The Order and Place of Lay Communion in the Late-Antique and Byzantine East


Canon Paul Bradshaw, a colleague and friend of many years to whom I am pleased to dedicate this modest study, has devoted his recent scholarship to untangling the mysteries of the Apostolic Tradition. Of late my own work has taken a different turn, shifting from recent studies on method[2] to more socio-cultural issues, the concrete phenomena of popular liturgical participation as they emerge in the historical documents: the place of women in church, and the segregation and restrictions imposed on them;[3] popular participation in psalmody and liturgical chant;[4] popular behavior (or more often misbehavior) at the liturgy;[5] the congregation’s response to preaching;[6] the cult of the saints;[7] the distancing of the people from the liturgical action via the enclosed sanctuary[8] and the recitation of prayers secretly;[9] the participation of the Byzantine emperor in the liturgy;[10] the frequency of Holy Communion among monastics and laity and its gradual decline;[11] etc. In so doing I have, in a sense, been responding to my own appeal, made years ago, that we “integrate into our work the methods of the relatively recent pietà popolare or annales schools of Christian history in Europe” and study liturgy not just from the top down, i.e., in its official or semi-official texts, but also from the bottom up, “as something real people did.”[12]

In these few pages I shall continue my work in this direction, examining two concrete aspects of lay participation in the liturgy in the Greek East during the Late-Antique and Byzantine periods.


Throughout the length and breadth of Early and Late-Antique Christendom,[13] lay communicants and the minor clergy, like the clergy in major orders, used to receive the sacred species separately and in their hands. The people, standing,[14] approached first the minister of the consecrated bread, then the minister of the cup. The consecrated bread was placed in each communicant’s right hand, then, having kissed and consumed the Sacred Body, each one drank of the Previous Blood from the chalice.[15] The evidence for all this throughout East and West is abundant and beyond cavil.[16]

Furthermore, the people communicated at an assigned place and according to a fixed order of precedence. First the clergy in major orders—bishops, presbyters, deacons—received the sacrament at the altar within the sanctuary, then brought the sacred gifts out to administer communion to the lesser ministers and laity lined up at the chancel doors. These actual mechanics of Holy Communion, the where and how, when and in what order and by whom,[17] are less studied. The “where and in what order,” I examine here.


I. Early Witnesses

1. The Apostolic Tradition 21 (3/4the c.?):

One of the first relatively circumstantial accounts of the rite of communion is found in Apostolic Tradition 21, 31-38.[18] The much-disputed date, provenance, and authorship of this text need not concern us here, for it represents beyond doubt a relatively early (3/4th c.?) witness to the usages we are treating.[19] From the reference (2) to the chalice of milk [and honey] given to the newly-baptized[20] along with communion in the Body and Blood (1-2), some have taken this passage to be describing an Easter eucharist, though that is hypothetical:[21]

31. And breaking the bread [and] distributing individual pieces, let him say: “Heavenly bread in Christ Jesus.”

32. And let him who receives respond: “Amen.”

33. And if the presbyters are not sufficient, let the deacons also hold the cups, and let them stand with appropriateness and with restraint: first, he who holds the water; second, he who [holds] the milk; third, ho who [holds] the wine.

34. And let those who receive taste of each, he who gives saying three times [i.e., one formula for each of the three cups[22]]: “In God the Father Almighty.” And let him who receives say, “Amen.” 35. “And in the Lord Jesus Christ.” 36. “And in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Church.” And let him say: “Amen.”

37. So let it be for each one [of the communicants].

Though the text does not detail exactly how the faithful, it seems clear that they received the Body (31) and Blood (32-33) separately.

2. The Apostolic Constitutions (ca. 380):

Apostolic Constitutions VIII, 13:11-15 from the environs of Antioch[23] also establishes a fixed order for communion, with detailed instructions for its execution:

VIII, 13:11. …Let the deacon say, “Let us be attentive!”

12. Then let the bishop proclaim to the people thus: “Holy things for the holy!”

13. And let the people respond, “One holy, one Lord…”

14. And after that let the bishop communicate, then the presbyters and the deacons and the subdeacons and the readers and the cantors and the ascetics and, from among the women, the deaconesses and the virgins and the widows, then the children, and finally all the people in order, with respect and piety, and without disturbance.

15. And let the bishop give the prosphora, saying, “The body of Christ.” And let the one who receives say, “Amen!”

Let the deacon hold the chalice, and giving it, say, “The cup of life.” And let the one drinking say, “Amen!”

16. Let Ps 33 be said while all the others are communicating. 17. When each and everyone has communicated, let the deacons gather up the remains [of the eucharistic species] and bring them into the pastophoria.[24]

The children mentioned in VIII, 13:14 are apparently those who have reached what today one would call “the age of reason (aetas discretionis).” For VIII, 12:2 orders that younger children remain in the care of their mothers,[25] who doubtless brought them up to communion too, as is still the custom in the East today.[26]

3. The Testamentum Domini (5th c.):

The 5th-century Testamentum Domini I, 23, enjoins a similarly detailed order:

Let the priests receive first in the following way: bishop, presbyters, deacons, widows, readers, subdeacons, After them, those who have [spiritual] gifts, the newly baptized, little children. The people [receive] the following way: the elderly, virgins. After them, the rest. The women [receive in the following way]: deaconesses, after them, the rest.[27]

Interestingly, this document, unlike the earlier Apostolic Constitutions just cited in the previous section, assigns the widows a place of honor right after the deacons and before male ministers in minor orders, whereas the deaconesses are relegated to an inferior position.

II. Decorum

If such early ordinances for communion appear overly regulatory to postmodern sensibilities, recall that in Late Antiquity—indeed, right up until after World War II—even in the West, our contemporary U.S. casualness and breezy informality would have been an unimaginable affront to accepted mores. The very first witness to the eucharist, St. Paul in 1 Cor 11:17-34, is concerned not with theology but with order. The same is true of the first ecumenical council, Nicea I in 325: canon 18 is about eucharistic order, forbidding deacons to give communion to presbyters or to receive the sacrament before the bishops and presbyters.[28]

Despite our romantic nostalgia for the “Golden Age of patristic liturgy,” in that period of Late Antiquity comportment in church left something to be desired, and discipline was insisted on with reason. Chrysostom’s De baptismo Christi 4 depicts the distribution of communion in Antioch as a very disorderly affair: “We don’t approach with awe but kicking, striking, filled with anger, shoving our neighbors, full of disorder.”[29] And his In Mt hom. 82, 6, reminds the deacons of their duty to “drive away” anyone who approaches to receive communion unworthily.[30] Further examples from East and West in Late Antiquity could be multiplied almost ad infinitum.[31] So the concern of Apostolic Constitutions VIII, 13:14 to avoid all commotion when coming up to receive Holy Communion cannot be deemed rhetorical exaggeration, as I have abundantly illustrated elsewhere.[32]

II. Symeon of Thessalonika (d. 1429)

Innumerable witnesses[33] right up to the last of the classical Byzantine liturgical commentators, St. Symeon of Thessalonika (d. 1429), De sacra liturgia 99,[34] provide proof-positive that such concerns continued throughout the Byzantine period and beyond. The lengthy title of Symeon’s chapter 99 is enough to indicate its contents: “That just as in heaven, so also on earth, those communicating in the mysteries, both the clergy within the sanctuary and the laity without, do so in this order.” Symeon then goes on to describe in minute detail just what this order is. First, within the sanctuary, the presiding bishop, then the other bishops, the presbyters, and the deacons approach the altar to communicate. Afterwards, outside the sanctuary before the chancel doors, the lesser orders—subdeacons, readers, chanters, monks—receive. Finally come the laity, but not in any which way, “for even they are not all equal.”[35] Further, in the same chapter 99 Symeon clearly distinguishes between those bishops and priests in the sanctuary who are concelebrating and those who are only assisting at the liturgy. In receiving communion, the concelebrants take precedence over the latter despite their equal rank:

The bishops and priests in the sanctuary, even though they are concelebrants (sylleitourgoi), do not approach [communion] like the first [i.e., the bishop presiding at the liturgy]. And again, the other priests with him have a lower rank, and cannot say the same things,[36] and come last to the fearsome communion, like those of the liturgical order of deacons. After them come those before the Sacred Doors, the subdeacons, and with them the readers. After them the cantors. After them, again, those of the monastic habit communicate, before the lay people.[37]

This ordering of the approach to communion still remains true for those in the major clerical orders, who communicate within the sanctuary. For the laity receiving before the Holy Doors of the iconostasis, a certain order—men before women—persisted right up until modern times.[38] Indeed, it still persists in village life in some areas, though that has less to do with church order than with the inferior status to which pre-modern societies persist in relegating women.[39]


