A Ciborium of the Seventeenth Century Style

The ciboria of the antique and medieval periods tend to shorter and made up angular geometry; rectangular, square, octagonal and so on.  They tend to be very sober in their form as well as their decoration. As we move into the renaissance period and thereafter, no doubt in great part being influenced by the great ciborium of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, begin to introduce curvilinear forms, including forms that sometimes give the ornamental appearance of drapery, tassels and the like -- which if course, ties back to one part of the history of these altar canopies: those which were made from rich textiles, sometimes changing to match the liturgical colour of the day or liturgical season. 

This is certainly the case of the ciborium found within the region of Umbria, which also explains the epigraphic text found on it, part of which can be seen on the top of the ciborium: "IN HONOREM S. IVVENALIS" (In honour of St. Juvenal) -- a fourth century bishop and marty considered the first bishop of Narni in Umbria in which diocese this ciborium is located. 

The ciborium itself is dated to the period of 1670-1678, designed by Guiseppe Paglia, composed of white, grey and red Cottanello marble, with the top portion being carved in wood. It is majestic, standing at over six metres (20 ft.) in height and is three metres (10 ft.) wide and deep, thus making for beautiful, harmonious proportions. 

I mentioned stylistic cues that might well have come from that of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome which was build between 1623-1634, just a few decades before this one. Here is the top portion for some comparison:

Finally, here is a closer look at the altar itself. which was also designed by Paglia at the same time utilizing inlaid, polychrome marbles of Cross, crown, and two lambs.

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.