be about four cubits in circumference. The neckline should be round rather than square and wide enough for the head.

It [the surplice]+should not in any way be cut or open on the front. It should extend to below the knees and almost to the middle of the calves.

On the lower edge it should be about thirteen cubits wide or about eight cubits at the shoulders so that it will appear richly gathered and full in accordance with the width of the shoulders and the size of the body.

In no part should it have elegant or artful decoration, and above all no worldly decoration on the shoulders.


This loose large-sleeved tunic is a liturgical vestment worn by all the clerics and , unlike the alb, is never girded. Until the thirteenth century it reached to the feet. The name is derived from superpelliceum since it was worn over fur clothing as noted by Durandus in the thirteenth century, and it probably first appeared in France or England. It seems to have been used in the twelfth century and is mentioned in a bull of Clemens IV (1265- 68)1 and is mentioned in the Pontificals in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is also called a cotta2.

In the Middle Ages, unlike the alb, it was not decorated, and it reached to the feet. It was gradually shortened and lace began to be abundantly applied in the sixteenth century with the development of the lace industry.

The rochet resembles the surplice but is narrower and trimmed with lace and can only be worn by ecclesiastics when their use has been granted by a papal indult. It is not a sacred vestment as such. Decree of Urban VII prefixed to the Roman Missal3

1 Braun, Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und Orient, p. 137, 1907

2 Braun, op. cit.,p. 142

3 Cath. Enc. Vol. XIV, Surplice

Dicta 85


A vessel for the water to be blessed is to be provided, not made of clay, terracotta, or earthenware, but of bronze [brass], lined with tin, with two handles, a large opening, and a bottom a little smaller than the mouth, but such as to keep the vessel stable.

The laver [Latin polubrum], that is the vessel to wash the priest's hands, and the smaller vessel to pour the water when he engages in other sacred services outside the sacrifice of the Mass, are to be of similar suitable workmanship and size. They will be of silver, or at least precious tin [pewter], with some pious ornament engraved or set thereon.

The larger towels (in addition to those to be hung in the sacristy, for wiping hands other than those used at the altar) are not to be of a heavy fabric, and will be fittingly decorated in every part, with fringes added on both ends. They will be three cubits long, but as wide as the loom width.

Dicta 86


The vessels for the holy oils to be used in a rural parish church are to be large according to the number of churches to which the oils will be distributed.

The vessels are to be of silver or at least of precious pewter, distinguished from each other by letters so that each oil can be recognized, as will be explained below.

They are to be like small flasks, and have two lids, one to be inserted in the opening of the vessel, the other to cover the neck of the vessel outside: both will be screwed on in such a way that, when these are tightly closed, the oil will not leak out.

There is to be a box in which to keep and carry the vessels of the sacred oils to and from the cathedral [to get the oils] at the established time of Easter.

This box is to be of wood, divided into three parts, so that in each part a vessel of sacred oil with its cotton flock may be properly placed.

The box will be decorously covered all around with leather, and inside it will be lined with red silk.

It will have a lid that is not flat outside but slightly convex.

It will be closed by a key and a lock in such a way that it will be open when it is taken to get the sacred oils, and that after consigning the oils, the minister of the Cathedral can

close it by pressing his finger on the top. Then it cannot be opened by any other key but that which is kept by the provost.


These apparently are the smaller containers in which supply for each parish or church is kept for the year.

Dicta 87


If because of limited means the vessels to preserve the holy oils in a parish church cannot be made of silver, let them be made of pure and noble pewter. They are to be polished and perfectly clean.

There will be three vessels, round in shape and no different from each other. They will be set close together to form a triangle.

A single solid lid will cover all three of these vessels together It will be made in such a way that it protects the vessels on every side. When they are opened, one side of the lid will remain attached, uncovering the whole set of vessels contained within.

This lid, although of once piece, will be divided into three round compartments, with three depressions on the inside: it will however be slightly convex on the outside. (The cotton flock that covers the holy oil when it is used for the Sacraments is to be placed in these depressions.) Inside and outside letters identifying the vessel of each oil will be clearly written in each compartment.

