My friend was in Germany two summers ago and visited several Cathedrals. She described seeing several ambos with an arm or leg coming out of the underside of it. She asked me what it was or what it meant, but I don’t know. Can anyone help us?
Please, someone provide a picture and enlighten us. I find it hard to imagine.
We scoured the internet looking for a picture but couldn’t find one. I told her that I had never seen such a thing. She is not Catholic, and wasn’t sure if it was on the ambo, presider’s chair, or some other part of the church. She says she saw the same thing in several churches as she traveled through Germany.
Arms and legs, while not exactly common, are part of European heraldry. They are used on various coats of arms of families or towns. I know that the city of Fuessen, Germany’s coat of arms is actually three bent legs in a circle. In Europe, many times if a prominent family donates the money for building a certain aspect of a church, they will often visibly display their own coat of arms in some fashion. Sometimes this will be in an abstract way like only displaying an arm or a leg which represents the primary symbol on the crest. For example, you see stylized stacked hills and bees everywhere in Roman Churches because they were the symbols of the dei Monti and Barbarini families who were major patrons of the Churches
There also was a historical trend at one point in German liturgical furniture to use body parts as structural elements. Generally, this can be interpreted as saying that the Scriptures move in the world under their own power. It was a typical concept which was usually used by the Protestant Reformation in their defense of Sola Scriptura, but the Catholic Church also used these elements to simply symbolize that the Scriptures are alive with the Holy Spirit and through them, they move the hearts and minds of men.
As to the hands, it could also be the coat of arms of the Franciscans which is Christ’s outstretched hand and arm laid across the arm and hand of St. Francis of Assissi, both palms showing the wounds of the passion.
The human legs used in furniture was a bleed over from the contemporary usage of animal feet as legs of furniture in the 18th and 19th centuries (see the right column).
Thank you so much!
We appreciate the explanations!
First thing, explain the difference between an ambo and a chair for her
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