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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Rails of the Altar
(late from the time of bishop Andrewes, who calls them "wainscot banisters," and Laud, who intended to preserve the altar from profanatiou by their use. They are, in fact, the cancelli moved eastward, resembling the medieval "reclinatorium," and answer to the primitive altar-veils and Greek "‘ iconostasis." At Leamington Priors, St. German's. and Wim. borne they are covered with a white linen cloth at the time of holy communion, a relic of the custom lor communicants to hold the houselling-cloth (dominicale, for the Lord's body) below their chin for the purpose of retaining upon it any portion of the sacrament which might fall during the administration. The custom was disused at the coronation of William IV. St. Augustine and Caesarius of Arles mention a linen cloth (lintearmen) used by women for the same purpose.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Rails of the Altar'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/r/rails-of-the-altar.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19