Photo © Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Avraham Hay
Bronze censers from the Holy Land
Different sites in Israel: Southern Temple Mount, Beit Shean, Shoham, Yatir
Byzantine period
Bronze
D: 6 - 10 cm
Israel Antiquities Authority
Accession number: IAA 9645.I, 4446.I, 862.M, 40-1235, 52-111, 56-2, 78-1294, 97-4048
 
 
Based on the travelogues of pilgrims, as well as archaeological evidence, it seems that incense played a prominent role in early Christian liturgy. The censers were suspended from chains within the church and swung during the ceremonies, which fanned the coals that burned inside them and caused the scent of the incense to permeate the hall. Most of the censers were made of cast bronze in the shape of a bowl around the rims of which were three loops, hooks, and holes to attach the censors to a chain. The majority of the censers had bases or legs and could thus also be left freestanding. Censers with high, wide bases, which were clearly not meant to be carried, were equipped with perforated lids for the chains. "After these three psalms and prayers they take censers into the cave of Anastasis, so the whole Anastasis basilica is filled with the smell". From a report by Egeria - a pilgrim from the fourth century - concerning Sunday services in church.

Publications:
Israeli, Yael, and Mevorach, David, Cradle of Christianity, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2000, English / Hebrew

Exhibition:
Cradle of Christianity, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel, Spring 2000 - Winter 2001

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir