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Dossal

Altar dossal, early 17th century, England, presumably embroidered by Edmund Harrison. Altar dossal, early 17th century, England, presumably embroidered by Edmund Harrison. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. T.206-2009.

A dossal is a decorative cloth displayed on the back of some Christian altars. The word dossal (dossel) derives from the medieval Latin dossale/dorsale (from dorsum, ‘back’). In traditional Catholic and Anglican churches, the altar is covered with various textiles including the frontal and laudian, which cover the front of the altar. The back of the altar is covered with the altar dossal or simply the dossal.

The dossals are often decorated in the same manner as the frontal (appliqué, embroidery or woven forms). The first written reference to a dossal in English dates to AD 1658. Over time, the word has acquired the meaning of an ornamental cloth that forms the cover for the back of a chair or a seat, as well as the ecclesiastical meaning of an altar textile. During the twentieth century, the term dossal was also used to describe an ornamental cloth hung at the sides of a chancel.

See also: altar cover; lectern fall.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 22 June 2016).

Source: Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: 'Dossel'

GVE

Last modified on Friday, 11 November 2016 18:06