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Letter "M" Glossary

machicholation — A defensive structure in the form of a gallery projecting on brackets and built on the exterior of castle towers and walls, with openings in the floor through which to drop molten lead, boiling oil, and missiles on attacking forces.

mandorla — An almond-shaped framing device in paintings and sculpture usually used to highlight a significant figure such as Christ or the Madonna and Child. Italian for "almond."

manuscript — A handwritten book (codex) of either of ecclesiastical or secular subject matter developed during the Early Christian period and remaining typical of the period before the invention of the printing press.

manuscript illumination —Painted images, including both narrative scenes and ornamental decorations, in ecclesiastical and secular manuscripts, often using a gold background.

marble — A metamorphic rock, composed mostly of recrystallized calcite and/or dolomite, often irregularly colored by impurities; can also refer more broadly to any crystallized carbonate rock, including true marble and certain types of limestone, that will take a polish and can be used for architectural and ornamental purposes. Individual quarries tended to produce specific types of marble that might be prized for their consistency or color.

mask head — A carved animal head used in decorative schemes sometimes in conjunction with interlace or foliage motifs.

mass — Christian ceremony consisting of sequences of prayers and rituals constituting a commemorative sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ symbolized by bread (the consecrated bread or wafer of the Eucharist called the Host) and wine.

mausoleum — A building dedicated as the tomb or shrine for a person of rank.

meander pattern (Greek key) — Continuous ornament consisting of winding lines, either angular or curving.

mensa — The upper surface, especially the top slab, of a consecrated Christian altar designed as a table or box-like element.

mihrab — A niche, chamber or slab on the wall of a mosque indicating the qibla or direction of mecca.

minaret — Tall, slender towers of a mosque used to summon the congregation to prayer.

minbar — Pulpits in mosques, having a small stand for the speaker, parapet, canopy, narrow stairs, and usually a gate at the foot of the stairs.

miniature — Small-scale paintings, either decorative or narrative, in manuscripts, also called illuminations.

mitre — Liturgical headdresses worn by bishops and abbots usually designed in a triangular format and often decorated with gold or silver embroidery or other ornamentation.

monastery — Complex of buildings used to house a community of monks or nuns, including a church and cloister, refectory for meals, dormitory for sleep and, usually, a hostelry for guests and a scriptorium for the production and copying of books (manuscripts).

monstrance — Christian liturgical vessel designed to display the Host to the congregation, either on an altar or in procession. Distinguished from "pyxes," which are vessels used to hold the consecrated Host on the altar or to carry the Eucharist to the sick.

mortar — A building material with adhesive qualities, composed of sand and lime, or cement mixed with water, which gradually hardens when exposed to air and used as the bonding element for brick and stone work.

mosaic — Wall or floor covering composed of small pieces of colored stone (usually marble) or glass (tesserae) set in mortar and forming either abstract designs or figural scenes. Used in both secular and religious buildings in the Ancient world and the Middle Ages. Christian mosaics are used a gold background in which gold leaf was applied to the back of individual pieces of glass.

mosque - Building for used for worship by members of the Islamic faith.

mullion — Slender, vertical, non-supporting bars usually of masonry or wood forming a division between doors, screens, or lights of windows.

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