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Catafalque of Krzysztof Opalinski, 17th century Krzysztof Opalinski dead Sierakow.jpg
Catafalque of Krzysztof Opaliński, 17th century

A catafalque is a raised bier, box, or similar platform, often movable, that is used to support the casket, coffin, or body of the deceased during a Christian funeral or memorial service. [1] Following a Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, a catafalque may be used to stand in place of the body at the absolution of the dead or used during Masses of the Dead and All Souls' Day. [2]


A bier is a stand on which a corpse, coffin, or casket containing a corpse, is placed to lie in state or to be carried to the grave.

A casket or jewelry box is a container that is usually smaller than a chest, and in the past were typically decorated.

Coffin Container for transport, laying out and the burial of a corpse

A coffin is a funerary box used for viewing or keeping a corpse, either for burial or cremation.


According to Peter Stanford, the term originates from the Italian catafalco, which means scaffolding. [3] However, the Oxford English Dictionary says the word is "[o]f unknown derivation; even the original form is uncertain; French pointing to -fald- or -falt-, Italian to -falc-, Spanish to -fals." The most notable Italian catafalque was the one designed for Michelangelo by his fellow artists in 1564. [4] An elaborate and highly decorated roofed surround for a catafalque, [5] common for grand funerals of the Baroque era, may be called a castrum doloris .

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, and together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a regional or a traditional language in these countries, where Italians do not represent a historical minority. In the case of Romania, Italian is listed by the Government along 10 other languages which supposedly receive a "general protection", but not between those which should be granted an "advanced or enhanced" one. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Scaffolding A temporary structure used to support a work crew and materials

Scaffolding, also called scaffold or staging, is a temporary structure used to support a work crew and materials to aid in the construction, maintenance and repair of buildings, bridges and all other man made structures. Scaffolds are widely used on site to get access to heights and areas that would be otherwise hard to get to. Unsafe scaffolding has the potential to result in death or serious injury. Scaffolding is also used in adapted forms for formwork and shoring, grandstand seating, concert stages, access/viewing towers, exhibition stands, ski ramps, half pipes and art projects.

<i>Oxford English Dictionary</i> Premier historical dictionary of the English language

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the principal historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers, as well as describing usage in its many variations throughout the world. The second edition, comprising 21,728 pages in 20 volumes, was published in 1989.

Papal catafalques

Large processions have followed the catafalques of Popes. The households of the cardinals carried the catafalque of Pope Sixtus V in 1590. The bier, decorated with gold cloth, was followed by "confraternities, religious orders, students of seminaries and colleges, orphans and mendicants". [6] In 1963, a million people filed past the catafalque of Pope John XXIII, which had been carried in procession to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. [7]

Pope Sixtus V pope

Pope Sixtus V or Xystus V, born Felice Piergentile, was Pope of the Catholic Church from 24 April 1585 to his death in 1590. As a youth, he joined the Franciscan order, where he displayed talents as a scholar and preacher, and enjoyed the patronage of Pius V, who made him a cardinal.

A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. The order is composed of laypeople and, in some orders, clergy. Religious orders exist in many of the world's religions.


A mendicant is one who practices mendicancy (begging) and relies chiefly or exclusively on charitable donations to survive. In principle, mendicant religious orders do not own property, either individually or collectively, and members have taken a vow of poverty, in order that all their time and energy could be expended on practicing or preaching and serving the poor. It is a form of asceticism.

Notable catafalques

Voltaire's catafalque Voltaire cercueil funerailles Pantheon.jpg
Voltaire's catafalque

Other than religious leaders such as Popes, famous people have lain in state or been carried in procession to their burial place on a catafalque.


Thirteen years after his death, the remains of Voltaire were transferred on a catafalque to the Panthéon in Paris, a building dedicated to the great men of the French nation. It bore the inscription: "Poet, philosopher, historian, he made a great step forward in the human spirit. He prepared us to become free." [8]

Voltaire French writer, historian and philosopher

François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plumeVoltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, as well as his advocacy of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.

Panthéon mausoleum in Paris

The Panthéon is a building in the Latin Quarter in Paris, France. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house the reliquary châsse containing her relics but, after many changes, now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. It is an early example of neo-classicism, with a façade modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante's Tempietto. Located in the 5th arrondissement on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Panthéon looks out over all of Paris. Designer Jacques-Germain Soufflot had the intention of combining the lightness and brightness of the Gothic cathedral with classical principles, but its role as a mausoleum required the great Gothic windows to be blocked.

