Acolyte: A server: a lay assistant, often a boy, one of whose functions is to
light and extinguish the candles on the altar before and after the service.
Alb: A long white linen vestment with straight sleeves.
Alms bason: A collection plate in which are collected the offerings of the people.
Altar: The Holy Table, the Communion Table.
Aumbry: A receptacle made either in the wall or attached to the wall of the
chancel or sacristy to contain the consecrated elements, holy oils, or sacred vessels.
Amice: A vestment consisting of a linen neck piece or collar, which is worn
with the alb. Originally a covering for the head, as well as the neck.
Antependium: The hanging or screen in front of an altar: frontal. Sometimes
used in reference to the pulpit cloth.
Apse: A semi-circular or polygonal termination of a choir or chancel.
Aspergillum: A liturgical implement used to sprinkle holy water.
Baguette: A long, plain, or decorated band of wood suspended from a cornice to
enhance the beauty of a dossal.
Baldacchino: A canopy, which covers the altar.
Baptistry: In liturgical churches, wherever the font is located; in Baptist, or
other churches which practice immersion, usually a large tank in the very front
of the church, set into the platform or behind a communion table or altar.
Bier: The carriage upon which the coffin is placed in the church.
Biretta: A stiff four-sided cap worn by the clergy.
Bishop's Chair: The chair (cathedra) in a cathedral, reserved exclusively for
the bishop of the diocese.
Burse: The case for the corporal.
Canons: The laws of the Episcopal Church; also, the members of the chapter of a
Cassock: The long under garment worn by the minister. It is usually black.
There are two styles commonly in use: The Roman, which is buttoned down the
front; and the Anglican, which is buttoned at the side.
Cathedra: The seat of the bishop of a diocese.
Catholic: Universal, worldwide ecumenical. The word refers to the ancient
creeds of the whole Christian church; or the whole body of the church. The word
is not the sole property of the Roman Catholic Church.
Cere-cloth: One of the three traditional cloths laid upon the top of the altar.
It is a waxed cloth, designed to protect the fair linen from the dampness and
moisture of the stone altar top.
Censer: A brass or silver pot in which incense is burned.
Chalice: The cup used at the Holy Communion.
Chancel: The east end, so called, of a church.
Chapel: A building or portion of one used for worship.
Chaplain: A clergyman responsible for spiritual administration in a household,
institution, or organization.
Chasuble: A loose vestment with neck aperture and worn over the alb.
Chimere: A long garment of black or scarlet with armholes, but no sleeves,
which is worn by bishops over the rochet.
Choir: The choristers; also, the part of the chancel between the nave and the
Ciborium: A covered cup to hold the Sacramental Bread; a canopy of wood or
stone or marble, supported by four or more pillars covering an altar.
Cincture: The girdle of a cassock.
Clerestory: The wall above the arches and pillars in the church that has
roofed-over side walls.
Cloister: A covered passageway, usually open on one side into a court. The
passageway connects the church with a parsonage or a school building or a parish house.
Cope: A long cape-shaped vestment (originally another form of chasuble).
Corporal: A square linen cloth used upon the altar at Communion.
Corpus: The word means the body and refers to the representation of the Lord's
body upon the cross.
Cotta: A short white garment occasionally used by choristers over the
cassock. It is not as long or as full as the surplice, although it is the same vestment.
Credence: A shelf, or a table on the epistle side of the altar, upon which the
communion silver rests until used at the altar.
Crossing: The place where the transept crosses the nave.
Crozier (pastoral staff): The staff of a bishop, patriarch, abbot or priest.
Crucifer: The one who carries the cross.
Crucifix: A cross with a representation of our Lord's body (corpus) upon it.
Cruet or ampulla: The receptacle for wine and for water.
Crypt: A vault beneath a church.
Deacon’s step: The middle or second step approaching the altar.
Dossal or dorsal: A curtain of rich fabric behind the altar or communion table.
East end of a church: The end where the altar stands, even if it is not
actually in the east.
Elements: The materials used in the Sacraments appointed by Christ: water,
wine, and bread.
Epistle side: The side of the altar at which the Epistle is read, the right as
the congregation sees it.
Eucharistic lights: Two candles placed at either end of the altar.
Ewer: The pitcher for holding the water for the font and for the lavabo basin.
Fair linen: The principal covering of the top of the altar. It hangs over the
sides of the altar almost to the floor.
Flagon: A large covered glass or metal container for a reserve of wine, or
grape juice depending upon the church.
Font: The receptacle of stone, metal or wood, which holds the water for the
Footpace: The pavement or top step before the altar.
Frontal: A covering of cloth that hangs before the front of the altar, covering
the entire front of the altar.
Frontlet or superfrontal: A short cover for the top of the altar frontal.
