Glossary of Terms

Aedicule — in architecture, a doorway or framed opening, or the sculptural representation of such structure
Ambulatory — covered walkway, or passageway around the apse of a church
Ampulla — small bottle, flask, or vessel for oil
Amulet — charm worn to protect against evil or misfortune
Anastasis — Greek word for "resurrection"; may also refer to the day before Easter
Annunciation — in Christianity, when Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce her pregnancy and future birth of Jesus Christ
Apostolic college — entire group of Christ's apostles
Apse — domed, semi-circular recess at the end of the nave, aisles, or choir of a church
Archeiropoietos — an image or icon "not made by human hands," such as the Shroud of Turin or the Virgin of Guadalupe
Aureola — celestial crown or halo depicted on holy figurers

Capital — top or head of a column, usually carved
Catacomb — underground cemetery or crypt
Carolingian — related to the empire established by Charlemagne
Censer — small container for burning incense used during religious ceremonies
Cephalophore — in Christianity, saint who carries his or her head after beheading
Champlevé — type of enamel work in which fields are dug into the base plate to separate each area of color
Chevet — derived from the Old French term for "head." In Gothic architecture, east end of a church.
Ciborium — case or receptacle for the Eucharist
Clerestory — part of a church above the nave, transept, and choir with a row of small windows to let light into the center of the building
Cloisonné — type of enamelwork in which metal cells or partitions (cloisons) are placed on top of the base plate to separate each area of color
Confessio — crypt under an altar for relics or saint's remains
Consecration — act or process of making or declaring holy or sacred
Crypt — underground chamber, often used as tomb
Cult — system of religious rites, ceremonies, and devotion

Diadem — decorated or ornamental band worn around the head, crown
Dodecasyllabic — verse with twelve syllables

Ecclesiastical — of the church or church matters
Enklopion — pendant worn "on the chest"
Entablature — entire set of carved moldings and bands that lie horizontally across the tops of columns, usually decorated
Epitaph — tomb inscription
Eulogia — literally a "blessing," often refering to a small bit of consecrated material collected by a pilgrim as a souvenir
Ex-voto — small offering, often left at a shrine
Exergue — small space on a coin for an inscription or information

Feast day — in Christianity, the day dedicated to the worship of a particular saint
Fibula — clasp or brooch

Guilloche — decorative twisted bands or strings, often carved

Hagiography — the study or writing of the lives of saints
Hexameter — poem with six metrical feet
Homily — lecture or speech addressed to a congregation not from Scripture, usually topical or moral

Icon — in Christianity, image or representation of a holy figure, sometimes believed to be sacred itself
Iconoclasm — destruction of religious images or of the belief therein; the period of Byzantine Iconoclasm lasten from 726–843
Iconography — standard pictorial representation or symbol
Indulgence — in Christianity, forgiveness of a sin, often bought
Intercessor — mediator; one who works or lobbies on behalf of a petitioner

Libation — the pouring out of drink; or the liquid to be drunk
Lignum Crucis — Latin for "Wood of the Cross," believed to be that on which Jesus was crucified and later discovered by St. Helena
Liturgical — pertaining to worship
Liturgy — worship; in Christianity, also the Eucharist or Communion
Loculus — small chamber or niche in a tomb for a corpse or urn
Lunette — small moon or half-moon shape

Majestas Domini — Latin for "Christ in Majesty," Jesus depicted as ruler in Heaven on a throne
Mandorla — small space shaped like an almond, often framing an image of Christ
Martyr — a person who is killed because of a particular religious belief or chooses to die rather than renounce a belief
Martyrion — shrine dedicated to a martyr, occasionally at the site of martyrdom or location of relics
Menologion — catalog of saints arranged in order of their feast days; almanac
Myron — sweet-smelling oil, thought to miraculously exude from the remains of certain saints

Nave — central section of a church, usually on an East-West axis
Necropolis — Literally "city of the dead"; cemetery
Niello — black metallic alloy used for design
Nimbus — small cloud or halo around a holy person

Opus interrasile — finely punched metal or needlework with decorative openings
Orans posture — prayer position with outstretched arms
Orant — figure in prayer in the orans posture
Ostensorium — display case for the Eucharist or relics

Palladium — anything believed to provide protection or safety
Pallium — a man's cloak; in the Latin Church, a circular band worn over the shoulders by archbishops
Phylactery — in Medieval art, container for a relic; protective object; physical reminder to keep holy; leather box for Hebrew religious texts
Pilaster — rectangular column projecting from a wall or framing a doorway
Pilgrimage — journey of devotion to a religious site
Pluteus — screen, wall, podium, or shelf for decoration or display
Pyxis — a lidded, circular box, usually decorated, for holding medicine, cosmetics, or relics

Recumbent — reclining or lying down; reliant or dependent
Relief — carving in or sculpture projecting from a flat plane
Reliquary — ornamental container for a relic
Repoussé — type of metalwork in which images or shapes are hammered out from the back to create a relief
Resurrection — action of rising from the dead, usually pertaining to Jesus Christ
Rinceau — decorative border or band of carved or painted foliage

Sancta Sanctorum — "Holy of Holies," the most sacred area in a temple; name of the Pope's private relic chapel near the Lateran basilica in Rome
Sarcophagus — stone coffin, usually decorated with inscriptions or reliefs
Sepulcher — a tomb; in Christianity, the cave where Christ was buried
Spandrel — the space between two arches, or between an arch and the outer moldings of a structure
Stele — vertical slab or pillar with inscriptions or designs
Staurotheke — reliquary for the relic of the True Cross; term commonly reserved for Byzantine reliquaries
Subdeacon — an order of church ministers who are below the deacon
Suppedaneum — platform to support the feet during crucifixion
Suppliant — humble petitioner, prayer, or beggar

Transept — section of the church perpendicular to the nave, usually on a North-South axis
Translation — transference from one place to another; the transfer of a saint's body or of a relic from one location to another
Tympanum — flat or recessed area of a pedestal or above a doorway, often decorated or enclosing a sculpture
Typology — study of symbols or representations

Veneration — deep respect, reverence, or worship
Votive — small offering, often left at altars

Westwork — from the German "Westwerk;" the monumental Western façade of a church