In one vessel the oil of the chrism will be preserved. In the second, the oil of the catechumens. The lid of the vessel of the sacred chrism will be inscribed with the letters CHR. The one covering the vessel of the oil of the catechumens will be inscribed CATH. In the third vessel another very small vessel, of silver, or of pewter, or of willow will be inserted, covered by a lid. In this vessel salt will be preserved so that when the salt must be refilled, this small vessel can be safely taken out and the danger of spilling the sacred oil or of mixing it with the salt will be avoided.

In addition let a box with a lid (a cotyla, called scatulum), be made of walnut or some other solid well-turned material, completely covered with leather. The lid, also overed with leather will be decorated with embossed and gilded ornamentation.

Both the box and the lid will be lined with white silk.

The box itself is to be made somewhat lower than the height of the vessels, making it easy to open without overturning it.

A small pouch is to be made in white silk, for use [when it is to be taken to] in mountain places where the bishop has given permission to minister baptism in another church other than in the parish church, which is too far away.


These seem to be what are known currently as holy oil stocks. There is no mention in this description of an inscription on the third vessel as being that of Ext. Unc. as listed in the following chapter. In addition Borromeo clearly says in Docta 88 that the vessel for the oil of Extreme Unction is to be kept separate from the vessels of the other holy oils(1)

The third vessel therefore is simply a support for the tinier vessel for salt. See also illustration in Thesaurus, and Supp. Eccl. p. 154 even though the latter says that the three oils can be set together and soldered onto a tray or kept in special boxes.

1. See visitation inventory Cesano, Church of S. Giovanni: inventory of 1573

Dicta 88


The vessel of the holy oil of the Extreme Unction is to be of silver or of precious pewter. and kept separate from the other vessels of holy oils.

A lid somewhat hollowed out in the center is to be fastened to the vessel in such a way that when it is opened, it will not detach.

It is to be inscribed EXT.UNC.

A box will be made as described above to protect this vessel.

Likewise a silk sack of violet color of the same shape as that prescribed for the vessel of the chrism and that of the sacred oil of the catechumens will be made.

The bottom will have not a square but a round rosette-like shape. It will also have cords long enough so that the pastor or the curator of souls can hang the vessel around his neck.

Dicta 89


There is to be a specific vessel that takes the baptismal water to each ecclesiastic parish in the city and the cathedral churches and in the Diocese and the Praepositural churches on Holy Saturday and on the eve of Pentecost. Each pastor will prepare a small well-made phial of silver or fine pewter which only he and no one else will use.

This phial is to be such as to hold two or three ounces of water. It will also have a lid attached with a small chain and which can be screwed on, and another small chain, three ounces longer than the lid, which can be used to carry it. A silk cord will be attached to this small chain to hang around the neck of the priest when it is being transported.

Dicta 90


The container prepared to preserve the sacred hosts is to have a lid, be round in shape and be made of silver or at least of well-turned polished wood or some other dignified material suitably decorated. On the inside it will be lined with silk.

It will be four or more ounces wide so that the hosts can be easily taken out.

Another container will be prepared to hold the smaller hosts. This will be of the same material, craftsmanship, and decoration, but larger, with a diameter of six or more ounces so as to hold more [or fewer] hosts according to the place.


Mention is made in Supp. Eccl.(1) of a host-container for unconsecrated hosts. Thesaurus(2) also mentions a host box for unconsecrated hosts. Braun(3) lists the first inventories in which it is mentioned and dating to the 12th century. In the thirteenth century there were precise norms Synod of Worchester, 1240, Synod of Exeter, 1287. He also quotes

Borromeo's description, with the simpler and larger container for the smaller hosts for the communion of the faithful. Then there is the box for the larger host of the celebrant that can be covered by a host-stopper disk, made of metal and covered in white silk and with a ring so it can be raised, that keeps the host in shape.

1. Supp. Eccl., 147.

2. Thesaurus, 146.

3. Pp. 454 ff. as quoted in Supp. Eccl.

Dicta 91


A vessel with two handles, like a basin, made of brass or bronze is to be provided, measuring a cubit and eight ounces from one lip to the other, according to the size of the ecclesiastical furnishing. It should be wide all around and with a high spout, through which, as if through a channel, the water can be poured slowly from there into the sacrarium. This vessel is to be used only to rinse chalices and wash corporals.


In Gaisruck(1), the reference in Italian is to a vessel of brass or copper (un vaso d’ottone o di rame).

