Before the fifth century, the tabernacle did not exist as we know it today. Instead, worshippers used a “pyx,” a sacred vessel that hung over the altar, inside which the Eucharist was stored. We can date the use of these pyxes to the earliest days of Christianity, because we have found it painted in frescoes of the catacombs of St. Calistus, dating from around the second century AD.
These containers were of small size and capacity, and made from noble materials: at first in wood, then ivory or polished metal with enamels.
In time, the Eucharistic host began to be reserved in spaces carved into walls or pillars, until the 15th century, when use of tabernacles in churches was expanded. The Council of Trent saw an intense defense of the Blessed Sacrament from various heresies, and as the Church sought to manifest her faith in the Eucharist as a sacrifice and not as a simple commemoration, it became common to place sacred items like tabernacles in the central part of every church.
The Art of Making Tabernacles
Granda’s tabernacles are constructed from a bronze structure that is later plated with gold or silver. There are two distinct parts: the inner box, where the consecrated hosts are reserved, and the outer box, which is visible to the assembly. In the space between the two boxes, Granda can add steel reinforcement if the client wishes. Both inside and out are enriched with precious materials and decorative elements, like engravings, enamels, and jewels. At Granda, we make a point of designing the interior, which is hidden, to be richer than the outside, because it is the dwelling place of Our Lord.
In the design process, we make an effort to hide the mechanical parts of the tabernacle, like screws and hinges. Often, the keyhole is hidden behind a metal latch disguised within the artwork on the door. We have even created tabernacles where the keyhole is hidden behind an apostle’s arm.
Granda’s workshops have designed and crafted hundreds of churches on five continents. The qualification of our artisans, their mastery of traditional artistic techniques, and the experience accumulated over 126 years have made it possible to undertake any commission, taking into account the devotional and aesthetic preferences among the world’s cultures. This individualized attention, which allows customers to participate in the creative process and realize their vision, makes each creation a unique work.
Tabernacles by Granda
Since our founding in 1891, we have designed thousands of tabernacles for churches on five continents. Many of them, like those from Singapore and Russia shown above, are unique pieces specifically designed for a particular place of worship. You can find more information about our permanent collection or custom commissions on the Granda website and in our catalog.
This post is slightly adapted from an article on the blog of our parent company, Talleres de Arte Granda.