Abraham Lincoln

The Lincoln catafalque in the United States Capitol LincolnCatafalque.jpg
The Lincoln catafalque in the United States Capitol

The Lincoln catafalque, [9] first used for United States President Abraham Lincoln's funeral in 1865, has been used for all those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda since Lincoln's death. When not in use, the catafalque is kept on display in the Exhibition Hall at the United States Capitol Visitor Center. It was used for Antonin Scalia, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, in 2016. Commentators noted that the structure of the original pine timbers and boards has been reinforced, albeit being left 'original'. [10]

Abraham Lincoln 16th president of the United States

Abraham Lincoln was an American statesman, politician, and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. He preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the U.S. economy.

Lying in state public funerary custom

Lying in state is the tradition in which the body of a dead official is placed in a state building, either outside or inside a coffin, to allow the public to pay their respects. It traditionally takes place in the principal government building of a country, state, or city. While the practice differs among countries, a viewing in a location other than the principal government building may be referred to as lying in repose.

United States Capitol Visitor Center

The United States Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) is a large underground addition to the United States Capitol complex which serves as a gathering point for up to 4,000 tourists and an expansion space for the US Congress. It is located below the East Front of the Capitol and its plaza, between the Capitol building and 1st Street East. The complex contains 580,000 square feet (54,000 m2) of space below ground on three floors. The overall project's budget was $621 million.

See also

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Pope John XXIII 261st Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope John XXIII was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 28 October 1958 to his death in 1963; he was canonized on 27 April 2014. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was one of thirteen children born to a family of sharecroppers who lived in a village in Lombardy. He was ordained to the priesthood on 10 August 1904 and served in a number of posts, as nuncio in France and a delegate to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. In a consistory on 12 January 1953 Pope Pius XII made Roncalli a cardinal as the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prisca in addition to naming him as the Patriarch of Venice.

St. Peters Basilica Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, or simply St. Peter's Basilica, is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome.

State funeral Public funeral ceremony held to honour people of national significance

A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honour people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition. Generally, state funerals are held in order to involve the general public in a national day of mourning after the family of the deceased gives consent. A state funeral will often generate mass publicity from both national and global media outlets.

Riderless horse

A riderless horse is a single horse, without a rider, and with boots reversed in the stirrups, which sometimes accompanies a funeral procession. The horse follows the caisson carrying the casket. A riderless horse can also be featured in military parades to symbolize fallen soldiers. In Australia for example, it is traditional for a riderless horse known as the 'Lone Charger' to lead the annual Anzac Day marches.

Lincoln Tomb tomb of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, United States

The Lincoln Tomb is the final resting place of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of their four sons, Edward, William, and Thomas. It is located in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. Constructed of granite, the tomb has a single-story rectangular base, surmounted by an obelisk, with a semicircular receiving room entrance-way, on one end, and semicircular crypt or burial room on the opposite side.

Funeral and burial of Abraham Lincoln

After the April 14, 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, a three-week series of events mourned his death and memorialized his life. Funeral services and lyings in state were held in Washington, D.C., and then in additional cities as a funeral train transported his remains for burial in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln's eldest son Robert Todd rode the train to Baltimore and then disembarked and returned to the White House. Lincoln's wife Mary Todd Lincoln remained at the White House because she was too distraught to make the trip. Robert took a later train to Springfield for his father's final funeral and burial.

Funeral of Pope John Paul II Certain aspects of a persons life

The funeral of Pope John Paul II was held on 8 April 2005, six days after his death on 2 April. The funeral was followed by the novemdiales devotional in which the Catholic Church observes nine days of mourning.

Procession organized body of people walking in a formal or ceremonial manner

A procession is an organized body of people walking in a formal or ceremonial manner.

United States Capitol rotunda Component of United States Capitol

The United States Capitol rotunda is the central rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., built 1818–1824. It is located below the Capitol dome, built 1857–1866; the later construction also extended the height of the rotunda walls. It is the tallest part of the Capitol and has been described as its "symbolic and physical heart."

Lincoln Catafalque support for the casket of Abraham Lincoln while his body lay in state

The Lincoln catafalque is a catafalque hastily constructed in 1865 to support the casket of Abraham Lincoln while the president's body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. The catafalque has since been used for all those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda. When not in use, the catafalque is kept in the United States Capitol Visitor Center in a small vaulted chamber. It was previously kept in an area called Washington's Tomb, which was originally intended, but never used, as the burial place for George Washington, the first President of the United States.

Epitaphios (liturgical)

The Epitaphios is a Christian religious icon, typically consisting of a large, embroidered and often richly adorned cloth, bearing an image of the dead body of Christ, often accompanied by his mother and other figures, following the Gospel account. It is used during the liturgical services of Good Friday and Holy Saturday in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, as well as those Eastern Catholic Churches, which follow the Byzantine Rite. It also exists in painted or mosaic form, on wall or panel.

