CARF Foundation

1 February, 23


Knows the different sacred vessels and liturgical objects

When we speak of sacred vessels we refer to the liturgical objects necessary for the celebration of the Holy Mass, also responsible for the proper preservation of the body of Christ. We tell you all the elements contained in the Case (now backpack) of Sacred Vessels of the CARF Foundation.

Liturgical objects: what are sacred vessels?

Liturgical objects were gaining importance since the first centuries of Christianity. Many of them were conceived of as relics, such as the Holy Grail and the Lignun Crucis. The presence of sacred vessels in the Middle Ages is evident not only from the objects that have come down to us to the present day, but also from the numerous documentary sources: inventories of the churches in which the acquisitions or donations of certain liturgical objects were recorded, among which the sacred vessels stood out.

Nowadays, sacred vessels are called the utensils of liturgical worship which are in direct contact with the Eucharist. As they are sacred, they are used only for that purpose and must be blessed by the bishop or a priest.

In addition, they must have the necessary dignity to carry out the Holy Mass. According to the Spanish Episcopal Conference, they must be made of noble metal or other solid, unbreakable and incorruptible materials that are considered noble in each place.

The paten and chalice are the most important sacred vessels since the beginning of Christianity. They contain the bread and wine to be consecrated during the Holy Mass. With the passing of time, and the needs of Eucharistic worship and the faithful, other sacred vessels have appeared, such as the ciborium or pyx and the monstrance, as well as other accessories.

After the celebration of the sacraments, the priest cleans and purifies the liturgical objects he has used, since all must be clean and well preserved.

Why are sacred vessels important to a priest?

Having all the necessary elements to impart the sacraments and celebrate the Holy Mass is indispensable for a priest.

This is why the Social Action Board (PAS) of the CARF Foundation delivers each year more than 60 cases of sacred vessels The backpack is complete for deacons and priests from all over the world who study in Pamplona and Rome. The current backpack contains everything necessary to celebrate Holy Mass with dignity in any place, without the need for a previous installation.

The Sacred Vessel Case of the CARF Foundation enables young priests without resources to administer the sacraments where they are most needed. At this time, it is not only the priest in front of them, but also all the benefactors who will make it possible for them to exercise their ministry with adequate material dignity.

Which liturgical objects are sacred vessels?

Sacred vessels primary are those which, previously consecrated, have been destined to contain the Holy Eucharist. Like the chalice, paten, ciborium, monstrance and tabernacle.

Contrary to the sacred vessels secondary, that do not have contact with the Eucharist, but are intended for divine worship, such as the cruets, acetre, hyssop, incense burner, bell, alb and the candlestickamong others.

sacred vessels


From Latin calix which means drinking cup. The chalice is the sacred vessel par excellence. Used by Jesus and the apostles at the Last Supper, it was probably a cup of kiddush (Jewish ritual tableware for the Passover celebration), being at the time a semi-precious stone bowl.

The earliest known official decrees from synods date back to the 11th century, already expressly prohibit the use of glass, wood, horn and copper, because it is easily oxidized. Tin is tolerated and noble metals are recommended instead.

The shape of the ancient chalices resembled more a cup or amphora, often with two handles for easy handling. This type of chalice was in use until the 12th century. Since that century almost all chalices, devoid of handles, are distinguished by the width of the cup and by a greater separation between it and the foot that constitutes the stem of the chalice with the knot, at mid-height.

sacred vessels


It comes from the Greek phatne which means plate. It refers to the shallow, slightly concave tray or saucer where the consecrated bread is placed in the Eucharist. The paten came into liturgical use at the same time as the chalice and must be gilded on the concave side. It is important that it allows easy collection of particles on the body.

In the accounts of the Last Supper, mention is made of the dish with the bread that Jesus had before him on the table (Mt 26:23; Mk 14:20). As for the material of the patens, it followed the same evolution as the chalice.

sacred vessels

Chalice and paten accessories

  • Purifier: A piece of white linen, distinguishable from the other cloths by its smaller size and by a red or white cross embroidered in the middle. For the Mass is placed just above the chalice, because it is used to purify the inside of the cup by rubbing it before pouring wine into it. And after having put it, the drops that could have remained on the edges are dried with it.
  • Palia / hijuela / cubrecáliz: square of starched cloth that covers the chalice while it is on the altar. It prevents foreign particles from falling into the chalice and is only removed at the moment of the Consecration.
  • Veil of the chalice: covers the chalice prepared for Mass. It is used until the offertory, when the chalice is prepared to be consecrated. It is of the same liturgical color as the vestments and is accompanied by a bag for the corporal that is placed on top.
  • Body: square piece of cloth on which the chalice, paten and ciboria are placed. The monstrance for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is also placed on it. It must be made of linen or hemp and not of any other fabric. It may have a woven cross.

sacred vessels


The conservation of the Eucharist after the celebration of Mass is a custom that dates back to the early days of Christianity. ciborium.