Not only must the vessel be used only for this specific purpose, but it was also specified even earlier who was not to touch these holy objects . Sadlowski says that Gratian decreed that “all women….even nuns….were forbidden to handle the sacred vessels and vestments.” (2). He also refers that Thomassinus (1619-1695)noted that the Council of Saumer (1253) in its thirdd canon ordered that corporals should be washed by a deacon or a priest vested….then those linens and other sacred furnishings of the altar were to be washed by a pious virgin or by a matron whose life was above suspicion(3)

1. Instr. Varie, 957

2. Sadlowski, Sacred Furnishings of Churches, 1951. chapter The Law on Sacred Furnishings in Gratian, p. 8

3. Sadlowski, op.cit, note 15, p. 14

Dicta 92


The boxes of the corporals will be of fine and suitably decorated wood, on the inside lined with silk or fine linen cloth. They will be square in shape.

The boxes of the purificators will be made and lined in the same way.

Dicta 93


A decorous carpet should be procured to cover the place in the sacristy where the priest going to celebrate the sacred mystery vests.

However, where due to lack of means this cannot be done, instead of a carpet there is to be a platform of latticework six ounces higher than the floor. It is to consist of small square holes, no more than three ounces wide, so as not to injure the feet of the standing priest.

Dicta 94


The towels, which are prepared in the sacristy for wiping hands, are to be made of that type of material which is called damascenum [damask], as wide as the loom width of the material and eight cubits, more or less, long, according to how high or low the place [where they are put] is. These towels will be hung on a turned wooden support, placed up high and rotating on the iron rod that supports it. The ends of these towels are to be hung low enough so that a standing man can use them. They will be tied together by strings at the two ends so they can be pulled around the cylindrical wooden support.


Roller towels of this sort are still to be found in churches, as in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Orvieto.

Dicta 95


The many and different cards prescribed above, which are hung up in the sacristy, are not to be on oak, walnut or any dark wood, but on fir or some other kind of light colored wood so that, thanks to the light color of the wood, the written pages glued to them will not become darker but be clearer.

These tablets will have a decorative frame on all sides, polished or finely painted, or even gilded, according to the kind of page attached to the tablet.

Dicta 96


The catafalques, which are called “tumbas” [tomb, catafalque], to be used for the celebration of the divine office for the dead, may be arched or with pointed cusps.

The coverlet of the catafalque, spread over the base set under it, will be made at least of a black cloth, possibly woolen, or the base can be painted black with white crosses and skulls.

A pall for covering the corpse or the catafalque is to be prepared: that of the catafalque without a cross, but the one for the corpse will have a white cross in the middle.

But both are to be black and, unless a more precious one is preferred, be of silk with a pile, known as villutum [velvet], or at least of wool.

Dicta 97


The crosses of the catafalque will be made at least of brass or of wood properly painted. To keep them upright, they will be set in marble or at least wooden bases with an upright square hole in which to put the shaft.

Horizontally they are to be two cubits wide, and equally high, not counting the handle [shaft].

Dicta 98


The candleholders of the catafalque will be made of iron, two and one half cubits high. They will be supported by a stable base, which is to have the shape of a tripod or of some other very stable form so that they will not fall because of the height or weight of the candles. They will also have a sheet-iron crown all around the upper part, with turned up edges to retain the melting wax.

A pointed iron [pricket] will be affixed at the center of the crown into which the small container for the candle will be set.

Dicta 99


The tripod for burning incense during masses and solemn vespers will consist of a plate or a brazier, in which the fire or coals are kept. It is to be of iron or of brass.A spoon with a hooked handle and tongs to pick up the coals will be added to this tripod.

The containers in which the oil for the lamps is kept are to be of stone or at least of oak. They will have well-fitting lids.

The vessel or guttus(1) into which the oil for is poured from the containers, is to be of tin or at least of thin sheet-iron with a rather wide mouth. From this a beak-shaped spout will project, through which the oil can flow slowly into the lamps.

There will also be a dipper(2) to pour the oil from the stone or oak containers into the ewer. The handle of this dipper should be curved at the end so that it can be hung.


1. gutus, L. narrow-necked vessel

2. Marcora translates this as mestolo or dipper, while infundibulum is funnel. However since this has a handle that is curved it may very well be dipper.