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HOLY WATER FONT

A holy water font is a vessel used for holding holy water. They are sometimes imbedded in the walls, and sometimes rest on a pedestal. The shell-shaped font which has persisted was introduced in the 17th century. The most ancient portable fonts for use in aspersions (*) were pails of lead or bronze covered with silver. The present form of the aspersorium was introduced in the 13th century. The most ancient portable fonts are in the form of pails and shaped like truncated cones. Those most prized for their antiquity are of lead or bronze, sometimes even of wood covered with a sheet of wrought metal. However, if there ever existed antique silver or silver-gilt fonts, it is evident that they have not come down to us.
Large quantities of portable fonts in pail form with swiveling handle survive from the 18th and 19th century production. Most of them are in silver and were made in Italy.

a couple of silver holy water font for private use (Italy, first half 19th century)



Private fonts are usually in the shape of a very small basin attached to the wall by means of a plate. Private fonts are generally smaller than the portable ones used in churches. These were very rich ones in gold and silver ornamented with pearls and enamel and have the shape of a small round basin suspended from a plate fastened to the wall.
A wide production of 18th and 19th century Italian holy water fonts for private use still survives.

(*) aspersion (from Dictionary.com)
...(implied in verb asperse), from Latin aspersionem (nom. aspersio), from pp. stem of aspergere "to sprinkle on," from ad- "to" + spargere "sprinkle, strew" (see sparse). In theology, the shedding of Christ's blood. Modern sense of "bespattering with slander" first attested 1596.


portable font in pail form with swiveling handle: Padua, first half of 19th century portable font in pail form with swiveling handle: Venice, first half of 19th century

silver holy water font for private use (Venice, 2nd half 18th century) silver holy water font for private use (Venice, 2nd half 18th century)


silver holy water font for private use (Venice, first half 19th century) silver holy water font for private use (Venice, first half 19th century)

silver holy water font for private use (Venice, first half 19th century) silver holy water font for private use (Sicily, first half 19th century)

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