I.                     At the Altar?

Did the laity once receive the sacrament at the altar itself, as is sometimes suggested? Church historian Eusebius (ca. 263-339), bishop of his home town of Caesarea in Palestine from 313, might seem to imply so in his Church History VII, 9.4-5. Eusebius is citing the Letter on Baptism 5 of Dionysius of Alexandria (d. 264/5) to Pope St. Xystus II (257-258) concerning the rebaptism of a convert who had scruples about the validity of the baptism he had received while in heresy, and wished to be rebaptized. Dionysius refused to perform this rebaptism:

But I could not presume to do this, saying that his long-standing communion with us was sufficient. For since he had listened to the eucharist and joined in the Amen, and had stood by the table and held out his hands to receive the holy food, and had received it and partaken of the body and blood of Our Lord for a long time, I could not presume to renew him again from the beginning [i.e., to rebaptize him]… So I urged him to put his fears away, and with strong faith and good hope to come forward for the reception of the holy things. But he goes on grieving, and shudders to approach the table, and in spite of my invitation he can scarcely bring himself to join the bystanders at the services.[40]

Some would take this as evidence that the laity actually approached the altar to receive communion. Of course what was done in house-churches before the Peace of Constantine in 312 ended the era of persecutions is not relevant to our discussion here. But even thereafter, it is rarely certain whether one is to understand such texts in a literal or figurative sense. That being granted, I still consider it highly unlikely that the ordinary faithful received communion at the altar. Christian writers have from time immemorial used phrases like “approaching the altar of the Lord” without necessarily meaning it literally. Around AD 247/8 , for instance, Dionysius of Alexandria (ca. 195-264), Letter to Basilides 2, responding to the question whether menstruating women should “enter the house of God,” replies that it would be unseemly for pious and believing women “in that condition to approach the holy table or touch the body and blood of Christ…for one who is not entirely clean in soul and body is forbidden to approach the holy things or the Holy of Holies.”[41]

Here, in the case of women, it is obvious that “approach the holy table” is not to be taken literally. Canon 44 of the Council of Laodicea in Phrygia ca. 360-390 decrees “That it is not suitable for women to enter the sanctuary.”[42] Since that could hardly mean that the place of communion was not accessible to them, they must have received outside the sanctuary, any rhetoric about “approaching the altar” for communion to the contrary notwithstanding. In the same vein Ps.-Chrysostom, Hom. in illud: “Si qua in Christo nova creatura,” says: “The pauper and the emperor approach the altar equally, not the pauper in one way, the emperor in another,”[43] though by the 4th century the Roman or Byzantine emperors are the only laity we see communicating in the sanctuary.

And authentic Chrysostomica, one of our best lodes for mining texts on all aspects of the liturgy, also provide a few apt citations:

In Mt hom. 82 (83), 5: “…let us approach this table and the nipple of the spiritual cup…like nursing children let us eagerly draw out the grace of the Spirit, for to share in the divinity of Christ is to be in communion also with the Father and the Holy Spirit, who share the same divine nature. So to receive the eucharist is to receive the Holy Spirit.”[44]

In 1 Cor hom. 27, 5: “Have you enjoyed a royal table? Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit?”[45]

In Ioh hom. 46 (47), 4: “From this table springs up a fountain that sends forth spiritual rivers… Many are the streams of that fountain which the Paraclete sends forth, and the Son is the mediator.”[46]

II. Before the Chancel

At any rate, by that time we already have archeological and iconographic evidence for the development of architectural features to create a distinct sanctuary area elevated above the level of the nave and separated from it by means of a chancel barrier.[47] The Church Fathers and other texts of the period refer frequently to such a division.[48] For instance in his Antiochene sermon In Eph hom. 3, 5, Chrysostom refers explicitly to “the curtains being opened” and “the sacrifice brought out” by the priest for communion. Let us examine the text in question, resuming what I said in an earlier context.[49] Chrysostom’s point in the text cited below is that the faithful should either receive communion or, if unworthy to, leave the church at the dismissals:

1. For just as it is unsuitable for the servants who are guilty to be present when the master is sitting at table, and so they should leave; 2. so too here, when the sacrifice is brought out, 3. and Christ is sacrificed and the Lamb of the Lord, 4. when you hear, “Let us all pray together,” 5. when you see the curtains being opened, believe then that heaven is being disclosed from above and the angels are descending.[50]

Chrysostom is talking about the anaphora (3) and what immediately follows it. But there is no reason to presume that he is listing each element in the order in which it occurs in the déroulement of the rite. If he were, we would have to conclude from this text that the sacrifice is brought out (2) before Christ is sacrificed and has become the Lamb of God (3)— i.e., before the anaphora! In fact, a literal construction of the text would force one to conclude that the sacrifice is brought out (2) and the litany chanted (4) even before the curtains are opened (5), which hardly seems possible. So Chrysostom must be describing the déroulement of the rite loosely — as, indeed, he does on other occasions[51]—and it would be more reasonable to interpret the text according to a liturgical ordo more consonant with what we know from comparative liturgy and the later tradition:[52]

Anaphora (3)

Opening of the curtain (5)


Diaconal litany (4)

(Our Father)

(Sancta sanctis)

(Clergy communion)

Bringing out of the gifts for the people’s communion (2)

So by the time we get clear descriptions of the communion ritual in the last quarter of the 4th century, there can be no doubt that the clergy first communicated in the sanctuary, then exited from the sanctuary with the sacred gifts to communicate the laity, who approached no further than the doors of the chancel. In AD 691/2, canon 69 of the Quinisext Council “in Trullo” canonizes this usage, forbidding access to the sanctuary not just to women but to all the laity save the emperor, who by ancient tradition could enter it to offer his gifts[53] and receive communion.[54]

1. The Development of the Late-Antique Chancel Enclosure:

We are fortunate in having the remains of a village church in the limestone massif of Northern Syria that betray how the sanctuary area developed there. Georges Tchalenko, who studied the archeology and economy of this whole area, has reconstructed step-by-step the evolution of the village church of Qirqb¥ze, one of oldest extant church buildings in Syria.[55] This church is a small structure, 14 m 75 x 6 m 10, of which 11 m 60 comprise the single nave, the rest being the sanctuary area 3 m 15 deep. The gable roof at its highest point had an elevation of 6 m 55.

The growth of the sanctuary enclosure Tchalenko describes as follows. The original structure from the first third of the 4th century was a single undivided hall with the sanctuary area set off only by a platform raised one step at the east end. In the middle of the 4th century, a triumphal arch is set on the platform to emphasize the sanctuary still more. At the beginning of the 5th century, this sanctuary platform is raised one more step and a chancel enclosure added, comprising a low stone wall pierced by a single central door and surmounted by columns supporting a stone architrave, which Tchalenko presumes was meant to hang a chancel curtain. By the middle of the 5th century, the chancel has developed into an enclosure with three doors and reliquaries added:

At the same time the simple curtain that enclosed the sanctuary was replaced by a permanent structure, the appearance of which can be reconstructed with probability. The chevet bears traces of two sets of small columns between the three doors, and the pillars of the arch are furnished above the fittings of the transverse beam with a second mortise destined for a second beam. Since the three thresholds bear mortises witnessing to three double-doors (à battants) it is logical to believe that our structure served to frame these doors and thus comprised a full enclosure between the latter. Perhaps there were also icons. At any rate the chevet was completely separated from the nave by our enclosure, which prefigures the iconostasis (pl. CVI, 4).[56]

The addition of further reliquaries in the 6th century need not concern us here. The church, still well preserved, was abandoned in the 7th century and seems not to have undergone any changes since then.

2. The Pre-Iconoclast Byzantine Sanctuary:

Though this Syrian church was not within the patriarchate of Constantinople, the chronology of this evolution is fully consonant with what we know of the chancel or bema of Justinian’s Hagia Sophia (AD 537) and other pre-iconoclast churches of Constantinople as reconstructed by the archeologists and art historians.[57] The pre-iconoclast Byzantine chancel was set apart by an enclosure that impeded access, not visibility.[58] After the definitive victory over iconoclasm in 843, more and more icons were added to this enclosure, but the solid iconostasis barrier does not appear until much later.[59] The Hagia Sophia chancel, as described in minute detail ca. 563 by Paul the Silentiary,[60] was an elevated area including the apse and extending out in front of it. The apse itself was a relatively shallow space filled with the curved steps of the elevated synthronon where the clergy sat. The altar-room in front of it was enclosed by a P-shaped chancel barrier, later called “templon,” etc., jutting out into the nave from the two secondary piers at the northwest and southwest extremities of the apse. Three doors, one in each side (north-west-south) of the chancel, provided access to the altar-room. Projecting out into the nave before the central “Holy Doors” in the west face of the chancel was a walled-in, raised passageway, the solea, which led to the oval-shaped ambo enclosure towards the center of the nave.

