Thursday, January 04, 2018

NLM Quiz no. 21: What is This Object’s Function? The Answer

I suspect that this quiz will prove to be quite difficult, so I will start with two clues. 1: The object shown in the photographs below does not have a liturgical function, properly speaking, but was used by a confraternity for a religious purpose. 2: The candlesticks to either side of it are irrelevant, but the details seen somewhat more clearly in the second photograph are very relevant. (You can click on the photos to enlarge them.) Can you guess what it was used for? Please leave your answer in the combox, and feel free to add any details or explanations you think pertinent. To keep it more interesting, please leave your answer before reading the other comments. We are always happy to hear humorous explanations as well. The answer will be given on Thursday morning (EST).


The Answer: Congratulations to all those who correctly guessed that this is a ballot box. The members of the confraternity would elect their new head by placing beads in one of the “cups”, which fell down into the box below. The three points behind the cups were to hold cards with the names of the candidates written on them. Special mention to Fr Ray Blake as the only commenter who correctly noted the purpose of the points.

The confraternity in question was originally known as the Confraternity of the Assumption, founded by St Peter Canisius in the Swiss city of Fribourg in 1582, with its seat at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Subsequently, it was united to other confraternities and pious associations under the title “Marian Congregation (Congrégation Mariale).” One very interesting aspect of its election procedure is that the cards were turned around so that names could not be seen by the electors, and the choice of candidate was left to the Holy Spirit, like St Matthias. (The Coptic Church follows a similar procedure in the election of its Patriarch.) The basilica, which recently underwent a beautiful restoration, is now run by the Fraternity of St Peter; we will have pictures of the church itself later in the week.

The award for Best Wildly Incorrect Answer is given to Bogdan Reznychenko for his suggestion that the “cups” are candle holders, and the piece was used for a Pontifical Mass as the altar cross and extra candle. The extra candle is just that, AN extra candle. The Best Humorous Answer is given to Mag. Theol.: “(A) cabinet for alcoholic beverages. Those three thingies on the top are shot cups, and the detail on the front of the box clearly depicts how seminarians carry one of their fellow seminarians to his room, after he’s had one too many shots.” Very clever. Thanks to everyone who participated!

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