Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Holy Water Fonts

One of the oldest stoups, dating from the 4th century, in Gharb, Gozo (Malta)
I wrote frequently while I was in Malta, that I was helping my sister-in-law with her thesis, taking pictures of various holy water fonts that one finds on entering a church. Just to conclude this topic, I include here just a few photos I took of different fonts, also called stoups, some of which are pretty old, others more modern. The presence of these stoups in the back of churches is to let people bless themselves as they enter church for Mass. By blessing themselves, they are also absolving themselves of all venial sins, since this act is also a sacramental of the Catholic church. Some of the stoups are very ornamental, with the majority being pretty simple, but all of them are placed at the entrance, by the main door, or even by the side doors.    
From St Ursola church, Valletta, Malta, with the emblem of Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena
In England, during the Middle Ages, fonts called "stoups", or "holy water stones", consisted of a small niche somewhat resembling a piscina (pool) and containing a stone basin partly sunk in the wall, the niche being either under the porch or inside, but always near the entrance to the church. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries fonts again became movable and generally consisted of a tub placed upon an elevated stand, the medium height being about forty inches. The decoration of these small monuments underwent a complete modification as Italy and Spain have preserved admirable sculptured fonts dating from the Renaissance; most of these are of marble, and their bulk sometimes causes them to be mistaken for baptismal fonts, from which they are mainly distinguishable because of having no lids.
Stoups with angels at St Mary church, Mgarr, Malta, the angels possibly by Bernini.

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