Girdle: A rope, usually made of white cotton, tied around the waist over the alb.
Gospel side: The side of the altar at which the Gospel is read, the left as the
congregation sees it.
Gradine: A shelf behind the altar upon which the reredos sits. It is also
called a retable.
Hood: A shield-shaped hood or panel at the back of a cope; also, the academic
vesture given by a college in token of a degree.
Host: The consecrated bread or wafer of the Holy Communion.
: Greek letters that spell the Greek word for fish and are the initials
of the Greek saying Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior
. The Greek initials
The Greek name for Christ is Ίησοῦς (anglicized as Christos
and note the Χ
that gives rise to Xmas
). The full Greek phrase is
"Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ".
Lantern: The open tower above the crossing in a church.
Lavabo: A bowl of metal or glass used for the washing of the priest’s hands
during the celebration.
Lay: Referring to members of a community (Christian or otherwise) who are not
ordained or otherwise "official". For example, lay readers are members of a
congregation other than clergy who read during services.
Lectern: A stand near the chancel on which rests the Bible.
Litany Desk: Very similar in shape to the prie-dieu, with a wider shelf and
rest for litany hook.
Liturgical colors: The colors used in the church during the course of the year;
white, black, red, violet, green, rose, ash and blue.
Maniple: A scarf which hangs from the left arm over the alb as part of the
Mensa: The top of the altar.
Missal: The book containing the Communion Service, Collects, Epistle and
Gospels, sometimes referred to as the Altar Book.
Missal-stand: The desk on the altar upon which the missal rests.
Narthex: The vestibule or closed-in porch across the building at the rear of
Nave: The central division of the church in which the congregation is seated.
Office: An authorized form of worship: daily offices of Morning or Evening
Prayer; an occasional office: Burial office.
Order: A religious fraternity.
Orders: In the Anglican and Eastern Church these three orders of the ministry –
bishop, priest, and deacon; in the Roman Church – priest, deacon, and subdeacon.
Office lights: Candlesticks, sometimes used on the altar during the offices.
Orphrey: A wide band of decorated material originally used for covering seams
of vestments. Now mostly used for decorative use on vestments and to embellish the dossal.
Pall: The linen cover for the chalice; also, the cover for a coffin.
Paraments: A word commonly used to designate the frontal of the altar and other
hangings which may decorate a pulpit or lectern.
Paschal candle: A candle lighted on Easter Even and extinguished on Ascension.
Pastoral staff (crozier): The staff of a bishop, patriarch, abbot or prior.
Paten: The silver or gold plate for the bread at the Holy Communion.
Pectoral cross: A cross which hangs on the breast of a bishop.
Predella: A step or base beneath an altar.
Prie-dieu: The prie-dieu is more commonly called a prayer desk.
Processional cross: A cross affixed to the end of a staff which is carried at
the head of a procession.
Protecting cloth: A cloth placed over the fair linen when there is not a
service, designed to protect the linen from dust and dirt.
Purificator: A small linen napkin used to wipe the Sacred Vessels after Holy
Pyx: A covered receptacle for the Sacrament.
Rail: The altar rail between the choir and the sanctuary.
Reredos: A decorated panel behind an altar. It is usually of wood or stone. The
reredos is often made elaborate with sculpture, carvings, and painting.
Retable: A shelf which supports the reredos.
Riddels: Curtains at either side of an altar.
Rochet: A long white linen vestment.
Rood: The crucifix, with figures of St. Mary and St. John.
Rood Screen: A screen with the rood upon it. A rood beam is a beam across a
church with the rood on it.
Sacristy: The place where the clergy vest, and where the sacred vessels and
vestments are kept secure.
Sanctuary: The sacred portion of the church in which the altar stands.
Screen: Carved open woodwork, or stone.
Sedilia: The seats for the clergy within the sanctuary, on the south side.
Server: An acolyte.
Stall: Individual seats in the choir are usually called stalls.
Stole: A long narrow band of silk or brocade worn over the shoulders of the
Subdeacon’s step: The first of the three steps to the altar.
Surplice: A white linen vestment worn by the clergy over the cassock.
Tabernacle: A locked safe used for the reservation of the Sacrament.
Tester: A flat canopy or covering over a pulpit, altar or tomb.
Tippet: A black scarf worn by the clergy.
Transepts: The arms of a cruciform church.
Triptych: A three-paneled painting or carving, usually behind the altar.
Veil: A covering for the chalice.
Verger: One who carries the verge or staff before a cathedral or collegiate
dignitary. A custom in the Church of England. In the American Church usually an
usher who is paid by the church, oftentimes the Sacristan.
Vestment: An ecclesiastical garment worn for church services; also, coverings
for the altar.
Wafer: A thin disk of unleavened bread used in the Communion.