Skip to main content

Catafalque

CATAFALQUE

From the Italian catafalco, derivation of which is uncertain, a catafalque is a wooden or steel structure that was historically used particularly for the absolution after requiem masses. It designated (1) a framework supporting the coffin at funerals when the corpse is physically present; or (2) more commonly the structure used to simulate the presence of a corpse, a practice of questionable meaningfulness. Originally the catafalque was nothing but the bier or support for the corpse. The use of a catafalque to represent an absent body seems to have originated later with the introduction of absolutions for the dead. Gradually the structure was increased in size, and frequently it was covered with a baldachin so that it came to assume monumental proportions when used for persons of high rank. In some countries the size of the catafalque was commensurate with the deceased's rank and wealth. The place for the catafalque was before the altar outside the sanctuary. It was covered with a black cloth or pall (except for little children for whom white is used), and surrounded by candles.

The liturgical reforms of Vatican II rendered the catafalque obsolete in many places. While it was never expressly forbidden, the desire for authenticity in liturgical celebration and the authoritative suggestion that absolution be given only in the actual presence of the corpse in the reformed funeral rites brought about its demise.

Bibliography: Notitiae 78 (1965). p. bayant, "Le Mobilier d'Église," Liturgia, ed. r. aigrain (Paris 1930) 256257. j. b.

o'connell, Church Building and Furnishing (South Bend, Ind.1955) 239242. g. malherbe, "Le Castrum Doloris ou catafalque des services funèbres" Paroisse et Liturgie 33 (1951) 116121. j. b. o'connell, The Celebration of Mass (new ed. Milwaukee 1956) 634636.

[a. cornides/eds.]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Catafalque." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Catafalque." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 25, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/catafalque

"Catafalque." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 25, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/catafalque

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.