A funeral procession is a procession, usually in motor vehicles or by foot, from a funeral home or place of worship to the cemetery or crematorium. In earlier times the deceased was typically carried by male family members on a bier or in a coffin to the final resting place. This practice has shifted over time toward transporting the deceased in a hearse, while family and friends follow in their vehicles. The transition from the procession by foot to procession by car can be attributed to two main factors; the switch to burying or cremating the body at locations far from the funeral site and mainly the introduction of motorized vehicles and public transportation making processions by foot through the street no longer practical.

State funerals in the United States Special funerary rites to honor the passing of notable Americans

State funerals in the United States are the official funerary rites conducted by the Federal government of the United States in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. that are offered to a sitting or former President of the United States, a President-elect, and others who have rendered distinguished service to the nation. Administered by the Military District of Washington (MDW), a command unit of the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region, state funerals are greatly influenced by protocol, steeped in tradition, and rich in history. However, the overall planning as well as the decision to hold a state funeral, is largely determined by a president and his family.

State funeral of John F. Kennedy state funeral

The state funeral of John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, took place in Washington, D.C., during the three days that followed his assassination on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

State funerals in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, a state funeral is usually reserved for a monarch and the Earl Marshal is in charge. The last such funeral was held in 1952 for King George VI. In addition, very exceptionally, a state funeral may be held to honour a highly distinguished figure, with the approval of the monarch and with Parliament's approval. This last happened in 1965 for Sir Winston Churchill.

New Jersey Avenue Station

The Washington Depot or New Jersey Avenue Station was a train station located in Northwest Washington, D.C., a block north of the Capitol. The train station was also called the B&O Depot as it was served by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. It operated from April 1851 until Union Station on October 26, 1907. During the American Civil War, the New Jersey Avenue Station was the major embarkation site for hundreds of thousands of Union troops. President Abraham Lincoln arrived there to be sworn in as President in 1861. It was from that station that his body along with his son "Willie" Lincoln began its long journey to his final resting place in Illinois after he was assassinated on April 14, 1865.

William Turner Coggeshall American publisher,librarian and ambassador

William Turner Coggeshall (1824–1867) was a publisher, librarian, and ambassador. He was a self-appointed bodyguard for Abraham Lincoln.

Old Bob Driving horse of Abraham Lincoln

Old Bob or Old Robin was a driving horse used by Abraham Lincoln during the period prior to his presidency of the United States. He later participated in Lincoln's funeral. Old Bob's exact fate and date of death are unknown; he was sold to drayman John Flynn by Lincoln in 1860.

Abraham Lincolns hearse

Abraham Lincoln's hearse was the purpose-constructed hearse built to carry the body of Abraham Lincoln during a cortège held in New York City on April 25, 1865, shortly after his assassination by John Wilkes Booth. It has been described as the most elaborate of the many hearses used to transport Lincoln's body during the two-week funeral tour which preceded his burial in Springfield, Illinois.


  1. Christopher Jobson (2009). Looking Forward Looking Back: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Army. Big Sky Publishing. pp. 71–. ISBN   978-0-9803251-6-4.
  2. James Empereur; Eduardo Fernández (12 October 2006). La Vida Sacra: Contemporary Hispanic Sacramental Theology. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 294–. ISBN   978-1-4616-3855-1.
  3. Peter Stanford (23 May 2013). How to Read a Graveyard: Journeys in the Company of the Dead. A&C Black. pp. 244–. ISBN   978-1-4411-7977-7.
  4. Sally J. Cornelison (2012). Art and the Relic Cult of St. Antoninus in Renaissance Florence. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 276–. ISBN   978-0-7546-6714-8.
  5. George Bull (15 July 1998). Michelangelo: A Biography. St. Martin's Press. pp. 3–. ISBN   978-0-312-18746-0.
  6. Schraven, Minou (2014). Festive Funerals in Early Modern Italy: The Art and Culture of Conspicuous Commemoration. Ashgate Publishing. p. 203. ISBN   9780754665243.
  7. CriticalPast (2014-06-18), Millions of people pass by the catafalque bearing the body of Pope John XXIII in ...HD Stock Footage , retrieved 2016-07-26
  8. "Voltaire's funeral procession". Retrieved 2016-07-26.
  9. William Turner Coggeshall (1865). Lincoln Memorial: The Journeys of Abraham Lincoln: from Springfield to Washington, 1861, as President Elect; and from Washington to Springfield, 1865, as President Martyred; Comprising an Account of Public Ceremonies on the Entire Route, and Full Details of Both Journeys. Ohio State Journal. pp. 277–.
  10. According to Robert Cromie in his book The Great Chicago Fire, copyright 1958, Lincoln's catafalque was in Woods' Museum in Chicago and was burned in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. However, Lincoln had funeral ceremonies during stops at several major cities as his remains were taken by train from Washington to Springfield, Illinois for burial. Cromie probably meant the catafalque used for ceremonies held at Chicago, rather than the one built for his state funeral in DC and retained at the U.S. Capitol.