Tympanum, tympana, timpanal, timpano, timpani

Martyrdom of St John the Baptist

Source: www.silesian.eu

The Martyrdom of John the Baptist Tympanum above the entrance to the sacristy of the Cathedral of St John the Baptist (Archikatedra św. Jana Chrzciciela) in Wroclaw, Poland.  Consecrated in 1272, the current cathedral is the fourth church to have been built on the site.

A tympanum (plural, tympana), in architecture, is a term for the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, bounded by a lintel and arch.  It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments.  We got ourselves a tympana in Wroclaw then!     

Architectural tympana are not to be confused with all the other tympana out there . . .

  • tympanum (anatomy), a hearing organ/gland in frogs and toads, a flat red oval on both sides of a frog’s head
  • tympanum, in biology, the eardrum
  • tympanum, a circular, drum-like rack on which victims were tortured.
  • timpano, in music, singular of timpani, a kettledrum
  • tympanum (hand drum), a percussion instrument in ancient Greece and Rome
  • tympanum, or tympanal organ, a hearing organ in insects


A handsome bullfrog with an arrow helpfully pointed at one of his tympana.

Chasuble with Medallion Depicting John the Baptist

John the Baptist chasuble

Chasuble with Medallion Depicting John the Baptist, late 16th / early 17th century.  The chasuble is based on a fresco by the Italian, Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530).

According to the Art Institute Chicago, USA, where the chasuble is held, it is: “Linen, plain weave underlaid with silk, plain weave with insert medallion of silk, warp-float faced satin weave; embroidered with silk and gilt- and silvered-metal-strip-wrapped silk and linen in satin, split and stem stitches; couching and French knots; edged with silk and gilt-metal-strip-wrapped silk, plain weave with patterning wefts and complementary weft weave tapes; lined with silk, plain weave.” Phew!

St John the Baptist, pray for us


It’s a case of . . .

chalice case

A lovely early 19th century Mexican wooden chalice case with leather hinges and metal clasps.  The case is held in the American Decorative Arts Department of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, USA.

It’s the first wooden chalice case I’ve seen.  I really like the idea that it’s been carved by hand for a specific chalice – that unfortunately we don’t get to see.

St Brendan’s Cathedral

Clonfert Cathedral sacristy

The 15th century sacristy of Clonfert Cathedral, also known as St Brendan’s Cathedral, in the village of Clonfert, County Galway, Ireland.  

A cathedral of the Church of Ireland, the current building was built in the 12th century on the site of St Brendan’s (484-577) 6th century monastery.

St Brendan the Navigator, pray for us


Maestro Giovanni di Bonino di Assisi


In 1863, this stained glass window of the Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John the Evangelist was removed from the sacristy of the 13th century Church of Sant’ Agostino, in Perugia, Italy, and placed in the Galleria Nazionale dell ‘Umbria in 1879.  The window has been attributed to Giovanni di Bonino, also known as Maestro Giovanni di Bonino di Assisi, and is thought to date to about 1345.

Pope St Pius X portrait

Pope Pius X

A portrait of Pope St Pius X hangs in the sacristy of St Gregory’s Church, Cheltenham, UK.  On the left, his predecessor, Pope Leo XIII.

regency town houses

Both portraits used to hang in one of the lovely Regency town houses Cheltenham is so well known for before making their way into the sacristy.

st greg 2

The portraits in-situ in the sacristy,  top right.

Pope St Pius X, pray for us

It all started in the valley of the cabbages

Beauly Priory was founded in Beauly, Inverness-shire, Scotland, UK, in about 1230, thanks to what went on in the “valley of the cabbages” in northern France.


