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6. Place of Baptism

Antiquities of the Christian Church
XIV. Of Baptism

6. Place of Baptism

All the requisite information in regard to the appropriate place for administering this ordinance, may be arranged under three distinct periods of history.

  1. The first ages of Christianity.
  2. The space of time during which baptisteries detached from the churches were provided for this purpose.
  3. The period after the disuse of baptisteries, and of stated seasons for baptism.

First period. No intimation is given in the New Testament that any place was set apart for the administration of baptism. John and the disciples of Jesus baptized in Jordan, John 3:22. Baptism was also administered in other streams of water. Acts 7:36, 37, 16:1–16, and in private houses, Acts 9:18, 10:47, 48, 16:30–34. Where the three thousand on the day of Pentecost were baptized is uncertain.

The same freedom of choice was also allowed in the age immediately succeeding that of the apostles. Justin Martyr says that the candidates were led out to some place where there was water, and Clement of Rome speaks of a river, a fountain, or the sea, as a suitable place, according to circumstances, for the performance of this rite. Tertullian says that "it was immaterial where a person was baptized, whether in the sea, or in standing or running water, in fountain, lake, or river." 

Second period. The first baptistery, or place appropriated for baptism, of which any mention is made, occurs in the history of the fourth century, and this was prepared in a private house. Eusebius probably speaks of similar baptisteries, though under another name. Cyril of Jerusalem speaks of the baptisteries in his day as divided into two parts, outer and inner. In the former part, preparation was made for baptism; in ttie latter, it was administered. Ambrose speaks of a similar division; and Augustine of a part appropriated to women. These baptisteries became general in the fifth and sixth centuries. They were sometimes so spacious that ecclesiastical councils were held in them. Some idea of their size may be formed, when we recollect that in some places, as Antioch, no less than three thousand persons of both sexes received baptism in a single night. The laws both of church and state required that baptism should be administered only in these places.

The common name of these edifices was *. It is also called *, aula baptismalis, *, ov piscina, the font, etc.

Each diocese had, usually, but one baptistery. The number, however, was sometimes increased. But a preference was uniformly given to the cathedral baptistery. This was styled the mother church, inasmuch as the children were there born by baptism. 

Third period. In process of time these baptisteries became greatly multiplied and were united to parish churches, or rather, were themselves constituted such. The precise period of time when this change took place cannot be determined. In general, it was after the prevalence of infant-baptism, when baptismal fonts only were necessary, when stated seasons of baptism were discontinued, and the right of administering the ordinance was conceded to the clergy indiscriminately.

J. H. Wedderkamp: de baptisleris. Helmst. 1703. 8: Paul Paciaudi de sacris Cbristianorum balneis. Venet. 1750. ed. 2. Rora. 1758. 4.
(No tag #1 appears in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)

Apolog. 1. c. 61.

Hom. 9, 19.

De Bapt. c. 4.

Gesta S. Marcelli in Surii Vit. S. d. 16.

Eccl. Hist. lib. x. c. 4. De Vit. S. Const, lib. iii. c. 50.

Catech. Mystag. i. ii.: ii. i.

De Init. c. 2, 5. De Sacram. lib. iii. c. 2. Ep. 33.

De Civ. Dei, lib. 22. c. 8.

Duranti Rit. Eccl. lib. i. c. 19.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)

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