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5. Of the Position of the Speaker

Antiquities of the Christian Church
XII. Of homilies

5. Of the Position of the Speaker. 

In many countries the speaker habitually occupied an elevated desk in the body of the house, which was also used for the reading, and for various exercises. In other places this was used by the speaker occasionally, but not habitually. Chrysostom and Augustine were accustomed to speak from this place, that they might more easily be heard by the immense multitudes that thronged to listen to them.

The custom originally was, for the preacher to speak either from the bishop's seat, or from before the altar and behind the lattice that separated the sanctuary or shrine from the body of the house; but most frequently from the former place, which, as Augustine says, was an elevated throne, that from it the bishop might watch his flock, as the vintager does his vineyard from his watch-tower.

At a later period, when the care of the church became more cumbersome, and the bishops began to neglect or omit the duty of preaching, the deacons became the moderators of the assembly, and the preacher occupied the desk of the reader. This position was, of necessity, allotted to the preacher in the vast Gothic cathedrals which were erected in the middle ages.

Sermons were frequently delivered in other places besides the church; but this was an exception to the general rule. The eulogies of the martyrs were usually delivered in the exedrae, baptisteries, cemeteries, etc. The monks frequently preached from the trees, and the top of a post or pillar.

Socrates h. e. lib. vi. c. 5: Sozomen h. e. lib. c. 5: August, de civit. Dec. lib. xxii. c. 8: Ep. 225, 253.


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