“In about 1180, a lay brother at the Charterhouse at Lugnay in northern France, called Viard, petitioned the Duke of Burgundy to found a Priory where the brothers would adhere strictly to the rules of St Benedict’s.  This priory was established at Val des Choux in the forest of Chatillon, where cabbages were grown, and the order of the monks took their name, Valliscaulian, from the Latin “valley of the cabbages”.  A further 20 houses were opened in France, and, under the auspices of Archbishop William Malvoisin of St Andrews, three priories were established in Scotland in 1230 as centres of royal control in the Highlands following the rebellion by the men of Moray in 1228.” (Source: www.scalan.co.uk)

One of those three priories was Beauly.

Beauly Priory

An effigy of the first Sir Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail, the half brother of Prior McKenzie, lies behind the grille into the former sacristy of Beauly Priory.

Carcar door

Carcar Church 1

Source: www.simbahan.net

The sacristy door of Carcar Church (also known as St Catherine’s Church) in Carcar, on the island of Cebu in the Philippines.  It looks like quite an ordinary wooden door until a closer look shows a relief of the church at the top.  I haven’t seen that before.  Nice idea.

Carcar Church 2

Source: www.simbahan.net


Shell shaped ceiling

san jose sacristy entrance

Image: Rick Denney (2000) www.rickdenney.com

Pictured in 2000, the interior of the sacristy doorway leading to the convent of San Jose Mission, San Antonio, Texas, USA.  The “folded” ceiling looks like a linen place setting or the inside of a shell.

san jose sacristy entrance 2

Source: Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS TEX-333)

The same doorway pictured in 1936.

Sizun sacristy

Sizun Brittany

Source: Martin Davis / www.freerangephotography.co.uk

Another sacristy with a beautiful keel-shaped roof in Brittany, France, this time in Sizun.  As in Locmélar, a passageway connects the sacristy to the church.  The parish church of Sizun is dedicated to St Suliau (also known as St Suliac), a priest that lived as a hermit in Wales in the 6th century.

St Suliau, pray for us

Marble relief of the Assumption


The Assumption (1607-10), in the sacristy of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, Italy.  The marble relief, by Pietro Bernini, was commissioned for the sacristy of the Santa Maria Maggiore.  The work is one of the earliest examples of the pictorial relief altarpieces that became very popular during the 17th century.

Vestments worn by St Maximilian Kolbe

Kolbe vestments

Image by Fr Krzysztof Kukułkua OFM Conv. www.pastoralcentre.pl

Vestments worn by St Maximilian Kolbe are preserved in the old chapel sacristy in the Basilica of the Immaculate Mediatrix of Grace, in Niepokalanów, Teresin, Poland.

Kolbe vestments 2

Image by Fr Krzysztof Kukułkua OFM Conv. www.pastoralcentre.pl

St Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us

August can be a bit of a challenge

August can be a bit of a challenge.  School holidays and summer holidays = number of  servers are down, temporary readers filling in, and after Mass coffee teams are a bit stretched.  Priests go on holiday too.  Still, we manage to have Mass every day.  Sometimes I wonder how we do it . . .

puppets in sacristy

Source: www.stlouiscatholic.blogspot.co.uk (2012)

Inside the sacristy of the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre Dame de Québec, Canada.  A decorative arch with an unidentified statue on top, what looks like a gallery in the top left hand corner, some wood panelling and cream or grey coloured walls.  And a brown floor.  Oh, and three life sized puppets.  Helpful.

Keel-shaped roof

locmelar roof 3

Source: BritPlom

A view of the church in Locmélar, Brittany, France.  The sacristy is that beautiful building in the foreground.  It seems quite separate to the church but I’m assured there is a connecting passageway.  There is certainly nothing of a “lean to” look about it.  It’s big and bold and has a beautiful keel-shaped roof.

A closer look at the roof . . .

locmelar roof 1

Source: Martin Davis at www.freerangephotography.co.uk

And another . . .

locmelar roof 2

Source: Martin Davis at www.freerangephotography.co.uk

I must take a look at our sacristy roof tomorrow!

locmelar roof 4

Source: BritPlom

And maybe sort out a flower trough.