Is it Common for a Church to have a 'Proper' Pulpit?


I notice that most modern Catholic churches, and smaller older ones, simply have a wooden ambo, which is essentially a lectern.

Larger churches, usually older ones, have proper raised pulpits. I have a few questions:

  1. Is it true that in churches which have a proper pulpit, the readings are usually given at the ambo/lectern whilst the homily is usually given at the pulpit?
  2. Is it common for modern churches to have a raised pulpit, or just a wooden ambo, essentially a lectern.
  3. I notice in older churches that the pulpit is placed perhaps 1/3 the way down the nave, with pews extending behind it up to the altar and in front of it up to the vestibule. Is this because if the pulpit was placed at the front, then the people up the back wouldn’t have been able to hear the homily (considering they didn’t have modern sound systems in those days). Here’s a picture of what I mean:

As you can see, the pulpit is located around 1/3 way down the nave.

Thank you for your help, and God Bless you

All churches around here have prominent ambos, much more than just simple lectern. So perhaps you are from an area that is different than here.

Pulpits, the type that are in the midst of the crowd were used for homilies and preaching. With the adve t of microphones and speakers, they are not needed

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As you say, the pulpit was placed in the best position for the whole congregation to be able to hear and see the preacher. Some churches have two pulpits, one on the gospel side and one on the epistle side. In churches of that kind, I think the two pulpits were originally used for the readings, and are consequently properly called ambos, although the word ambo can also designate an ordinary lectern. It would take a historian of architecture to give you a full answer.

The sounding board above the pulpit or ambo was an acoustic device, directing the sound waves outward to the congregation rather than upward to the roof. In churches that were built that way, prior to the introduction of microphones and loudspeakers, some preachers still use the pulpit, while others don’t. I have no idea what the proportion is. All I know is that I see it done both ways in different churches. Each preacher is free to choose.

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This is actually one of my little passions - most churches have lecterns (wrongly called ambos). Some have a ghastly innovation called a “table of the word” (something singularly lacking in theology) while a few older ones have pulpits. the difference however is sadly poorly understood. St Louis cathedral and Westminster cathedrals are two churches I know of whcih contain proper ambos. As explained here, the difference between an ambo and a lectern is that a lectern holds a book and an ambo is a monument of the empty tomb. The difference between an ambo and a pulpit is that an ambo supports the ritual proclamation of the word of God and a pulpit supports preaching doctrine.


Very interesting.

Ambos, I gather are mainly used in the Eastern churches. Westminster Cathedral is byzantine revival in its architecture, so that makes sense.

In a building like Westminster Cathedral, is there a pulpit in addition to the ambo?

Thank you for your time, Father.

No but there is a lectern. They tend to only use the ambo for more significant celebrations, like Easter.

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I understand.

I live in New Zealand - some churches here have a raised pulpit (especially the older cathedrals) - but all churches, including ones with a pulpit, also include a lectern. At churches with a pulpit, the priest says his homily at the pulpit but the readings are proclaimed from the lectern, which functions as the ambo.

Most churches have a simple wooden lectern which functions as the pulpit for the homilies and as the ambo for the proclamation of the word.

Very interesting information, and thank you Father.

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