The Silentiary describes this ambo as an “island amidst the waves of the sea…joined to the mainland coast by an isthmus”[61]—the solea—“a long strait” extending up to the sanctuary doors and bounded by waist-high walls.[62] This parapeted walkway kept open the passage needed for the processional comings and goings between sanctuary and ambo. The sanctuary area could also be entered from the northeast and southeast bays of the basilica via the north-south passageways that cut through the two secondary piers flanking the apse north and south.[63] The same basic system was also found in much smaller churches like Hagia Euphemia.[64]

It was doubtless in front of this sanctuary barrier that the ministers administered Holy Communion to the laity with one possible exception: private domestic chapels.

3.                    Holy Communion in Private Chapels:

St. Gregory Nazianzen (329/30-ca. 390) describes in Epitaphia 88-89 how his dying mother St. Nonna (d. ca. 373) grasped “the sacred altar (hiera trapeza)” with one hand while raising the other in prayer.[65] And his Oration 8 in Praise of His Sister Gorgonia (d. ca. 370), tells how she, seriously ill and despairing of any earthly cure, rose from her sickbed at night and “laid her head on the altar (thysiasterion)”.[66] From what we know of the strictures forbidding the laity, men and women, from entering the Byzantine sanctuary in Late Antiquity,[67] such behavior would have been unthinkable had there been a sanctuary enclosure in these chapels.

This greater intimacy of the domestic chapel lasted, for it is confirmed much later by the response of Nicetas, chartophylax and syncellus syncellus of the Great Church during the patriarchate of Michael I Caerularius (1043-1058), to Nicetas Stethatos of Stoudios (d. ca. 1090),[68] insisting in Letter 8, 3-4, that the laity be kept in their place, far from the sanctuary:

Know that during the holy anaphora, the place of the laity in the assembly of the faithful is far from the divine sanctuary. The interior of the bema is reserved to the priests, deacons, and subdeacons; the area outside near the bema to the monks and other ranks of our hierarchy; behind them and their tribune, to the laity… How then from such a distance can the layperson, to whom it is not allowed, contemplate the mysteries of God accomplished with trembling (friktw`”) by his priests? …But if you say that the chapel in your house is holy, while necessitating the laity present to be near the altar during the celebration of the unbloody sacrifice, that very thing condemns you gravely… For you are not allowed to assemble them together in your house, and erect another altar in competition with that of the local catholic church, and to offer on it the holy sacrifice to God. [69]

This confirms that small private chapels had no enclosure to keep the people away from the altar.

III. At Communion Stations

1. Byzantine Communion Antimensia:

The sources, further, speak of small altars or credences used in Byzantine churches for the distribution of communion to the laity, thereby creating what one might today call “communion stations,” a phenomenon I have not yet discovered in any early eastern evidence beyond Byzantium. The anonymous, semi-legendary 8/9th-century Narratio de S. Sophia §16, describing the sanctuary of Justinian’s Great Church, says the emperor “set up on the presbytery four silver tables (trapezas) on columns, and these, too, he gilded.”[70] These tables are not to be confused with the altar, which was clearly a distinct trapeza, since the next section (§17) of the same source describes it separately.[71]

Such small, multi-purpose liturgical tables were easily available in Byzantine-rite churches, then as now. In the 10th-century De ceremoniis we see them used, for example, not only at communion but also to hold the chlamyde and crowns during the imperial coronation and wedding rites, and in the promotion rites of imperial dignitaries.[72] Symeon of Thessalonika, De sacro templo 148, also mentions them in connection with the imperial coronation rites,[73] as do the Slavonic sources for the coronation of the tsars.[74] And the information in those sources is fully confirmed by the 12/14th century Constantinopolitan patriarchal euchology mss, where we see such liturgical credences employed all over: on the solea, on the ambo, in the galleries, in the Augustaion or enclosed square south of Hagia Sophia.[75]

The Chronicon paschale for AD 624 speaks of credences or side-tables (paratrapezia) from which communion is distributed:

1. In this year [624], in the month of Artemesius (May according to the Romans), on the 12th indiction, under Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople, it was then first introduced that there be chanted, 2. after all have received the Holy Mysteries, 3. when the clergy are about to return to the skeuophylakion the precious rhipidia, patens and chalices, and other sacred vessels; 4. and after the distribution [of communion] from the side-tables (paratrapezia) everything is brought back to the holy altar; 5. and after chanting the final verse of the koinonikon 6. — that this troparion also be sung: “May our mouth be filled with your praise, O Lord…”[76]

The 10th-century De cerimoniis I, 10[77] and the 10/11th-century pontifical liturgy described in the diataxis of the 12th-century ms British Library Add. 34060[78] call the communion table an antimension (antimision, antimesion) or portable altar, not to be confused with the modern Byzantine-rite corporal of the same name.[79] But in light of the well-known Byzantine aversion for picking one name for things and sticking to it, these terminological differences are irrelevant. Some texts specify that at communion time the sacred gifts are brought out to such credences for distribution to the laity. In the De ceremoniis. one of these antimensia is used for the communion of the emperor and the imperial dignitaries.[80]

In Hagia Sophia, places in the right (south) side of the nave, superior in dignity to the left, were reserved for the higher dignitaries of the realm,[81] and the imperial party itself assisted publicly at the liturgy from the metatorion or imperial loge located on that side of the nave just outside the bema or sanctuary.[82] It was from there that the emperor was summoned to communion, as described for the Hagia Sophia Christmas liturgy[83] in De cerimoniis I, 32 (23). After the kiss of peace,

The emperor goes again to the metatorion, and at the time of the divine communion, the master of ceremonies signals the praepositus, and the praepositus [signals] the emperor, and he goes out, preceded by the above-mentioned [officials], and when he is before the patriarch to communicate in the immaculate body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, two porters hold a cloth spread out, and after receiving the precious gift in his hands, he kisses the patriarch and after descending the platform [of the communion antimension] and making the sign of the cross three times, he communicates in the holy gifts. Then he mounts the same platform again and the porters spread the cloth under him, and after receiving the eucharistic wine from the patriarch, he descends, and having prayed, both [the emperor and the patriarch] bow to each other, then turning, he retires to the metatorion and dines with the patricians and dignitaries whom he will have invited.[84]

De cerimoniis, in its description of the ceremonial for solemn feasts in general when the sovereigns assisted at the liturgy in Hagia Sophia, prescribes the same communion ritual (I, 1),[85] adding for Pentecost (I, 9) the precision that on leaving the metatorion for communion accompanied as usual by the master of ceremonies and the praepositus, the emperor

goes and stands before the sanctuary at the imperial antimension, and, having prayed, goes up and receives communion from the hands of the patriarch in the manner described for the earlier feast of the Nativity of Christ, and after the imperial communion the emperor and the patriarch bow to each other, and the emperor retires to the metatorion…[86]

The De cerimoniis does not indicate the exact location of the imperial communion antimension except that it was “in front of the sanctuary.”[87] Ebersolt is doubtless correct in placing it in the nave, on the solea[88] at the Holy Doors leading into the sanctuary,[89] by analogy with De cerimoniis I, 56 (47) and 59 (50), which place the antimension there in the ritual for the promotion of a patrician, and where both the sovereigns and the newly promoted dignitary receive communion from the hand of the patriarch according to De cerimoniis I, 57 (48).[90]

Such credences were also employed for the communion of the ordinary laity, as we saw above in the Chronicon paschale.[91] The 11th-century diataxis in the 12th-century codex British Library Add. 340 shows them still in use half a millennium later:

X.13. And after giving [communion] to everyone [in the sanctuary] he [the bishop] goes off to the first communion table (antimesion), and when the deacon carrying the discos has said, “Bless, master,” the bishop says, I will bless the Lord at all times…” [Ps 33/34]. 14. And the whole psalm is done by the assistants while the people are receiving communion.[92]

The text refers to “the first antimension,” so there must have been more than one.

