Illustrated Dictionary of British Churches

History and Architecture

Piscina

A stone basin used for washing holy vessels used during Mass or Communion services. Piscinas are usually set into a niche in the church wall near the altar (usually to the south side of the sanctuary or chancel). Infrequently, piscinas could be free-standing, on a column of stone. There is a drain hole at the bottom of the piscina to allow water to escape. Very infrequently you may see a pair of side by side piscinas in one niche. These so-called double piscinas are rare but not unheard of.

The term piscina is frequently, and erroneously, applied to a similar recess for holy water placed near the main door of the church. These are more correctly called a holy water stoup, and were used for washing hands by worshippers entering or leaving the church, whereas a true piscina is used for washing vessels used during services.

Related: Altar   Chancel   Sanctuary   Holy Water Stoup   Stoup  

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