Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

Baptismal font


Basin or vase, serving as a receptacle for baptismal water in which the candidate for baptism is immersed, or for receiving the water, which is poured over the head, in the ceremony of Christian initiation.

The fonts of many Christian denominations are intended for baptisms using a non-immersion method ... The mode of a baptism at a font is usually one of sprinkling, pouring, washing, or dipping

The materials vary greatly consisting of carved and sculpted marble, wood, or metal.

The shape can vary. Many are eight-sided as a reminder of the new creation and as a connection to the practice of circumcision, which traditionally occurs on the eighth day. Some are three-sided as a reminder of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Fonts are often placed at or near the entrance to a church's nave to remind believers of their baptism as they enter the church to worship, since the rite of baptism served as their initiation into the Church.

In many churches of the Middle Ages and Renaissance there was a special chapel or even a separate building for housing the baptismal fonts, called baptistery.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, baptism is always by full triple immersion [baptism performed by totally submerging a person in water], even in the case of infant baptism.

-  Excerpts from Wikipedia (June 2011)

"The oldest western fonts are found in the Roman catacombs, cisterns hewn from the tufa in the floor of baptismal chapels." - Catholic Encyclopedia (June 2011)

"In contrast to the use of baptismal fonts, some sects use full-immersion baptisms which may take place in a man-made tank or pool, or a natural body of water such as a river or lake. The entire body is fully immersed, dunked, submerged or otherwise placed completely under the water. This practice symbolizes the death of the old nature." - Wikipedia (June 2011)

See also: Baptism of Jesus  and  Saint John the Baptist


Example from Buffalo architecture:

Other examples:


Photos and their arrangement 2003 Chuck LaChiusa
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