What form these communion tables took is not certain. In the 5th century, sigma or horseshoe-shaped marble mensa tops or altar-tables, originating, apparently, in the eastern Mediterranean (Syria, Palestine, Egypt) and spreading out from there even to the West, have been found in great numbers.[93] Their thinness and small surface area relative to paleochristian eucharistic altar-tables, and the absence on the bottom surface of any evidence that they were permanently attached to a supporting base, has led Guglielmo De Angelis d’Ossat to propose that they were portable credences to be installed temporarily, either on the bema in Syrian churches or just outside the chancel barrier in others, for serving communion to the laity.[94] It has often been proposed that such tables were to be placed in the church to receive the offerings of the faithful. But that would have no relevance for Constantinopolitan liturgy until the final victory over Iconoclasm in 843, because the gifts were offered not in church but in a separate building, the outside skeuophylakion.[95] Anyway, few such sigma-tables have been found in Byzantium or Asia Minor,[96] so I would hesitate to postulate the sigma-shape for our Byzantine communion tables. But whatever their size or shape, which has no particular relevance for our argument here, the existence and use of communion credences in Byzantium is beyond doubt.

2. Byzantine Liturgical Vessels:

The purpose of such communion credences, and why more than one was needed, is not hard to divine. Byzantine chalices and patens were quite large by modern standards.[97] Marlia Mundell-Mango illustrates and studies twelve patens[98] and fourteen chalices[99] dating from the 6th and 7th centuries, all discovered in treasure troves in Syria.[100] The patens are anywhere from 35 to 41.4 cm in diameter, and weigh between 767 and 1090 grams. But these are lightweights compared to the patens in the Sion Treasure from Asia Minor, studied by Susan A. Boyd.[101] The six patens in the trove are huge, measuring from 58 to 77.5 cm, all weighing about 4,234 to 5,200 gr—from 9.34 to 11.46 lbs avoirdupois[102]—whereas the three heaviest Kaper Karaon patens, nos. 5-6 from the Hama Treasure and no. 39 from the Stuma Treasure, weigh over two pounds empty, the heaviest (no. 39) weighing 1,090 gr or just under 2.4 lbs.[103] An even more extreme example, the hefty paten of bishop Paternus in St. Petersburg, Russia, measures 62 cm and weighs just over 6,520 gr or 14.37 lbs![104] Despite some understandable hesitation as to whether such huge patens could have been for liturgical use,[105] Boyd rightly remarks, “The survival of the asterisk, which would fit within the rim of either of the two largest patens, confirms their liturgical function and resolves such doubts.”[106]

One of the Sion chalices is equally enormous: its reconstructed height would be ca. 28-30 cm, whereas most Byzantine chalices of the epoch average between 14-19 cm in height.[107] The Kaper Koraon chalices measure from 12.5 to 21.3 cm in height, with cups ranging from 11.9 to 18.6 cm in diameter, the vast majority of them on the larger side of the statistics. Of those for whom the weight (nos. 1-3, 27-30) and volume (nos. 1-3) are given, the weight ranges from 215.3 to 670 grams (= 1.468 pounds: no. 29), the volumes listed are ca. 600, ca. 980, and ca.1000 ml for nos. 1, 2, 3, respectively. No. 3, the largest in volume capacity, holds about a liter (= 1.0567 liquid quarts). Another large chalice (18 cm high, 16 cm in diameter at the bowl) from a different Syrian treasure, the 5/7th century Marato tes Myrtes(?) chalice, has handles on either side of the cup to facilitate holding it.[108]

Ignatius of Smolensk, on a visit to Constantinople in 1392, mentions a topaz chalice there, and one can imagine how heavy that could have been![109] A century later, Ulrich von Richental tells us that the Orthodox chalice he saw at the Council of Constance (1414-1418) was three times as large as the western chalices he was used to—so large, indeed, that the clergy could not conveniently take it in their hands to drink from it, and had to use a spoon to receive the Precious Blood.[110] The weights indicated above show why: a large chalice holding up to a liter of wine would be very tiring to hold and serve for long. The same is true of the patens described above: the heaviest Kaper Koraon patens are all over two pounds empty, the heaviest Sion paten weighs ca. 5,200 gr (11.46 lbs), the Paternus paten a whopping 6,520+ gr (14.37+ lbs). These statistics render obvious the need for credences or stands on which to rest the heavy vessels during the distribution of communion, at least in churches important enough to have large and elaborate church plate.


The historical data elucidated above pose no special problems of interpretation: the material is straightforward and without internal contradictions, the conclusions to be gleaned beyond challenge.

1.        Up until the end of Late Antiquity, and in some areas until the 9th century or later, the laity in Byzantium, as elsewhere, communicated, like the higher clergy, under both species separately, receiving first the bread in their right hand, then drinking from the cup.

  1. Like the clergy, they too received not haphazardly, but according to a preestablished order based on ecclesiastical rank, secular dignity, sex, age (adult, child), and social status (married, unmarried, virgin, widow).
  2. Unlike the clergy in major orders, however, laypersons did not enter the sanctuary and approach the altar to communicate, but lined up outside the chancel barrier to receive first the consecrated bread, then the cup.
  3. Private domestic chapels were an exception to that rule.
  4. In Byzantium, at least, antimensia or communion credences were placed before the chancel as communion stands to hold the heavy vessels for the communion of the lesser ministers and laity.

Such conclusions may seem banal in the extreme. But the history of liturgy is a mosaic in reconstruction, a work-in-progress, and it is not guesswork but only the recovery, cleaning and repositioning of each small tessera that renders this reconstruction possible.

© Published under permission of Fr Robert Taft.

[1] Abbreviations used in the notes:

AC = Antike und Christentum.

ATC = P.F. Bradshaw, M.E. Johnson, L.E. Phillips, The Apostolic Tradition. A Commentary (Hermeneia, Minneapolis 2002).

BLE = Bulletin de la littérature ecclésiastique.

CIC I-III = Corpus iuris civilis, I: Institutiones, ed. P. Krueger; Digesta, ed. Th. Mommsen (Berlin 1902), II: Codex Iustinianus, ed. P. Krueger (Berlin 1929), III: Novellae, ed. R. Schoell, G. Kroll (Berlin 1928).

CCL = Corpus Christianorum Series Latina.

CPG = Clavis patrum Graecorum, 5 vols., ed. M. Geerard, F. Glorie; & Supplementum, ed. M. Geerard, J. Noret (Corpus Christianorum, Turnhout 1974-1998).

CSEL = Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum.

DACL = Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie.

DOP = Dumbarton Oaks Papers.

EOr = Ecclesia orans.

Mansi = J.D. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, 53 tomes in 58 vols. (Paris/Leipzig 1901-1927).

OC = Oriens Christianus.

OCA = Orientalia Christiana Analecta.

OCP = Orientalia Christiana Periodica.

ODB 1-3 = The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. A. Kazhdan et alii, 3 vols. (New York/Oxford 1991).

PG = J.P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca (Paris 1857–1866).

PL = J.P. Migne, Patrologia Latina (Paris 1841-1864).

Reg = Les Regestes du Patriarcat de Constantinople, I: Les actes des patriarches, fasc. 1-3, ed. V. Grumel (Le Patriarcat byzantin, série I, Kadiköy-Istanbul 1932, 1936; Bucharest 1947; fasc. 1, 2nd ed., Paris 1972); fasc. 4, ed. V. Laurent (Paris 1971); fasc. 5-7, ed. J. Darrouzès (Paris 1977, 1979, 1991).

SC = Sources chrétiennes.

[2] R.F. Taft, “Comparative Liturgy Fifty Years after Anton Baumstark (d. 1948): A Reply to Recent Critics,” Worship 73 (1999) 521-540; id., “Anton Baumstark’s Comparative Liturgy Revisited,” in R.F. Taft, S.J. and G. Winkler (eds.), Acts of the International Congress Comparative Liturgy Fifty Years after Anton Baumstark (1872-1948), Rome, 25-29 September 1998 (OCA 265, Rome 2001) 191-232.

[3] R.F. Taft, “Women at Church in Byzantium: Where, When—and Why,” DOP 52 (1998) 27-87 (published summer 1999).

[4] R.F. Taft, “Christian Liturgical Psalmody: Origins, Development, Decomposition, Collapse.” One of Two Keynote Lectures: “The Differing Natures of Jewish and Christian liturgical Psalmody—The Kavanagh Lectures in Liturgy and Liturgical Art,” at the Conference Up with a Shout. The Psalms in Jewish and Christian Religious, Artistic, and Intellectual Traditions. From Historical and Theoretical Studies to Practice and Performance, sponsored by The Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University, in press in the Congress Acta.

[5] Taft, “Women,” 82-86; id., “‘Eastern Presuppositions’ and Western Liturgical Renewal,” Antiphon 5:1 (2000) 10-22, here 13-14.

[6] Taft, “Women,” 84.

