Baptismal font

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A baptismal font , baptismal font , baptismal table or baptismal font , also called Fünte (from Latin fons "source, well") in parts of northern Germany , is used for baptism . In contrast to colloquial language, in which baptismal font , baptismal font and baptismal font are used synonymously , the technical language of art history makes a precise distinction : a baptismal font is a baptismal font made of stone while a baptismal font is made of wood.

Since baptism is the rite of acceptance into the church, the baptismal font can often be located near the portal of a church , in a baptistery or in a separate building, the baptistery .

Bronze baptismal font in the Marienkirche in Lübeck


In the early centuries of the Church, baptism was mostly done by immersion in "living water". According to Beckmann, baptisms by pouring over were the exception. Since the 4th century, baptism by pouring over the person to be baptized was predominant, as is shown by representations from late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. In some regions of the early Church , the person to be baptized continued to be baptized by immersion. Most of the surviving baptismal fonts from the first millennium around the Mediterranean are too small for that. It is not possible for adult baptized persons to go into hiding. Since in the beginning both baptismal liturgy and the execution of baptism were mainly aimed at adolescents and adults, basins set into the ground, called piscina (from Latin: piscina = water container), were used.

The oldest baptismal piscina is known from the Syrian house church of Dura Europos from the 3rd century. The baptismal font of the Lateran Baptistery in Rome from the 4th century is still present under the current structure. A 4th century christening piscina sunk into the ground was excavated in the cathedral group of Geneva . Studies show that it - like numerous other early Christian baptismal fonts - was made smaller, which suggests that immersion baptism was replaced by baptism by pouring over it. The time at which this happened will have to be judged after the excavations under the Geneva Cathedral have been completed. The function of the 64 m² basin between the basilica buildings at the location where Trier Cathedral was later built is controversial. Maybe this is a representative tank. One of the almost 1000 known early Christian baptismal fonts around the Mediterranean can be viewed within the preserved foundation walls of the baptistery in Portbail in Normandy ; it may date from pre-Merovingian times. Like the oldest piscina in the well-known baptistery of Poitiers , this cannot be dated precisely because of the known archaeological finds. Most of the early Christian baptismal fonts recorded by excavations in France and Germany belong to the middle Merovingian period , i.e. the 6th / 7th. Century.

With the increasing spread of Christianity , more and more children were baptized, which is why baptismal fonts - much later also called cuppa or baptismal font - in the east since 6/7. Century and in the west since the Carolingian era .


to form

The earliest free-standing baptismal fonts are monoliths standing on the floor , often ornately decorated with reliefs , ornaments or figurines . Baptismal fonts were also made of bronze , e.g. B. Medieval bronze feet of the Low German cultural area . Further names for these first baptismal fonts are baptismal tubs ( vat = bucket) and baptismal tub . Both terms clearly illustrate the barrel-like appearance. In the further development these first basins were placed on supports. These supports could be designed as animals, demons or hybrid beings, and served to ward off evil. During the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic, the basins became steadily narrower and higher, so that a goblet shape gradually emerged. The baptismal fonts usually consisted of a foot, a shaft and a more or less voluminous basin. The demon-repellent figures of the Romanesque were transformed at the same time into depictions of angels and symbols of the evangelists or disappeared completely. The base and shaft of the substructure became even narrower until they developed into columnar supports for a baptismal bowl that only held a small amount of water in the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Often pools today are round or octagonal z. B. alluding to the seven days of creation and the "new creation" or to the circumcision of Jesus , which according to Jewish custom took place on the eighth day after his birth. In the Middle Ages, a design that is based on the description of the "brazen sea" in the Temple of Solomon ( 1 Kings 7: 23-27  EU ) is also common. Some modern triangular basins symbolize the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In the celebration of Easter Vigil , the baptismal water is consecrated according to Western tradition. The font was therefore completely filled with water that was only renewed once a year; To protect against contamination and evaporation, most fonts had a metal or wooden lid. Since the liturgical reform of the 2nd Vatican Council, the baptismal water has only been kept in Catholic churches for the Easter period, otherwise it has been specially consecrated for each baptism celebration.





Special forms

Christening Schmannewitz lili
Christening Schmannewitz
Double baptism of La Baussaine

The baptismal harvest, a combination of baptismal font and lectern , is located in the Schmannewitz church . The Gothic baptismal font in La Baussaine combines a container for water with that for baptism.


The capacities were usually 150 to 180 liters , in individual cases even up to 420 liters. Measurements by the Bremen calibration office in 2000 of a total of 51 bronze baptismal fonts from Romanesque and early Gothic churches from the 13th and 14th centuries showed that they usually embodied a certain volume as standard . The volumes shown were, for example, 1  ohm , 1  Oxhoft , 1  Malter or 2  bushels .

Todays situation

In the western church, not least because of possible health impairments caused by immersion of the newborns, people began to water or sprinkle the baptized with water. From the baroque onwards, baptismal bowls were used more and more, which also allowed home baptisms. They hold about one to two liters of water and are mostly made of brass or silver. Some baptismal bowls are lavishly decorated, some only have simple inscriptions. Where there are old baptismal fonts, the baptismal bowls are often attached to them. The baptismal stands in younger churches are often modeled on the old baptismal fonts.

