Ciborium or altar canopy - ROM2011_12060_1


Ciborium or altar canopy

Medium:Carved limestone
Geography: Syro-Palestine
Date: c. 500-600 AD
Period: Byzantine period
68 x 105 x 110 x 60 cm
Object number: 2010.70.1
Credit Line: Gift of Joey & Toby Tanenbaum; Certified by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. Attestée par la Commission canadienne d'examen des exportations de biens culturels en vertu de la Loi sur l'exportation et l'importation de biens culturels.
On view
Gallery Location:Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of Byzantium

In a Byzantine church a ciborium or canopy was an architectural structure that usually consisted of four arched sided supported by columns with a dome of pyramid on its roof. This liturgical furnishing marked a special place of honour and veneration with the church.

A ciborium covering the main altar symbolized the place where Christ was crucified and buried and the location where the Divine Liturgy was enacted. The ROM's ciborium, due to its small size, was likely used as a canopy over a secondary altar either to shelter a reliquary of the Eucharist bread.

Front side: The lamb symbolizes Christ as John the Baptist likened him to sacrificial "Lamb of God" who takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). In patristic exegesis the image of the eagle, in both corners, represented a supernatural envoy, an angel or Christ himself.

Right side: The cross placed within a dome supported by a pair of columns depicts a miniature ciborium, representing Christ's crucifixion and place of burial.

Undersides of the arches: The carved amphorae and grape vines alluded to wine, which was changed into the blood of Christ and during the Eucharistic ritual for the faithful to drink and achieve a state of grace.

Interior surface: Pairs of peacocks and a rosette of palm branches alternate between a cross resting on a column in each corner. All symbolize immortality and eternal victory through Christ.

Since the fourth side of the ciborium was left undecorated, it was the side that probably faced a wall and not seen by the congregation.

If you see an error or have additional information, please contact us by clicking here.