The censer

The censer is a container used in the Christian liturgy to burn the aromatic incense spread on lit coals. Terracotta or metal censers were widely used in Egypt, ancient civilizations in the Middle East, including Jewry, and the classical world. Because they were primarily intended for religious worship, and above all for funerary rites, they were often the subject of artistic effort. The forms were varied. Both an open bowl with a handle or chains for carrying it and a closed receptacle with openings allowing the smoke to escape are known.

The first traces of the use of the censer by Christians date back to the 4th century, when the Roman emperor Constantine is said to have donated it to the church of San Giovanni in Laterano (Saint John Lateran) in Rome. However, they were only intended to perfume the church. The first strictly liturgical use in the West dates back to the 7th century, when currycombs were used in ritual gestures of honor for the bishop and the book of the Gospels. Over the centuries, the Christian censer has taken various artistic forms, often highly ornamented. Whether open or closed, it is usually worn by means of three or four chains attached to a central ring. In Eastern liturgies, the censer plays a much more important role than in those of the West.

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