Censer . Containers for burning incense that is used in certain religious celebrations. They are known in the Judaic antiquity and even in the Egyptian and Greco-Roman ones, they were adopted by the church from the first centuries, as recorded by historical documents and by figurative representations in frescoes and miniatures of codices from the High Middle Ages. But of them it does not seem that specimens from the 12th century are preserved. The first censers must have been in the shape of an urn with a perforated lid and from the aforementioned paintings it can be inferred that as early as the 10th century they took the shape of a globe and must have been handled with three or four chains.


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  • 1 History
  • 2 Use of the Censer
  • 3 How to use the censer
  • 4 Source


The censer played an important role in the ancient religious worship of both Jews and pagans. No wonder, then, that its use in Christian ceremonies dates back to the earliest times. Its primitive form, however, was very different from what it is now, being something like a vase with a perforated lid to emit perfumed smells. Later, chains were added for greater handling comfort. These vessels from the Middle Ages were often made of gold and silver enriched with numerous details of the most elaborate ornamentation. In the archives or inventories of many continental and English cathedrals (such as the basilicas of Saint John Lateran, Trier, Leuven, Lincoln and York) detailed descriptions of some ancient specimens in possession of these churches are given.

Use of the Censer

It is used in solemn ceremonies, during the following moments:

  • In the entrance procession, it is carried by the “turiferario” (which is the name of the acolyte or altar boy who is in charge of the censer). It only has it waving laterally around 90 degrees (45 ° to the left and more or less at a similar angle to the right). The censer is taken with the left hand at the tip of the chain, and with the right hand a little lower, which is the one that provides the swing.
  • When the priest arrives at the presbytery, the turiferarium gives it to him and the priest incenses the altar, the tabernacle and the patron saint of the church. Then he gives it back to the tourist and he retires.
  • During the gospel, the censer gives the censer again to the priest so that he may incense the gospel. When he finishes incense, he gives it to the tourist and he stays aside until the gospel ends.
  • During the offertory, after the priest washes his hands, the censer is again handed over to the priest for incense on the altar.
  • During the consecration, the turiferarium must kneel in front of the altar, and at the moment the priest lifts the bread, the turiferario incenses it three times forward, three times. That is, lift the incense burner and incense one, two, three. Then the censer comes down and again, one, two, three. And one more time. The same is done 3 x 3 when the priest raises the chalice.
  • The censer is generally not used in the exit procession (where it is only carried as in the entrance). However, this depends on the taste of the celebrating priest, so it is worth asking him before if he wants to use the censer at the end.

How to use the censer

The censer consists of a cup, or bowl, that rests on a firm base and has a moveable saucepan with a hollow to hold burning charcoal, a lid or cover, and four three-foot-long chains, three of which link the container to a circular disk, while the fourth is used to raise the lid, to which one end is connected, and the other passes through a hole in the disk and ends in a small ring. To carry the censer, grasp the chains in your hand just below the disc, taking care to keep the base elevated six to eight inches above the ground and gently swing it back and forth so that the current The air thus created can cause the fire to burn the aromatic gums or incense that is put into it each time the censer is being used.


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