Analogion and Its Role in Worship

The interior decoration of an Orthodox church is a complex system of liturgical items, serving the common purpose of bringing man closer to God. Each of these items has its own significance. A church analogion is hardly the most remarkable element of a church interior. However, it is present in almost every divine service or occasional office celebrated in the world. What types of analogia are there and how to use them? Find out from this article. 

Analogia in Church History

An analogion is a lectern, or a stand with a slanted surface, supporting an icon, a cross, the Gospel, sheet music or other objects used in worship. The word “analogion” comes from the Greek ἀναλόγιον and literally means “a stand for icons and books”.  The earliest source with such a definition of the analogion is the Suda, a 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia. However, we find much earlier mentions of the analogion in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, in the typica and in other books about the Liturgy. 

There are three types of lecterns in the Orthodox Church. Their Greek names are δισκέλιον (folding analogion), προσκυνητάριον (proskynetarion) and ἀναλογείον (kliros analogion).  Interestingly, “a proskynetarion” literally means “a kiss towards something”. Several centuries ago, this term was used in Russia for books about pilgrimages to holy places. A well-known work in this genre is titled Proskynetarion or a Journey of Elder Arseny Sukhanov to Jerusalem in 7157 (1649).  The miniature Greek roadside chapels, usually containing an icon and a burning lamp, are also called proskynetaria. These are widespread in Greece.

If we were to distinguish between the proskynetarion and the analogion, the former would be used for placing an icon or the Gospel, whereas the latter would serve for placing other liturgical books and sheet music. However, nowadays these distinctions are blurred. 

Shapes of Analogia Depending on Their Purpose

The various designs of analogia depend on the purposes that they serve. Most often, in churches we see carved wooden analogia, forming a perfect harmony with the wooden iconostasis. Among the less common types are, for example, stainless steel analogia, coated with titanium nitride (or lacquered brass) and decorated with embossed patterns. Such pedestals are durable, and their festive glow is well suited to the gilded iconostasis. In ancient times, analogia were also made of stone. These are extremely rare today. Historically an analogion was viewed as something stationary, but today parishes prefer using portable analogia that can be moved around easily, according to the current need. The central analogion remains the only exception.

Marble Analogion
Metal Analogion

The central analogion with the icon is usually richly decorated. In accordance with its role of assisting the congregation in the worship, it is decorated to arouse reverent feelings. One of its possible shapes is a cabinet with intricate figured carvings. In the 18-19 centuries, four-sided central analogia were sometimes painted with ornaments and even icons. Over time, this practice was replaced with the one of draping analogia, using embroidered covers.

Analogion cover decorated with an embroidered icon of the Mother of God

A central analogion is used for supporting the icon of the feast or the commemorated saint. Prayer services, as well as Sacraments of Baptism, Unction etc. are performed before this icon. On important church holidays, this icon is decorated with fresh flowers.

Another type of analogia is used for placing the cross and the Gospel during the Sacrament of Confession. This type is designed more modestly; often it is a folding analogion, with a fabric or wooden top. It can be easily moved to different parts of the church. For the same reason, folding lecterns are often used in the altar. Less commonly, altar stands are shaped like a music stand on one leg.

Portable Analogion in our Catalogue

Church singers use mobile folding analogia in the form of a pedestal. The more complex kliros analogia can look like a multifaceted rotating pyramid, mounted on a pedestal. It is suitable for a small kliros space, and allows conveniently placing sheet music in front of the choristers. Often there are shelves inside of it, for storing music and books. 

To prevent objects from slipping off the analogia, most of them have wooden planks attached to the bottom of the lid, while their tops are sometimes upholstered with velvet or suede fabric. 

Kliros Analogion

The design and decoration of any of the listed types of analogia can be quite modest. Many parishes only have one or two simple analogia, used for all needs. These analogia are usually decorated with embroidered towels of various colors and designs, to match the appropriate event in the church calendar. For example, a black or purple analogion cover with embroidered Calvary, in combination with the Lenten clerical vestments, would suit the atmosphere of the upcoming Great Lent. 

Analogion Cover decorated with Golgotha embroidery

For the convenience in reading spiritual literature and personal prayer, laymen and monastics can use analogia in their homes and cells. 

An analogion is an indispensable auxiliary element of worship, either in church, or at home. Physically being in the center of the church, it contributes to the atmosphere of a Divine service and introduces us to the sacred domain. We hope that you have been able to take a fresh new look at this well-known element of church life.

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About the author

Anastasia Parkhomchik,
Literary editor and Orthodox journalist, member of The Catalog of Good Deeds team.

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