In ancient times the faithful sometimes kept the Eucharist, with exquisite care, in their own homes. St. Cyprian speaks of a little chest or ark that was kept at home for this purpose (De lapsis, 26: PL 4,501). It was also, of course, kept in the churches. They had a space called secretarium o sacrarium, in which there was a kind of closet (conditorium) where the Eucharistic chest was kept. These conditorium were the first tabernacles. They were usually made of hard wood, ivory or noble metal; and they were called píxides -with a flat lid, fastened with hinges, or with a conical lid and in the form of a turret with a foot.

In the late Middle Ages, the possibility of receiving communion outside of Mass became popular, requiring a larger size and evolving into the present-day cup: a large cup used to distribute communion to the faithful and then to keep it to preserve the Eucharistic body of Christ. It is covered, when kept in the tabernacle, with a circular veil called a conopeo, the name also given to the veil that covers the tabernacle in the color of the liturgical season.

In places where Holy Communion is solemnly brought to the sick, a small ciborium of the same style is used. The small pyx used is made of the same material as that of the ciborium. It should be gilded on the inside, the lower part should have a slight elevation in the center, and it should be blessed by the shape of the ciborium. Benedictio tabernaculi (Rit. Rom., tit. VIII, XXIII). It is also called teak or portaviático and it is usually a round box made of noble materials.

sacred vessels

Custody or monstrance

The monstrance is an urn framed in glass in which the Blessed Sacrament is publicly exposed. It can be made of gold, silver, brass or gilded copper. The most suitable shape is that of the sun that emits its rays everywhere. The lunette (manly or lunula) is the vessel in the middle of the monstrance, made of the same material.

The lunette, provided it contains the Blessed Sacrament, may be placed in the tabernacle inside a monstrance box. If the tabernacle has enough space to hold the monstrance, then it should be covered with a white silk veil. It is also used to make processions outside the Church on special dates such as the Feast of Corpus Christi.

All these vessels should be made of gold, silver or other material, but gilded on the inside, smooth and polished, and may be topped by a cross.

sacred vessels


The wine coolers are two small pitchers where the water and wine necessary to celebrate the celebration are placed. Holy Mass. The priest mixes the wine with a little water and, for this, he has a complementary spoon. They are usually made of glass so that the priest can identify the water in the wine, and also because they are easier to clean. However, you can also find bronze, silver or pewter cruets.


It is a cauldron in which holy water is placed and is used for the liturgical sprinklings. All the water that collects the acetre, is dispersed with the swab.


Utensil with which the sprinkles holy waterconsisting of a handle with a bunch of bristles or a hollow metal ball with a hole at the end to hold the water. It is used together with the acetre.

Censer and incense

The censer is a small metal brazier suspended in the air and held by chains which is used to burn incense. Incense is used to manifest worship and symbolizes the prayer that goes up to God.


It is an inverted cup-shaped utensil of small size with a clapper inside, that used to call for prayer during the consecration. The bell is used to attract attention and, in addition, to express a feeling of joy. There are single-bell or multi-bell bells.


It is a support where the candle is placed which is used in the liturgy as a symbol of Christ, who is the Light that guides all.

"The woman who, in the house of Simon the leper in Bethany, anoints the Master's head with rich perfume, reminds us of our duty to be splendid in the worship of God.
-All the luxury, majesty and beauty seem little to me.
-And against those who attack the richness of sacred vessels, ornaments and altarpieces, the praise of Jesus is heard: opus enim bonum operata est in me -He has done a good deed for me.

St. Josemaría
Road, point 527.


- Augustin Joseph Schulte. "Altar Vessels," The Catholic Encyclopedia.
- Sacrosanctum Concilium n. 122-123; CIC cc. 939, 941, 1220 §2.
- General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002).
- Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) 117-120.

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