World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0004445998
Reproduction Date:

Title: Antependium  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Embolism (liturgy), Ad orientem, Versus populum, Canon of the Mass, Liturgical reforms of Pope Pius XII
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The altar in St Mary's Anglican Church, Redcliffe, Bristol, England. It is decorated with an elaborate frontal in green, a colour typically associated with the seasons after Epiphany and Pentecost.

An antependium (from Latin ante- and pendēre "to hang before"; pl: antependia), also known as a parament or hanging, or, when speaking specifically of the hanging for the altar, an altar frontal (Latin: pallium altaris), is a decorative piece, usually of textile, but also metalwork, stone or other material that can adorn a Christian altar, lectern, pulpit, or table (as opposed to the vestments worn by the minister or priest). Specifically, and as the etymology of the word suggests, an antependium hangs down in front of whatever it covers, and is to be distinguished from the altar linens which are used in the service of the Eucharist, and an altar cloth which covers the top of the altar table (mensa).

Types of antipendia

Danish Romanesque gold antependium, once set with gems, c. 1200-1225

Western Christianity

Antependium is the word used for elaborate fixed altar frontals, which in large churches, and especially in the Ottonian art of the Early Medieval period, were sometimes of gold studded with gems, enamels and ivories, and in other periods and churches often carved stone, painted wood panel, stucco, or other materials, such as azuelo tiling in Portugal.

When the front of an altar is elaborately carved or painted, the additional cloth altar frontal normally reaches down only a few inches from the top of the altar table; this is called a 'frontlet'. In other cases it may reach to the floor (the "frontal", properly so called). In both situations, it will usually cover the entire width of the altar. A "Jacobean frontal" will cover the entire altar, reaching down to the floor on all four sides.

Altar frontal in tempera paint on wood panel and stucco, Spain, Catalonia c. 1250, depicting the life of St Martin.[1]

The Anglican Canons of 1603 order that the Lord's Table should be "covered, in time of Divine Service, with a carpet of silk or other decent stuff, thought meet by the Ordinary of the place" (can. 82).[2]

Covers for lecterns and pulpits are generally similar to a frontlet, normally covering the "desk" of the lectern or pulpit and handing down about a foot or longer in front (visible from the congregation).

Eastern Christianity

Russian Orthodox priest standing in front of a fully vested altar (Düsseldorf, Germany)

In the Orthodox Church, the Holy Table (altar) may be covered with one or two coverings. There is always an outer frontal, covering the top of the Holy Table and hanging down several inches on all four sides. This kind is used alone if the front of the Holy Table is elaborately carved or decorateed . For a "fully vested" Holy Table a second, inner hanging is used. This covers the Holy Table fully on the top and hangs down to the floor on all four sides.

The analogia (icon stands) are covered with a covering known as a proskynitarion. Similar to the coverings used on the Holy Table there may, again, be only one outer covering or a second, inner covering that hangs to the floor (though, in this case, sometimes only in the front and back).


A cloth antependium is normally of the same colour and fabric as the vestments worn by the clergy. The fabric may vary from very simple material such as cotton or wool, to exquisitely wrought damasks, fine watermarked silk, velvet, or satin. Embellishment is commonly by means of decorative bands of material called orphreys, embroidery (sometimes in gold or silver thread, or making use of pearls and semi-precious stones) or appliqués, fringes and tassels, all of a complementary colour to the fabric. The most frequently used symbol on both vestments and hangings is the cross. The antependium is normally lined in satin, using a matching hue.


Paraments hanging from an Advent wreath in a Methodist church.

The colours used tend to be fixed by the liturgical tradition of each denomination. Most Western Christian churches that observe a developed liturgical tradition use white, gold, red, green, violet and black, with each being used on specified occasions. A rose colour may be employed for the fourth Sunday (Laetare Sunday) in Lent and the third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday) in Advent. In Anglican circles, blue is sometimes prescribed for feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary (see liturgical colours) although it is also used, unofficially, in some areas of the Roman Catholic Church. Among Eastern Christians, there tend to be two types of vestments: somber (dark) ones and festal (bright) ones. Beyond that, no specific colours are officially required. Among groups such as the Russian Orthodox Church, a pattern of fixed colours has developed, somewhat similar to that used in the West, although they are not, strictly speaking, required.

Other usages

Antipendium can also be used to describe the front of the altar itself, especially if it is elaborately carved or gilded. The famous Pala d'Oro in St. Mark's Basilica in Venice originated as an antependium, although it is used as a reredos now.

See also


  1. ^ "Altar Frontal with Christ in Majesty and the Life of Saint Martin".  
  2. ^ Cross, F. L., ed. (1957) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press; p. 530

External links

  • Altar Frontal article from the Catholic Encyclopedia
  • Orthodox altar with red frontal
  • Jacobean Frontal St. John's Church, Edinburgh, Scotland
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.