[7] R.F. Taft, “Liturgia e culto dei santi in area bizantino-greca e slava: problemi di origine, di significato e di sviluppo.” Conference given at the IV Convegno Internazionale dell’Associazione Italiana per lo Studio dei Santi, dei Culti e dell’Agiografia: Il tempo dei santi fra Oriente e Occidente. Liturgia e Agiografia e liturgia dal Tardo Antico al Concilio di Trento, University of Florence 26-28 October 2000, in press in the Acta; id., “The Veneration of the Saints in the Byzantine Liturgical Tradition,” in J. Getcha and A. Lossky (eds.), Thysia aineseos: Mélanges liturgiques offerts à la mémoire de l’Archevêque Georges (Wagner) (Paris 2003) in press.

[8] R.F. Taft, “The Decline of Communion in Byzantium and the Distancing of the Congregation from the Liturgical Action: Cause, Effect, or Neither?” Paper given at the Annual Byzantine Studies Symposium, The Sacred Screen: Origins, Development, and Diffusion, May 9-11, 2003, Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, Washington, DC.

[9] R.F. Taft, “Was the Eucharistic Anaphora Recited Secretly or Aloud? The Ancient Tradition and What Became of It.” Paper read at the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary 40th Anniversary Symposium Liturgy in Context: Worship Traditions of Armenia and the Neighboring Christian East, New Rochelle, N.Y., September 25-28, 2002, in press in the Congress Acta.

[10] R.F. Taft, “The Byzantine Imperial Communion Ritual,” in Pamela Armstrong (ed.), Ritual and Art: Essays for Christopher Walter (London 2003) in press.

[11] R.F. Taft, Beyond East and West. Problems in Liturgical Understanding. Second revised and enlarged edition (Rome 1997) chap. 5; id., “The Frequency of the Eucharist in Byzantine Usage: History and Practice,” in Miscellanea Metreveli = Studi sullo’Oriente cristiano 4/1 (2000) 103-132; id., “The Frequency of the Celebration of the Eucharist throughout History,” in Maxwell E. Johnson (ed.), Between Memory and Hope: Readings in the Liturgical Year (A Pueblo Book, Collegeville 2001) 77-96; id., “Home-Communion in the Late-Antique East,” in press in a Festschrift for Nathan Mitchell on his 60th Birthday; id., “Changing Rhythms of Eucharistic Frequency in Byzantine Monasticism,” paper delivered at the Pontificio Ateneo S. Anselmo Monastic Institute Fiftieth Anniversary Symposium Classic Texts and Themes of the Christian Monastic Tradition (Yesterday—Today—Tomorrow), 27 May – 1 June 2002, in press in the Symposium Acta.

[12] R.F. Taft, “Response to the Berakah Award: Anamnesis,” Worship 59 (1985) 304-325, here 314-15; id., Beyond East and West 292-93.

[13] K. Gamber, Ritus modernus. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur liturgiereform (Studia Patristica et Liturgica 4, Regensburg 1972) 50, asserts that the practice of communion in the hand was discontinued already in the 5/6th centuries, but the sources in both East and West show that in fact it continued for several centuries after that.

[14] Kneeling on Sundays, during Paschaltide, and in some places during liturgical services, was not just not practiced; it was forbidden by canon 20 of Nicea in 325 (N.P. Tanner, ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, 2 vols. [London/Washington, DC 1990] 16) and by the Fathers. Cf. I. Habert, Archieratikon. Liber pontificalis Ecclesiae Græcæ (Paris 1643) 269-72; E. Ferguson, “The Liturgical Function of the ‘Sursum Corda’,” Studia Patristica 13.2 (Texte und Untersuchungen 116, Berlin 1975) 361-62; H. Leclercq, “Génuflexion,” DACL VI.1:1017-21; W. Rordorf, Sunday (London 1968) 267-68. Only in the West between the 11th and the 16th centuries did the custom of receiving communion kneeling gradually gain ascendancy: J.A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite. Missarum sollemnia, 2 vols. (New York 1951, 1955) II, 376, pace the present-day R.C. neo-conservatives who fling themselves onto their knees at Sunday communion, ever-ready to disturb others and flaunt their “traditionalism,” much to the amusement and/or chagrin of those who bear the burden of knowing what the tradition is.

[15]The historical evidence has been reviewed in the secondary literature, where one can find innumerable references to sources which imply, or from which one can legitimately infer, communion in the hand: M. Auge, “A proposito della comunione sulla mano,” EOr 8 (1991) 293-304; A. Cody, “An Instruction of Philoxenus of Mabbug on Gestures and Prayer When One Receives Communion in the Hand, with a History of the Manner of Receiving the Eucharistic Bread in the West-Syrian Church,” in N. Mitchell, J. Baldovin (eds.), Rule of Prayer, Rule of Faith. Essays in Honor of Aidan Kavanagh, O.S.B. (A Pueblo Book, Collegeville 1996) 56-79; F.J. Dölger, “Das Segnen der Sinne mit der Eucharistie. Eine altchristliche Kommunionsitte,” AC 3 (1932) 231-244, here 239 n. 34, id., “Die Eucharistie als Reiseschutz. Die Eucharistie in den Händen der Laien,” AC 5 (1936) 232-247, here 236ff; J. Husslein, “Communion in the Early Church,” The [American] Ecclesiastical Review 81 (July-Dec. 1929) 491-509; Jungmann, Missarum Sollemnia II, 374-91; T.A. Krosnicki, “The Early Practice of Communion in the Hand,” Review for Religious 29 (1970) 669-676; M. Lugmayr, “Hisory of the Rite of Distributing Communion,” in The Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist. The Proceedings of the Second International Colloquium of Historical, Canonical and Theological Studies on the Roman Catholic Liturgy. Translated and edited by members of CIEL UK (Southampton 1997) 53-72; O. Nußbaum, Die Handkommunion, (Cologne 1969); P. Yousif, L’eucharistie chez Saint Éphrem de Nisibe (OCA 224, Rome 1984) 314-15; etc.

[16]The Armenian tradition seems an exception to this embarass de richesses: I have uncovered no descriptions of the early Armenian communion rites.

[17] On by whom, see R.F. Taft, “The Minister of Holy Communion in the Eastern Traditions,” in G. Karukaparampil (ed.), Tuvaik. Studies in Honour of Rev. Jacob Vellian (Syrian Churches Series XVI, Kottayam 1995) 1-19.

[18] I follow the numbering in ATC 122, from which the translation is cited.

[19]The bibliography on this document has exploded overnight. Most recently, in addition to ATC, see J.F. Baldovin, “The Apostolic Tradition? Of Hippolytus? Of Rome?” The Sir Daniel & Countess Bernardine Murphy Donohue Chair in Eastern Catholic Theology at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, Annual Lecture, March 13, 2003 (in press); A. Brent, Hippolytus & the Roman Church in the Third Century: Communities in Tension Before the Emergence of a Monarch-Bishop (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae, 31, Leiden 1995) 184-203, 458-540 passim; P.F. Bradshaw, “Redating the Apostolic Tradition: Some Preliminary Steps,” in Mitchell-Baldovin, Rule of Prayer 3-17; J. Magne, “En finir avec la Tradition d’Hippolyte,” BLE 99 (1988) 5-22, with references to the author’s other writings on the topic; A.-G. Martimort, “Encore Hippolyte et la Tradition apostolique, I: BLE 92 (1991) 133-137, II: BLE 97 (1996) 275-275; id., “Nouvel examen de la Tradition apostolique d’Hippolyte,” BLE 88 (1987) 5-25; M. Metzger, “Nouvelles perspectives pour la prétendue Tradition apostolique,” EOr 5 (1988) 241-259; id., “Enquêtes autour de la prétendue Tradition apostolique,” EOr 9 (1992) 7-36; id., “A propos des règlements ecclésiastiques de prétendue Tradition apostolique,” Revue des sciences religieuses 66 (1992) 249-261; A. Stewart-Sykes, On the Apostolic Tradition. An English Version with Introduction and Commentary (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press Popular Patristic Series, Crestwood 2001); and in Taft-Winkler, Comparative Liturgy Fifty Years after Anton Baumstark: Ch. Markschies, “Neue Forschungen zur sogennaten Traditio apostolica, 583-598; M. Metzger, “Tradition orale et tradition écrite dans la pratique liturgique antique. Les receuils de traditions apostoliques,” 599-612; P.F. Bradshaw, “The Problems of a New Edition of the Apostolic Tradition,” 613-622, esp. 614-16.

