Saturday, May 21, 2011

Treasures From the Preconciliar Papal Liturgy

Photographs of these objects do not exist.  People do not even know what they are, let alone what they are called.  They were used until circa 1964 in the papal liturgies.  These particular objects were used at the Lateran Archbasilica and only just now were brought to the Vatican's Museo Storico (Historical Museum) for display.  The employees do not even know how to describe them.  The bird cages represent the Holy Spirit.  The wine caskets represent the precious blood while the bread on plate represents the Blessed Eucharist.  The bread representation is actually hollow and can be lifted off the plate.  They were used, I guess, in the rite of episcopal consecrations.


  1. My guess is that the bird cages were used for live doves who were released on certain feasts such as Epiphany or Pentecost. Assuming the casks are usable both the bread container and the casks were used for bread and wine in the "choosing rite" at Papal Solemn Masses.

  2. Vessels for the offertory at papal Mass. The barrels for wine and water; two patens, for the two hosts - the sacristan touched them together and ate one (praegustatio) - presumably the one in the silver paten. The two little cages have me baffled - but Gregor will know!


  4. These objects were used for the canonization, not for the consecration of bishops. There are some photos online of the canonization of some African martyrs celebrated by Pope Paul VI

  5. Drear Mr. Sonnen,
    I think the casks contained holy oil, perhaps Olia Sancta Chrisma or Olia Sancta. There were similar casks holding holy oils, stored in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans as late as 1980. I've no idea if they are still there.
    The cask in the foreground bears the coat of arms of Pius XI, the one in the background, those of Ven. Pius XII, of happy memory. The bread plate bears the coat of arms of Bl. John XXIII.
    Your blog is always beautiful, informative and delightful to visit. Please, keep up your fine work.
    In Christos,
    Kenneth M. Kafoed

  6. I wonder if this is it, from the rubrics of the Pontificale Romanum:

    Et pro Offertorio intortitia duo, quatuor librarum quodlibet, duo panes magni, et duo barilia vini; panes et barilia ornentur, duo, videlicet, videantur argentea, et duo aurea, hinc et inde insignia Consecratoris, et Electi habentia, cum capello, vel cruce, vel mitra pro cujusque gradu et dignitate.

    No mention of the bird cages though, just bread, wine and a pair of candles, presumably token consumables for the Mass

  7. What Mattia said; see my comment on the post below.

  8. Thanks Orbis for taking and posting pictures of these fascinating relics of the traditional solemn Papal Mass; one only gets a very fleeting view of them in old, grainy photographs (which are usually in black & white) or a glimpse during a low-resolution video; but either case is very rare!!!

    Here's a description of the item for the curators of the St. John Lateran's museum (and anyone else interested)!!!

    The faux loaves of bread (which being hollow would have actually acted as covers for a real loaf) and wine casks (which would have been actually filled with wine, hopefully red Chianti!) were used during the consecration of bishop.

    The bishop presented them personally to the consecrator (in this case the pope) just before the Offertory action (a touching relic of the Offertory Procession); this is described in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum. He also presented a candle.

    The above items were also used for a canonization ceremony which included the presentation of two turtledoves in a cage to the pope. This of course is reminiscent of St. Joseph and Our Lady "redeeming" their Son at the Temple per the Jewish rites (the Presentation at the Temple), because they were too poor to afford a lamb. The doves also symbolize peace.

    Part of this can be read in Archdale King's account of the solemn Papal Mass which is now partially online:

  9. The new liturgical movement blog has a post today inspired by your finding of those objects, clarifying what they are. Those objects were used in the preconciliar form of canonization ceremonies, during which oblations of bread, wine and a dove were made to the Pope.