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chalice and paten (was: making and selling communion ware)

updated fri 13 jul 01


Janet Kaiser on thu 12 jul 01

Maybe you should check with the Vicar/Priest/Minister
as to what they would really like and prefer? Also
whether they want all the other bits and pieces to
match, like a pitcher (to refill the chalice),
candlesticks for the altar, box to contain communion
wafers, etc. etc. Each church has different little
traditions where communion is concerned, so do not
presume what is done at communion in your church is
necessarily the norm or what will be expected by the
commissioning "agent" from another tradition.

I was told by our Bishop (Anglican) that the most
important part of the chalice and paten design, is that
the paten has a ringed base which fits neatly into the
top of the chalice when placed on top of it and does
not slide off if held at an angle. The chalice should
also stand on the paten like a cup on a saucer, with
the slight "well" stopping any sliding around. It
should not grate whichever way round it is being
used... chalice on paten or paten on chalice.

And because the paten on the chalice is a part of the
intended use, it should be stable as well as look well
balanced. The chalice must also have a nice stable base
so it will not tip over if the paten is placed on it
hastily or is nudged when it is being used as the

The shape of the chalice should allow people to sip the
wine without a nasty surge of wine when served by the
hands of the nervous or over-zealous in a hurry! Since
hygiene has become an issue in recent years, I have
heard that some churches allow/prefer the bread or
wafer to be dipped by the communicant, so that may not
be a factor to take into consideration any more?

A stable liner glaze which will not discolour or stain
and is "foodsafe" should be used because some of the
wine used is pretty acidic and shares some of the
properties of a very efficient dye! A porous or crazed
glaze would soon become unsightly and discarded.

Some of the nicest modern ceramic chalices I have seen,
had incised or sprigged decoration on them: a Celtic
cross, IHS, diocesan emblem, etc. Many have no
ornamentation at all. One very lovely one had a shiny
white liner glaze which came about a quarter way down
the outside, then a narrow raised band with impressed
Latin words and a matt dark blue/grey glaze painted
lightly over the white, so the letters remained white.
The lighter blue/grey glaze of the rest from the band
down was also matt.

Celia Brown, one of our local potters makes a plain
(approx. 1/2 to 3/4 pint) tulip shaped chalice and
paten for 15-20 the pair. Several have been
commissioned as presents for visitors from overseas and
the colours often represent the local landscape
(mountains and sea).

Janet Kaiser
The Chapel of Art . Capel Celfyddyd
Criccieth LL52 0EA, GB-Wales Tel: (01766) 523570