[20]On this usage see E.J. Kilmartin, “The Baptismal Cups: Revisited,” in E. Carr, S. Parenti, A.-A. Thiermeyer, E. Velkovska (eds.), EULOGHMA. Studies in Honor of Robert Taft, S.J (Studia Anselmiana 110 = Analecta Liturgica 17, Rome 1993) 249-267; ATC 134-35.

[21] Cf. ATC 134-35.

[22] My bracketed gloss both here and at the end of the citation.

[23] But not from the metropolis itself: see F. van de Paverd, Zur Geschichte der Meßliturgie in Antiocheia und Konstantinopel gegen Ende des vierten Jahrhunderts. Analyse der Quellen bei Johannes Chrysostomos (OCA 187, Rome 1970) vii, 106, 156, 186ff, 527.

[24] Les Constitutions apostoliques, ed. M. Metzger, tome 1: livres I-II (SC 320, Paris 1985); tome 2: livres III-VI (SC 329, Paris 1986); tome 3: livres V-VIII (SC 336. Paris 1987)—here SC 336:208-10. See the equally strict rules for seating in church: II, 57:4, 11-14; 58:1-2, 5-6; SC 320:312-16, 320-22.

[25] SC 336:176.

[26] Nußbaum, Handkommunion 21; R.F. Taft, “On the Question of Infant Communion in the Byzantine Catholic Churches of the U.S.A.,” Diakonia 17 (1982) 201-214; Cyril Vasil’, “La comunione eucaristica dei bambini prima dell’uso della ragione. Differenze nella prassi sacramentale fra Chiese d’Orient e d’Occidente. Motivo di divisione oppure un’occasione di approfondimento e di crescita ecclesiale?” in H. Zapp, A. Weiß, S. Korta (eds.), Ius canonicum in Oriente e Occidente. Festschrift für Carl Gerold Fürst zum 70. Geburtstag (Frankfurt M. 2003) 759-789.

[27] I.E. Rahmani (ed.), Testamentum Domini nostri Jesu Christi (Mainz 1899) 46-47; trans. G.S. Sperry-White, The Testamentum Domini: A Text for Students, with Introduction, Translation, and Notes (Alcuin/GROW Liturgical Study 19 = Grove Liturgical Studies 66, Bramcote 1991) 19.

[28] Joannou, Discipline I.1:39-40 = Tanner 1:14-16.

[29] PG 49:371 (= CPG §4335); cf. van de Paverd, Meßliturgie 399-400.

[30] PG 58:744-46 (= CPG §4611).

[31] See, for instance, Chrysostom, In 1 Cor hom. 27, 5, PG 61:231 (= CPG §4428); and the following note.

[32] Taft, “Women” 82-86; id., “Eastern Presuppositions,” 13-14.

[33] See Taft, “Women,” 82-86.

[34] PG 155:296-301.

[35] PG 155:297A.

[36] Symeon apparently means that the concelebrants recite the priestly prayers, which we know to haave been the practice in Byzantine eucharistic concelebration since the 10th c. On this see Taft, Beyond East and West 114-17, 124.

[37] PG 155:296D-297A.

[38] Habert, Archieratikon 269; J.-M. Hanssens, “La cérémonial de la communion eucharistique dans les rites orientaux,” Gregorianum 41 (1960) 30-62, here 49.

[39] On the whole question see Taft, “Women,” and the bibliography cited there, 27 note 1.

[40] Eusèbe de Césarée, Histoire ecclésiastique, ed. G. Bardy, vol. I: Livres I-IV (SC 31, Paris 1952) 175 = E. Schwartz (ed.), Eusebius Werke II (GCS 9.2, Leipzig 1908) 648 = PG 20:656 (= CPG §3495).

[41] C.L. Feltoe (ed.), The Letters and Other Remains of Dionysius of Alexandria (Cambridge Patristic Texts, Cambridge 1904) 102-3 = Joannou, Discipline II, 12 (cf. p. 2 for date and authenticity). Cf. F. van de Paverd, “‘Confession’ (exagoreusis) and ‘Penance’ (exomologesis) in De lepra of Methodius of Olympus,” II: OCP 45 (1979) 51-53.

[42] Joannou, Discipline I.2:148 = Mansi 2:571.

[43] PG 64:34 (= CPG §4701). I owe this reference to Dr. Heinzgerd Brakmann of the F.J. Dölger-Institut in Bonn..

[44] PG 58:744 (= CPG §4424).

[45] PG 61:232 (= CPG §4428).

[46] PG 59:261-62 (= CPG §4425).

[47] On the chancel barrier, see R.F. Taft, “The Decline of Communion in Byzantium”; id., “Some Notes on the Bema in the East and West Syrian Traditions,” OCP 34 (1968) 326-359, here 347-48 = id., Liturgy in Byzantium and Beyond (Variorum Collected Studies Series CS494, Aldershot/Brookfield 1995) ch. VII, 347-48, and the references given there; id., A History of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, vol. II: The Great Entrance. A History of the Transfer of Gifts and Other Preanaphoral Rites of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (OCA 200, Rome 19782) 181-85, 411-16 and the references there in notes 195-98; to which add the more recent studies of M. Chatzidakis, “Ikonostas,” Reallexikon zur byzantinischen Kunst (Stuttgart 1966-) III, 326-353; A. Wharton Epstein, “The Middle Byzantine Sanctuary Barrier: Templon or Iconostasis?” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 134 (1981) 1-28; Ch. Walter, “The Origins of the Iconostasis,” Eastern Churches Review 3 (1971) 251-267 = id., Studies in Byzantine Iconography (Variorum Collected Studies Series, London 1977) ch. III; id., “A New Look at the Byzantine Sanctuary Barrier,” Revue des études byzantines 51 (1993) 203-228; and the literature they cite.

[48] E.g., Apostolic Constitutions (ca. 380) II, 57:2-13, SC 320:310-16, and VIII, 11:10, SC 336:174; Gregory Nazianzen (329/30-ca. 390), De vita sua 25-40 and Somnium de Anastasiae ecclesia 1-36, PG 37:1031-32, 1254-57 (= CPG §3036); cf. van de Paverd, Meßliturgie 413-19; Or. 18, 29 (AD 374), PG 35:1020C-21B (= CPG §3010), cf. F. van de Paverd, “A Text of Gregory of Nazianzus Misinterpreted by F.E. Brightman,” OCP 42 (1976) 197-206, esp. 201-202, 206; and numerous further references from Chrysostom and others: van de Paverd, Meßliturgie 1ff, 33-47 (= Antioch before 398), 411-22 (= Constantinople, AD 398-404); G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford 1961) 296 (bema C), 660 (thysiasterion B).

[49] R.F. Taft, A History of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, vol. V: The Precommunion Rites (OCA 261, Rome 2000) 73-74.

[50] PG 62:29 (= CPG §4431).

[51] See R.F. Taft, A History of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, vol IV: The Diptychs (OCA 238, Rome 1991) 41-46.

[52] The elements in parentheses, though not found in the homily under discussion, are mentioned in other Constantinopolitan writings of Chrysostom: cf. van de Paverd, Meßliturgie 525ff.

[53] G. Nedungatt, M. Featherstone (eds.), The Council in Trullo Revisited (Kanonika 6, Rome 1995) 151 = Joannou, Discipline I.1:207 = Mansi 11:969. On Trullo and its canons, see Nedungatt-Featherstone and V. Laurent, “L’oeuvre canonique du Concile en Trullo (691-692), source primaire du droit de l’église orientale,” Revue des études byzantines 23 (1965) 7-41.

[54] On the imperial communion, see Taft, “The Byzantine Imperial Communion Ritual”; id., Great Entrance 26-31; F.J. Dölger, “Kaiser Theodosius der Große und Bischof Ambrosius von Mailand in einer Auseinandersetzung zwischen Predikt und Meßliturgie,” AC 1 (1929) 54-65.

[55] G. Tchalenko, Villages antiques de la Syrie du Nord. Le massif du Bélust à l’époque romaine, 3 vols. (Institut français d’archéologie de Beyrouth, Bibliothèque archéologique et historique, tome LX, I-II, Paris 1953; III, Paris 1958) I, 319-42, esp. 327-38, and II plates CI-CVI.

[56] Ibid. I, 329-30.