Lutheran and Reformed Churches

The traditional baptismal fonts or fonts from the Middle Ages continued to be used, but they were now empty and were filled with water on the occasion of a baptism. The baptismal jug "which is a special Lutheran device" was used for this purpose.

After 1700, the baptismal angel , who holds the baptismal bowl in his hands, became popular in Lutheran churches . It "floated" up in the church and was lowered for the baptism. The baptismal baptisms were a fad, favored by the lack of regulations for the organization of liturgical inventory. Another innovation of Lutheran churches in the 18th century was the practical connection between the font and the lectern: the cover of the font served as a shelf for liturgical books.

Orthodox churches

The Orthodox churches still know the baptism of children by immersion to this day. (Relatively large) baptismal fonts made of metal are widespread. At the edge of these basins there is a holder for three candles, which are put on at the baptism ceremony as a symbol of the Trinity.

Free Churches

The reformation of the Baptist movement coming Mennoniten practice, depending on the community submerging or sprinkling or pouring over a smaller font.

Baptists practice baptism by immersion and are free to perform it in bodies of water or in the facilities of a swimming pool or the like, depending on local conditions.

In historical Baptist churches of the 19th century in Germany, a typical arrangement looks like this: “There is a very high pulpit in the middle, and the baptismal font is located in a kind of crypt right below it.” This is consistent as the immersion in the Water is interpreted theologically as dying and resurrecting with Christ. In newer Baptist churches, the baptismal font is usually asymmetrically located in a corner of the room: for practical reasons, to shorten the way for the person to be baptized to a changing room. The free church architect Ulrich Arndt advocates placing the place of baptism at the center of new churches; he sees the Baptist baptismal architecture ideally realized in the baptismal church St. Petri Pauli in Eisleben.

Modern baptisteries


  • Ulrich Arndt: Is there actually a Baptist church architecture? In: Magnificent. The GJW magazine (02/2016), pp. 28–31.
  • Gisela Aye, Axel Chr. Kronenberg: Baptismal font and baptismal angel in Lower Saxony. From the end of the Thirty Years War to the middle of the 19th century. Schnell & Steiner publishing house, Regensburg 2006, ISBN 3-7954-1907-7 ( Adiaphora 5).
  • Colin Stuart Drake: The Romanesque Fonts of Northern Europe and Scandinavia. Boydell Press, Woodbridge et al. 2002, ISBN 0-85115-854-4 .
  • Hartmut Mai: Baptismal fonts, baptismal fonts and baptismal stands - history and iconography . In: Bettina Seyderhelm (Ed.): A thousand years of baptisms in Central Germany , Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2006, ISBN 978-3-7954-1893-9 . Pp. 156-172.
  • Stefanie Meier-Kreiskott: Late Gothic baptismal fonts in the German southwest . Dissertation, LMU Munich 2008.
  • Martina Langel: The place of baptism in church building with special consideration of church building in the Archdiocese of Cologne after 1945 . Schmitt, Siegburg 1993, ISBN 3-87710-156-9 .
  • Peter Poscharsky : The place of baptism . In: Bettina Seyderhelm (Ed.): A thousand years of baptisms in Central Germany , Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2006, ISBN 978-3-7954-1893-9 . Pp. 21-27.
  • Sebastian Ristow : Baptisteries in the Franconian Empire . In: Acta Praehistorica et Archaeologica . 30, 1998, ISSN  0341-1184 , pp. 166-176.
  • Sebastian Ristow: Art. Font / Font / Taufpiscina . In: Theological Real Encyclopedia . 32, 2001, pp. 741-744.

Web links

Wiktionary: baptismal font  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Baptismal Font  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Didache archived copy ( Memento of September 28, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) 7, 1–3
  2. J. Beckmann: Article Baptism , Section V (Liturgy History ) , Religion in Past and Present³, Vol. VI, p. 648f - Beckmann refers, among other things, to the Didache and the baptismal form of Hippolytus of Rome (around 220). Since there are no archaeological or art-historical findings on the baptism practice of this time, this interpretation is only possible with reservation. The baptism of submersion is then carried out in the Eastern Orthodox churches and in Milan to this day.
  3. ^ Sebastian Ristow: Baptisteries in the Franconian Empire . In: Acta Praehistorica et Archaeologica 30 , 1998, pp. 166-176
  4. Sebastian Ristow: Article baptismal font / baptismal font / Taufpiscina . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 32 , 2001, pp. 741-744
  5. Georg Kretschmar: The history of the baptismal service in the old church . In: LEITURGIA. Handbook of Protestant Worship Service (edited by Karl Ferdinand Müller and Walter Blankenburg), Vol. V (The Baptism Service) , Kassel 1970, pp. 89 f.
  6. The baptistery in Geneva Cathedral, dated around 350
  7. Peter Poscharsky: The place of baptism . S. 25 .
  8. Study by the Bremer Eichamt with many illustrations of baptismal fonts
  9. Peter Poscharsky: The place of baptism . S. 26 .
  10. a b Hartmut Mai: baptismal fonts, fonts and baptismal stands . S. 167 .
  11. Hans-Dieter Döpmann: The Orthodox Churches in Past and Present . Frankfurt / Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-60449-6 , pp. 207 .
  12. Ulrich Arndt: Is there actually Baptist church architecture? S. 30 .