Definitions

pulpit

pulpit

[pool-pit, puhl-]
pulpit, in churches, elevated platform with low enclosing sides, used for preaching the sermon. In the earliest churches the episcopal throne served this purpose. The boxlike elevated ambo of early medieval times, the apparent forerunner of the pulpit, was situated in the choir and served for reading and singing. In basilical churches there was usually an ambo at both the north and south sides of the choir. At an unknown date the north-side ambo came to be used for sermons, its location being a matter of favorable acoustics rather than ritual. The modern pulpit is ordinarily in the nave against the first pier outside the chancel and at the epistle side. Pulpits early became objects of fine craftsmanship. They were generally polygonal, supported by a single pillar or a group of columns or by brackets extending from a wall. In Italy there are many handsome examples, enriched with sculpture and mosaics. The hexagonal carved marble pulpit (1259) in the baptistery at Pisa, by the sculptor Nicola Pisano, displayed the first intimations of the Renaissance. The cathedral at Prato has the celebrated round outdoor pulpit sculptured by Donatello, who also designed in his last years two magnificent rectangular pulpits for the Church of San Lorenzo, Florence. With the Reformation the pulpit became the most conspicuous and important accessory in the Protestant church. Modern pulpits are, as a rule, of simple design.

North American plant (Arisaema triphyllum) of the arum family, noted for the unusual shape of its flower. One of the best-known perennial wildflowers of late spring in the eastern U.S. and Canada, it grows in wet woodlands and thickets from Nova Scotia to Minnesota and south to Florida and Texas. Three-part leaves on each of two long stalks overshadow the flower, which consists of a conspicuous green- and purple-striped structure called a spathe (“pulpit”) that rises on a separate stalk. The spathe curves in a hood over a club-shaped spadix (“jack”) that, at its base, bears minute flowers. In late summer the plant produces a cluster of brilliant red berries that are poisonous to humans but are eaten by many wild animals.

Learn more about jack-in-the-pulpit with a free trial on Britannica.com.

A pulpit (from Latin pulpitum "scaffold", "platform", "stage") is a small elevated platform where a member of the clergy stands in order to read the Gospel lesson and deliver a sermon.

In many Christian churches, there are two speakers who stand at the front of the church. Typically, the one on the left (as viewed by the congregation) is called the pulpit. Since the Gospel lesson is often read from the pulpit, the pulpit side of the church is sometimes called the gospel side.

The other speaker's stand, usually on the right (as viewed by the congregation), is known as the lectern. The word lectern comes from the Latin word meaning "to read", because the lectern primarily functions as a reading stand. It is typically used by lay people to read the scripture lessons (except for the Gospel lesson), to lead the congregation in prayer, and to make announcements. Because the epistle lesson is usually read from the lectern, the lectern side of the church is sometimes called the epistle side. In other churches, the lectern, from which the Epistle is read, is located to the congregation's left and the pulpit, from which the sermon is delivered, is located on the right (the Gospel being read from either the center of the chancel or in front of the altar).

Protestantism

In some Protestant churches, the pulpit is considered the most important piece of furniture in the sanctuary. It is situated central to the congregation and raised. It is where the minister stands and may be decorated with a 'pulpit fall'- a piece of cloth that covers the top of the pulpit and hangs down the front. Flowers may also stand in front of the pulpit.

In the eighteenth century triple-decker pulpits were often introduced in English speaking countries. The three levels of lecterns were intended to show the relative importance of the readings delivered there. The bottom tier was for community announcements, the middle for the gospel, and the top tier was reserved for the delivery of the sermon.

In many Evangelical Christian churches, the pulpit stands squarely in the center of the platform, and is generally the largest piece of church furniture. This is to symbolize the proclamation of the Word of God as the central focus of the weekly service of worship. In more contemporary evangelical churches, the pulpit may be much smaller, if used at all, and is generally carried out after the end of the song service. However, it usually is placed in the center of the platform as well.

From the pulpit is often used metaphorically for something which is said with official church authority.

Ambo

In churches where there is only one speaker's stand in the center of the front of the church, it serves the functions of both lectern and pulpit and is properly called the ambo. In common usage, however, ambos are incorrectly called pulpits.

The word ambo comes from a Greek word meaning an elevation. It was originally an elaborate raised platform in the middle of the nave from which the Epistle and Gospel would be read, and was occasionally used as a speaker's platform for homilies. It was joined to the sanctuary by a raised walkway called the soleas. In modern Eastern Christian use, this form of the ambo is now very rare. Instead, the area directly in front of the Beautiful Gates of the iconostasis from which the Gospel is typically read is called the ambo, and the entire low elevation above the level of the nave in front of the iconostasis is called the soleas. In larger churches, the ambo might be distinguished by three curved steps from which one might reach it from the nave.

In Eastern Orthodox cathedrals there is usually a low platform in the center of the nave called the episcopal ambo where the bishop is vested prior to the Divine Liturgy and where he is enthroned until the Little Entrance. If the bishop is serving in a simple parish church, an episcopal ambo is set temporarily in place.

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