[57] S.G. Xydis, “The Chancel Barrier, Solea and Ambo of Hagia Sophia,” Art Bulletin 29 (1947) 1-24; Th.F. Mathews, The Early Churches of Constantinople: Architecture and Liturgy (University Park and London 1971) 96-99; Taft, Great Entrance 178ff; R.J. Mainstone, Hagia Sophia. Architecture, Structure and Liturgy of Justinian’s Great Church (London 1988) 232-33 pl. 252; 271 pl. A2; G.P. Majeska, “A Description of the Sanctuary of St. Sophia in Constantinople from Medieval Rus’,” in P. Schreiner & O. Strakhov (eds.), Chrysai Pulai—Zlataja Vrata. Essays Presented to Ihor ·evãenko on his eightieth birthday by his colleagues and students = Palaeoslavica 10/1 (2002) 249-254.

[58] Mathews, Early Churches passim, esp. 23-27, 32-33, 37-39, 54, 96-99, 109-110, 178-179; fig. 32; pl. 95-98. To the illustrations of sanctuaries indicated by Mathews one can add “The Murder of Zacharias” (ca. 1260) in D. Talbot Rice (ed.), The Church of Haghia Sophia at Trebizond, (Edinburgh 1968) 94 fig. 59; and, most recently, Ch. Stiegemann (ed.), Byzanz. Das Licht aus dem Osten. Kult und Alltag im Byzantinischen Reich vom 4. bis 15. Jahrhundert. Katalog der Ausstellung im Erzbishöflichen Diözesanmuseum Paderborn, 2001 (Mainz 2002) 25 pl. 9, 26 pl. 10, 33 pl. 3, 39 pl. 9.

[59] The pertinent information on the pre-history of the iconostasis can be found in the studies cited above in note 47.

[60] Descriptio S. Sophiae 418-23, 682-805; Descriptio ambonis S. Sophiae 50ff; ed. P. Friedländer, Johannes von Gaza und Paulus Silentiarius, Kunstbeschreibungen Justinianischer Zeit (Sammlung wissenschaftlicher Kommentare zu griechischen und römischen Schriftstellern, Leipzig/Berlin 1912) 227-65 = Paulus Silentiarius, Descriptio S. Sophiae et ambonis, ed. I. Bekker (Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae, Bonn 1837) 3-58 = PG 86.2:2119-2264 (these works are cited according to line number); trans. C. Mango, The Art of the Byzantine Empire, 312-1453 (Sources and Documents in the History of Art Series, Englewood Cliffs 1972) 82, 87-89, 91-96.

[61] The same expression is used in the 12th c. Ekphrasis §7: C. Mango & J. Parker, “A Twelfth-Century Description of St. Sophia,” DOP 14 (1960) 233-245, here 240, 244.

[62] Descr. ambonis 224-46; Mango, Art 95.

[63] R.L. Van Nice, Saint Sophia in Istanbul. An Architectural Survey (Washington, DC 1986) pl. 11; Mainstone, Hagia Sophia 232-33 pl. 252; 271 pl. A2 and 16-17 pl. 8; 196 pl. 223. Differences of opinion on other, minor issues—the exact location of the entrance(s) at the west end of the solea, etc.—are not germane to our concerns here: cf. N.K. Moran, “The Musical ‘Gestaltung’ of the Great Entrance Ceremony in the 12th Century in Accordance with the Rite of Hagia Sophia,” JÖB 28 (1979) 167-193, here 181-85.

[64] Mathews, Early Churches 61-67, figures 31-33.

[65] PG 38:55A-56A (= CPG §3038).

[66] PG 35:909C (= CPG §3010). The Greek thysiasterion or “altar” commonly refers to the entire sanctuary area as well: see for example Procopius, Buildings (ca. AD 550-560), I, i, 65, in Procopius, English trans. by H.B. Dewing, with G. Downey, 7 vols., Vol. VII: Buildings. (Loeb, Cambridge, MA 1954) 26; also Lampe, Patristic Greek Lexicon 660. But that can hardly be the sense here. At any rate there is no ambiguity whatever in the previous text: hiera trapeza can only mean the altar table.

[67] See Taft, Great Entrance 26-28; id, “Women,” 70-72 and passim.

[68] On these two gentlemen with the same first name, see Nicétas Stéthatos, Opuscules et letters, ed. J. Darrouzès (SC 81, Paris 1961) 15-17. In 1051-52 Nicetas chartophylax appears among the clergy of the Great Church during the patriarchate of Michael I Cerularius (1043-1058), Reg §858.

[69] SC 81:284-86. On the proliferation of private chapels despite their prohibition, see Th.F. Mathews, “‘Private Liturgy’ in Byzantine Architecture: Toward a Re-appraisal,” Cahiers Archéologiques 30 (1982) 125-138. In both East and West the practice of “domestic” eucharists became common. Home liturgies are a well-entrenched practice in 5th c. Constantinople, as the ill-fated Patriarch Nestorius (428-431) is informed when he reproves the presbyter Philip for it (J. Hardouin, Acta conciliorum, 12 vols. [Paris 1714-1715] I, 1322). The same was true in other local churches (examples and references in Taft, Beyond East and West 89-91). Indeed, things must have gotten out of hand, for the Councils of Laodicea (ca. 360-390) in Phrygia, Asia Minor (near the modern Denizli in Anatolia, Turkey), canon 58 (Mansi 2:574), and Seleucia-Ctesiphon (410) in Mesopotamia (J.-B. Chabot, Synodicon orientale [Paris 1902] 267), proscribe the practice outright, whereas in North Africa the Second Council of Carthage (ca. 390) requires episcopal authorization for such services (Mansi 3:695). The custom must have continued, however, for Novella 131.8 of Justinian I (527-565) reaffirms the need for episcopal authorization to celebrate the liturgy in private homes (CIC III, 657). Indeed, by the time of Justinian private house or monastery chapels (see P. Magdalino, “Eukterion,” ODB 2:745; G. Dagron, “Le christianisme dans la ville byzantine,” DOP 31 [1977] 9 note 31) had become so common that they required the authorization of the bishop, and were provided special regulations in Byzantine property law (Codex Iustinianus I, 2:25, CIC II, 18). Over a century later in 691/2, canon 31 of the Quinisext Council “in Trullo” had to repeat the same norm: “We decree that those clergymen who celebrate the liturgy in oratories in private houses should do so with the consent of the local bishop” (Nedungatt-Featherstone 106 = Mansi 11:956), a sure sign that the custom was alive and well despite earlier strictures. Canon 59 of the same council forbids performing baptisms in private house-chapels (Nedungatt-Featherstone 139 = Mansi 11:969). Emperor Leo VI (896-912), Novella 4 (PG 107:432-33) lifted these prohibitions, probably out of despair at getting anyone to observe them.

[70] T. Preger (ed.), Scriptores originum Constantinopolitanarum (Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, Scriptores Graeci, Leipzig 1901-1907) 94; trans. Mango, Art 99, for the date, 263.

[71] Ibid.

[72] De cerimoniis I, 39 (30), A. Vogt (ed.), Le Livre des cérémonies de Constantin Porphyrogénète, texte I-II (Paris 1935, 1939) I, 157; De cerimoniis II, 47 (38), 49 (40), 50 (41), 56 (47), 57 (48), 59 (50), Vogt II, 3, 11, 16, 47, 59, 65; cf. Taft, Great Entrance 31-32.

[73] PG 155:356A; cf. M. Arranz, “Couronnement royal et autres promotions de cour (= Les sacrements de l’institution de l’ancien euchologe constantinopolitain, III.1),” OCP 56 (1990) 83-133, here 125.

[74] I. Al. Beliarsky, “Le rite du couronnement des tsars dans les pays slaves et promotion d’autres axiai,” OCP 59 (1993) 91-139, here 116, 118, 121-22.

[75] Arranz, “Couronnement (Sacrements III.1),” 90-91, 98-101, 104-105; J. Goar, Euchologion sive Rituale Graecorum complectens ritus et ordines Divinae Liturgiae, officiorum, sacramentorum, consecrationum, benedictionum, funerum, orationum, &c. cuilibet personae, statui vel tempori congruos, juxta usum Orientalis Ecclesiae… (Venice 17302, reprinted Graz 1960) 731; cf. Ch. Strube, De westliche Eingangsseite der Kirchen von Konstantinopel in justinianischer Zeit. Architektonische und quellenkritische Untersuchungen (Schriften zur Geistesgeschichte der des östlichen Europa, Bd. 6. Wiesbaden 1973) 91; C. Mango, “Augustaion,” ODB 1:232.

[76] L. Dindorf (ed.), Chronicon paschale, 2 vols. (Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae, Bonn 1832) I, 714 = PG 92:1001 (= Reg 284a).

[77] Vogt I, 70.

[78] R.F. Taft, “The Pontifical Liturgy of the Great Church According to a Twelfth-Century Diataxis in Codex British Museum Add. 34060,” I: OCP 45 (1979) 279-307; II: 46 (1980) 89-124 = id., Liturgy in Byzantium and Beyond ch. II; here I, 302-3, §X.13.

