More Examples of the Pax Tablet or Pax Brede

As we have noted before, the pax instrument -- also called a pax brede (board), osculatorium, or instrumentum pacis -- was a tablet that was devised in the course of the middle ages as a more sanitary means of passing the peace during liturgies -- peace that is otherwise passed by means of a ceremonial kiss or embrace. It is an object which found its historical expressions, seemingly originating in Catholic England, ranging from the thirteenth century right up until the twentieth century -- though in modern times its use has primarily been reserved to pontifical liturgies and one might also see its continued use in some rites such as the Dominican rite. In this regard, its use still might be seen occasionally today within the context of the celebration of the more ancient liturgical forms, though even there it is rare.

The Pax being used at a Pontifical Mass in Ss. Trinita dei Pellegrini in Rome. On the right you can see how these instruments were often constructed in order to facilitate being held.

The shape of the Pax varied. In terms of the materials used in its construction, it was frequently seen in metal but one can also find examples made of ivory or other carved bone or also wood. They might come in the shape of discs or tablets, and all of them generally have some sort of handle on the back by which to hold it out to be kissed. Various church inventories suggest that some churches had more ornate versions of the Pax which were used for festal occasions, while other simpler one's were used for ferial or penitential times. 

In terms of the depictions placed upon the Pax, this too varied. One of the most common themes seen in the many extant examples include images of Christ crucified, the Pieta, or the Deposition. Marian versions are perhaps the next most common theme amongst the survivals, but many examples can also be found of the Pax depicting saints that would have been popular or meaningful to that locale -- such as depictions of Ss. Peter and Paul or St. Lawrence. 

We offer you today a selection of pax instruments coming from various centuries and showing some of the different forms and types of decoration that went hand in hand with them.

1524 - depicting the deposition of Christ

1828 - St. Charles Borromeo offering Mass

1795 - Virgin and Child

1686 - St. Andrew


1600's -Ss. Peter and Paul

ca. 1500's - Resurrected Christ with instruments of the Passion

1776 - Deposition

1789 - a unique pax instrument that incorporates a wax "Agnus Dei"

ca. 1600's - St. Lawrence

ca. 1500-1534



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