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Censer

Censer

  • Place of origin:

    Venice (city), Italy (made)

  • Date:

    15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W.L. Hildburgh

  • Museum number:

    M.39-1951

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, room 84, case 2

  • Download image

A censer is used to burn incense, a mixture of gum arabic (resin from an acacia tree) and fragrance. Incense has been used since ancient times to symbolise the prayers of the faithful rising to God. It is placed on hot charcoal in the bowl of the censer, and as the censer is swung to and fro, the smoke billows outwards and upwards to perfume the whole church.

Ritual cleansing and anointing play a crucial part in Christian worship, as they do in other religions. Water, salt, incense and oils are used in ceremonies such as baptism and confirmation, and in the blessing of individuals and of sacred objects like altars and bells.

Physical description

Plain round bowl on a domed and slightly moulded foot. Hexagonal cover consisting of two tiers of traceried windows surmounted by a low pierced point roof with a ball knob.

Place of Origin

Venice (city), Italy (made)

Date

15th century (made)

Artist/maker

unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Silver

Marks and inscriptions

Mark for Venice

Dimensions

Height: 9.25 in, Width: 3.5 in

Historical context note

Medieval Worship

Until the 16th century Roman Catholicism was the universal faith of the Western world and Latin was its universal language. The needs of church ritual inspired the production of a range of richly decorated vessels and vestments, crosses and images in the form of altarpieces. Many were made of gold or silver, adorned with enamels or gems, precious materials seen as symbolic of the reverence due to the worship of God. Less wealthy churches used cheaper vessels in copper, brass or pewter.

The celebration of Mass was and remains the most important service of the Roman Catholic liturgy. For this the minimum requirements are an altar, a chalice and missal, the book of texts necessary for the Mass. Holy Communion or Eucharist is that part of the Mass in which the people participate in the sacrifice of Christ, by partaking of his body and blood in the consecrated bread and wine, held in the chalice and paten.

Descriptive line

Silver, Venice, Italy, ca.1500

Exhibition History

Medieval Worship (Sacred Silver and Stained Glass Galleries, the Victoria and Albert Museum 22/11/2005-22/11/2005)

Labels and date

Two Censers

A censer is used to burn incense, a mixture of gum arabic (resin from an acacia tree) and fragrance. Incense has been used since ancient times to symbolise the prayers of the faithful rising to God. It is placed on hot charcoal in the bowl of the censer, and as the censer is swung to and fro, the smoke billows outwards and upwards to perfume the whole church.

Ritual cleansing and anointing play a crucial part in Christian worship, as they do in other religions. Water, salt, incense and oils are used in ceremonies such as baptism and confirmation, and in the blessing of individuals and of sacred objects like altars and bells.

Venice, Italy, about 1500. Silver
Museum no.M.39-1951. Hildburgh Gift
England, about 1350
Copper alloy, hammered, cast and gilded
Museum no.M.123-1978 [27/10/2005]

Materials

Silver

Categories

Metalwork; Religion; Christianity

Collection code

MET

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Qr_O110450
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