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Factsheet 5

Church Furniture The furniture of a church can provide clues about the way in which people worship in that place. Church furniture is meant to be functional as well as decorative. Christians come together to worship by hearing the word of God read from the bible, and to sense the presence of God with them in sacraments - outward and visible signs of things spiritual and unseen. The sacrament of Baptism uses water as the outward and visible sign The sacrament of Holy Communion, focuses attention on God’s presence with his people when they share the bread and wine, remembering the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. Altar The word is derived from the Latin altare which means a place or structure where sacrifice is offered. The service of Holy Communion (also known as Eucharist or Mass) is a remembrance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. The altar reminds Christians of the table where Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples (the Last Supper) on the night before he died on the cross. Because of the importance attached to this act of worship it has become customary to position the altar in a prominent place. The Nave Altar

Font The word is derived from the Latin fons meaning

spring of water. The font is the container for the water







(Christening). It is usually made of stone and is often positioned near the door of the church because baptism is the symbol of entering into the life of the church and becoming a member of the community of Christian faith. When the font in the picture is not being used it is placed in a chapel at the West End of the Minster One of the two fonts in York Minster

near the Great West doors.

Produced by York Minster Centre for School Visits © Dean & Chapter of York 2006

Church Furniture Factsheet 5

Lectern The word is derived from the Latin legere meaning

to read. The lectern is a bookstand on which the Bible or other service books are placed. It may be made of metal or wood often taking the form of an eagle (or pelican) with outstretched wings, which make a perfect bookstand. In churches without a pulpit, the sermon may be preached from the lectern.

Pulpit From the Latin pulpitum meaning platform. This is a raised platform from which a sermon is preached. The roof-like structure sometimes found over a pulpit is a sounding-board to improve the audibility of the preacher. Preaching is an important means of teaching the Christian faith but the pulpit, as a piece of church furniture, does not have such a ceremonial significance as the altar or font. In the early centuries of Christianity sermons would have been preached by the bishop from his throne (cathedra) or from behind the altar.

Cathedra A church in which a bishop’s cathedra is placed is known as a cathedral. The term comes from the Greek word for chair and continued to be used in Latin to refer to the throne for a bishop. The cathedra has always been an important symbol associated with the bishop’s authority. It pre-dates many of the distinctive vestments which later came to distinguish a bishop from other clergy.

Produced by York Minster Centre for School Visits Š Dean & Chapter of York 2006

Church Furniture  

What are altars, pulpits, lecterns, fonts and cathedras? How did they get their names and what are they used for?

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