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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
(from Lat. pulpituni, a staging, platform: equivalents are Fr. chaire d'eglise, Ital. pulpito, Ger. Kanzel), a raised platform with enclosed front, whence sermons, homilies, &c., were delivered. Pulpits were probably derived in their modern form from the ambones in the early Christian Church (see Ambo). There are many old pulpits of stone, though the majority are of wood. Those in churches are generally hexagonal or octagonal; and some stand on stone bases, and others on slender wooden stems, like columns. The designs vary accordingly to the periods in which they were erected, having panelling, tracing, cuspings, crockets, and other ornaments then in use. Some are extremely rich, and ornamented with colour and gilding. A few also have fine canopies or sounding-boards. Their usual place is in the nave, mostly on the north side, against the second pier from the chancel arch. Pulpits for addressing the people in the open air were common in the medieval period, and stood near a road or cross. Thus there was one at Spital Fields, and one at St Paul's, London. External pulpits still remain at Magdalen College, Oxford, and at Shrewsbury. Pulpits, or rather places for reading during the meals of the monks, are found in the refectories at Chester, Beaulieu, Shrewsbury, &c., in England; and at St Martin des Champs, St Germain des Pres, &c., in Paris; also in the cloisters at St Die and St Lo. Shortly after the Reformation the canons ordered pulpits to be erected in all churches where there were none before. It is supposed that to this circumstance we owe many of the time of Elizabeth and James. Many of them are very beautifully and elaborately carved, and are evidently of Flemish workmanship. The pulpits in the Mahommedan mosques, which are known as "mimbars" are quite different in form, being usually canopied and approached by a straight flight of steps. These have a doorway at the foot, with an enriched lintel and boldly moulded head; the whole of the work to this and to the stairs, parapet and pulpit itself being of wood, richly inlaid, and often in part gorgeously painted and gilt.
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Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Pulpit'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​p/pulpit.html. 1910.