The Baldacchino

The term baldacchino may refer to either a cloth canopy used in eucharistic processions, or the architectual stylized canopy which is placed over the main altar of a church.  It was once called  “ciborium”, from the Greek kiborion (the globular seed-pod of the lotus, used as a drinking-cup) because of the similarity of its dome top to an inverted cup.

Though it certainly enhances the impressive design of an altar, its meaning is much deeper. We have all heard the scriptures which call the Church the Bride of Christ. The baldacchino reminds us that Christ and the Church are united as bride and groom. The Jews have a custom at weddings where the bridal couple is wed underneath a silk canopy, called a chuppa, signifying their union as one. This same canopy hangs over the altar at Mass. Here the bridegroom, who is Christ, performs his spousal duty for his bride the Church. This is why the priesthood has a spousal meaning.

“All the glory of the king’s daughter is within in golden borders, clothed round about with varieties.After her shall virgins be brought to the king: her neighbours shall be brought to thee. They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing: they shall be brought into the temple of the king.”–Ps. 44 : 14-16

An adorned chuppah

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