[79] On which the basic study is J.M. Izzo, The Antimension in the Liturgical and Canonical Tradition of the Byzantine and Latin Churches (Rome 1975).

[80] I, 9, 10, Vogt I, 60-61, 70; II, 56 (47), 57 (48), Vogt II, 47, 59.

[81] De cerimoniis I, 1, Vogt I, 11. The left side was reserved for the women: I, 10, Vogt I, 70.

[82] De cerimoniis I, 1, 9, 32 (23),35 (26), Vogt I, 12-13, 58-61, 123-24, 135; cf. Vogt, Commentaire I, 61. Mathews, Early Churches 96 fig. 50, 132-34; and Mainstone, Hagia Sophia 223-26 and fig. 59, 249, 252; both locate the ground-floor metatorion of H. Sophia in the south aisle, though not in the same bay, a difference irrelevant for our purposes here. On the location of the ground-floor metatorion see also C. Mango, The Brazen House. A Study of the Vestibule of the Imperial Palace of Constantinople (Arkæologisk-kunsthistoriske Meddelelser, Bind 4 nr. 4, Copenhagen 1959) 64, 72 and note 198; Strube, De westliche Eingangsseite 73-81, 163-64; G.P. Majeska, Russian Travelers to Constantinople in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (Dumbarton Oaks Studies 19, Washington, DC 1984) 228, 241, 432-33; Taft, Great Entrance 30, 195, 396; J.-B. Papadopoulos, “Le mutatorion des églises byzantines,” in Mémorial Louis Petit (Archives de l’Orient chrétien 1, Bucharest 1948) 366-372.

[83] J. Mateos (ed.), Le Typicon de la Grande Église. Ms. Sainte-Croix n°. 40, Xe siècle. Introduction, texte critique, traduction et notes, 2 vols. (OCA 165-166, Rome 1962-1963) I, 154-59.

[84] Vogt I, 124.

[85] Vogt I, 3, 13.

[86] Vogt I, 61, cf. I, 1, Vogt I, 13.

[87] J. Ebersolt, Sainte-Sophie de Constantinople. Étude de topographie d’après les Cérémonies (Paris 1910) 17 note 3.

[88] De cerimoniis I, 56 (47), Vogt II, 47 line 20.

[89] De cerimoniis I, 59 (50), Vogt II, 65 line 19.

[90] Vogt II, 56 lines 21-22, and esp. 59 lines 20-28; cf. notes 51-52 above.

[91] Cited above at note 76.

[92] Taft, “Pontifical Liturgy” I, 302-3, §X.13.

[93] O. Nußbaum, “Zum Problem der runden und sigmaformigen Altarplatten,” Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 4 (1961) 18-43; G. De Angelis d’Ossat, “Mobilità e funzioni delle mense paleocristiane a «sigma» – la comunione dei laici,” Atti del III Congresso Nazionale di Archeologia Cristiana (Antichità altoadriatiche VI, Trieste 1974) 31-47, esp. 31-35.

[94] De Angelis d’Ossat, “Mobilità,” 35-47.

[95] I treat at length the whole question of the offerings of the faithful in Byzantium and the location of the skeuophylakion in Taft, Great Entrance 12-26, 31-34, 178-91, 258-59; and esp. id., “Quaestiones disputatae: The Skeuophylakion of Hagia Sophia and the Entrances of the Liturgy Revisited,” Part I, OC 81 (1997) 1-35; Part II, OC 82 (1998) 53-87 = id., Divine Liturgies—Human Problems in Byzantium, Armenia, Syria, and Palestine (Variorum Collected Studies Series CS716, Aldershot/Burlington/Singapore/Sidney 2001) chaps. VII-VIII.

[96] De Angelis d’Ossat, “Mobilità,” 35.

[97] They were also quite valuable: many of the measurements given below are repeated, with indication of their monetary equivalent, in M. Mundell Mango, “Monetary Value of Silver Revetments and Objects belonging to Churches, A.D. 300-700,” in S.A. Boyd and M. Mundell-Mango (eds.), Ecclesiatical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium. Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986, at The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. Organized by Susan A. Boyd, Marlia Mundell Mango, and Gary Vikan (Washington, DC 1993) 123-136 + 20 plates, here 132-36. Among those of the Byzantine Orthodox heritage today, the Russians still preserve the ancient unities, consecrating but one huge prosphora or eucharistic loaf, and one huge chalice: see the photograph in San Sergio di Radonezh, trans. S. Riccio (Rome 1993) 231. On the “unities” referred to, see R.F. Taft, “One Bread, One Body: Ritual Symbols of Ecclesial Communion in the Patristic Period,” in Nova Doctrina Vetusque: Essays in Early Christianity in Honor of Fredric W. Schlatter, S.J. Edited by Douglas Kries and Catherine Brown Tkacz (American University Studies, Series VII, Theology and Religion vol. 207, New York 1999) 23-50, here ; id., Precommunion 360-71.

[98] M. Mundell-Mango, Silver from Early Byzantium. the Kaper Koraon and Related Treasures (A Walters Art Gallery Publication in the History of Art, Baltimore 1986) nos. 4-6 (Hama Treasure), 34, 36, 39 (Stuma Treasure), 35 (Riha Treasure), 60 (Beth Misona Treasure), 63-64 (Phela Treasure), 74 (Marato tes Myrtes[?] Treasure), 75 (Sarabaon Treasure).

[99] Ibid. nos. 1-3, 27-29 (Hama Treasure), 30 (Riha Treasure), 41 (Antioch Treasure), 57-59 (Beth Misona Treasure), 61-62 (Phela Treasure), 73 (Marato tes Myrtes[?] Treasure). Cf. Also J. Lassus, Sanctuaires chrétiennes de Syrie. Essai sur la genèse, la forme et l’usage liturgique des edifices du culte chrétien de la Syrie, du IIIe siècle à la conquête musulmane (Institut français d’archéologie de Beyrouth, Bibliothèque archéologique et historique, tome XLII, Paris 1947) 197; id., “Syrie,” DACL 15:1927.

[100] I prescind from the disputed question of whether the Hama, Stuma, Riha and Antioch Treasures were actually part of one single Kaper Koraon trove, as proposed by Mundell-Mango, Silver x, xiii, 6, 20-21, 33-34. Since all four treasures were found within the same liturgical zone, that issue does not affect my argument here.

[101] My friend Susan A. Boyd, Curator of the Byzantine Collection at Dumbarton Oaks, was kind enough to read this section, and I am most grateful for her many valuable corrections and suggestions in an area where her competence far exceeds mine.

[102] I.e., not the libra or Roman pound but the modern English system still used for some purposes in N. America and elsewhere. I use this system throughout when referring to measurement, weight, or volume in other than the metric system.

[103] S.A. Boyd, “A ‘Metropolitan Treasure’ from a Church in the Provinces: An Introduction to the Study of the Sion Treasure,” in Boyd, Mundell-Mango, Silver Plate 5-37, here 17 and figs. S1.1-5, S3.1-2, S41-3, S5.1-3, S7.1

[104] Boyd, Mundell-Mango, Silver Plate 17; Mundell-Mango, “Monetary Value,” 134 and fig. 14; L. Matzulewich, Byzantinische Antike. Studien auf Grund der Silbergefäße der Ermitage (Archäologische Mitteilungen aus russischen Sammlungen, Bd. II. Berlin/Leipzig 1929) 102-8, Abb. 21-22, Tafel 26-27.

[105] V. Elbern, “Les arts du métal: or, argent et bronze,” in J. Lafontaine-Dosogne (ed.), Splendeurs de Byzance. Europalia 82. Hellas-Grèce, 2 octobre – 2 décembre 182, Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire. Catalogue (Brussels 1982) 129, cited loc. cit.

[106] Boyd, “The Sion Treasure,” 17 and fig. S7.1.

[107] Ibid. 14 and “Checklist of the Sion Treasure (excluding chains and small fragments),” Appendix I. to Boyd, “The Sion Treasure,” no. 13.

[108] Mundell-Mango, Silver no. 73. For another chalice with handles in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection , see A. Demandt, “Der Kelch von Ardabur und Anthusa,” DOP 40 (1986) 113-117, esp. illustrations 1-2.

[109] Majeska, Russian Travelers 94, cf. 280.

[110] M.R. Buck (ed.), Ulrichs von Richental Chronik der Constanzer Konzils, 1414 bis 1418 (Hildesheim 1962) 138.

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