What's with the umbrella?


I just watched vespers with benediction broadcast from the Vatican. A Deacon reposed Jesus after benediction and a server escorted him to the tabernacle with an umbrella over his head.

So what’s with the umbrella?

Meaning of the umbrella? History? What’s it made of? Is there a name for the umbrella bearer?



It is traditional to use a ombrellino, which you mentioned, or baldacchino in the Corpus Christi procession.

Catholic Encyclopedia has:
The canopy, in general, is an ornamental covering of cloth, stone, wood, or metal, used to crown an altar, throne, pulpit, statue, etc. In liturgical language, the term is commonly employed to designate

*]the structure covering an altar, formerly fitted with curtains and supported on four pillars;
*]the covering suspended over the throne occupied by dignitaries of the Church or princes;
*]the covering under which the Blessed Sacrament is sometimes borne in processions etc.
In medieval times altars were protected by a covering then called a ciborium (see the article ALTAR, under sub-title Ciborium), but now known as a baldachinum, or canopy, which survives at the present day as a feature of certain styles of architecture. When an altar had no ciborium it was covered with a cloth called a dais. As a mark of distinction bishops and higher prelates have a right to a covering over the thrones which they occupy at certain ecclesiastical functions. This is called a canopy. It is sometimes granted by special privilege to prelates inferior to bishops, but always with limitations as to the days on which it may be used and the character of its ornamentation. When bishops assist at solemn functions in the churches of regulars the latter are bound to provide the episcopal seat with a canopy (Cong. of Bishops and Regulars, 1603). Princes enjoy similar privileges, but their seats should be outside the sanctuary, and regulated in accordance with custom. The colour of the canopy should correspond with that of the other vestments. Two kinds of canopy are employed in processions of the Blessed Sacrament. One of small dimensions and shaped like an umbrella–except that it is flat and not conical is called an ombrellino. It is provided with a long staff by which it is held. The other, called a baldacchino, is of more elaborate structure and consists, in main outline, of a rectangular frame-work of rich cloth, supported by four, six, or eight staves by which it is carried. In both cases the covering consists of cloth of gold, or silk of white color. The ombrellino is used for carrying the Blessed Sacrament to the sick and for conveying it from the altar to the baldacchino. The latter is used for all public processions, when it is borne by nobles of the highest rank, the more worthy holding the foremost staves. It is forbidden to carry relies of the saints under the baldacchino, but this honour may be given to those of the Sacred Passion (Cong. of Rites, May, 1826).

Morrisroe, P. (1908). Canopy. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.


Wouldn’t it be lovely if Catholic Answers had an actual Master of Ceremonies to ask questions of here?



You learn something new every day. I would have guessed that St. Peter’s had a leaky roof…


Our Archbishop always uses one at the Eucharistic Congress every Feast of Corpus Christi. The procession is rather long and outdoors then into the Congress Center.


It’s called an ombrellino (in Italian at least). Sometimes the Latin umbraculum is used, but that can be confused with the umbrella used to represent a basilica.

Out of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, it’s often covered. This is why many altars (like St. Peter’s) has a canopy. It may seem odd in this day and age, but when roofing wasn’t the best, it kept Jesus dry.

More functional ombrellini are made out of polyester or cotton (easy to clean, water resistant). Those that are used for purely ceremonial purposes (like the umbracula used to represent a basilica) are sometimes made out of silk or velvet.

In English, “canopy-bearer” is colloquial for someone who’s carrying any sort of liturgical canopy. I’m unfamiliar with any Latin term, if there is any.

Let me know if I missed anything, or if I could elaborate on anything else.


You will also see one in every Bascillica generally above the pulpit.

Bascillica’s are papal churches and it is a sign of respect for the Pope.


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