Last edited 09 Feb 2021

Pulpit

PisanoPulpit.jpg
This pulpit by Giovanni Pisano was cast after a marble original in the Cathedral, Pisa. The original is situated on the left side of the nave, before the crossing. This cast can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum Cast Court, London.

A pulpit is an elevated structure, typically made from stone or wood, for a preacher or reader to address the congregation. In the Catholic religion, the pulpit is reserved for members of the clergy. The word pulpit originates from the Latin 'pulpitum' which means platform or staging.

Pulpits may be fitted with an acoustic canopy above and sometimes behind the preacher. Often made from wood, this canopy (referred to as a sounding board, tester or abat-voix) can help project the speaker’s voice.

Pulpits were initially incorporated into church buildings during the later Middle Ages. A stand known as an ambo was used in the early Middle Ages, up until roughly the 14th century.

Pulpits are sometimes elaborately carved. During the Italian Renaissance, pulpit reliefs were often undertaken as commissions by artists.

In some Protestant churches, the pulpit is considered the most important piece of furniture in the sanctuary. In both Protestant and Catholic churches, the pulpit is often placed in a position that projects closer to the congregation.

In English churches, there are a few instances of pulpits on wheels, which allowed them to be placed in an optimal position. There are also instances in Anglican churches where three-decker pulpits can be found. These combined a reading desk, a clerk’s stall and a preacher’s platform - one above the other.

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