A catafalque is a raised
bieror platform, often movable, that is used to support the casket, coffin, or body of the deceased during a funeralor memorial service. Catafalque decorations are known as " castrum doloris".
The term originates from the Italian "catafalco", which means
scaffolding. The most notable Italian catafalque was the one designed for Michelangeloby his fellow artists in 1564.
West Norwood and Kensal Green Catafalques
London's West Norwood cemetery
catacombswere constructed with a hydrauliccatafalque to lower coffins from the EpiscopalChapel to the vaults. The single-pump hydraulic lift was installed in 1839 and could swivel to make unloading the coffins easier.
In 1844 a dual-pump version was installed in the
Kensal Greencemetery catacombs. This catafalque could both raise and lower coffins from the Anglican MortuaryChapel. The lift at Kensal Green has been restored, while the lift at West Norwood fell into disrepair and no longer works.
United States, the Lincoln catafalque, first used for Abraham Lincoln's funeral in 1865, has been used for all those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda. When not in use, the catafalque is kept below the Crypt in a small vaulted chamber called Washington's Tomb, which was originally intended, but never used, as the burial place for George Washington.
The Lincoln Catafalque is a simple bier of rough
pineboards nailed together and covered with black cloth. Although the base and platform have occasionally been altered to accommodate the larger size of modern coffins and for the ease of the attending military personnel, it is basically the same today as it was in Lincoln's time. Presently the catafalque measures 7 feet 1 inch (216 cm) long, 2 feet 6 inches (76 cm) wide, and 2 feet (61 cm) high. The attached base is 8 feet 10 inches (269 cm) long, 4 feet 3-1/2 inches (131 cm) wide, and 2 inches (5 cm) high. The platform is 11 feet 1 inch (338 cm) long, 6 feet (183 cm) wide, and 9-1/4 inches (23.5 cm) high. Although the cloth covering the catafalque has been replaced several times, the style of the drapery is similar to that used in 1865.
Lincoln's catafalque was most recently used at the State funeral for U.S. President Gerald R. Ford. It was noted by commentators that the structure of the original pine timbers and boards have been reinforced, albeit being left 'original'. [According to Robert Cromie in his book, "The Great Chicago Fire", copyright 1958, Lincoln's catafalque was in Woods' Museum in
Chicagoand was burned in that fire in 1871. If true, it could not have been used in the state funeral of Gerald Ford. However, Lincoln had funeral ceremonies during stops at several major cities as his remains were taken for burial by train from Washington to Springfield, Illinois. Cromie probably meant the catafalque used for ceremonies held at Chicago, rather than the one built for his state funeral in DC and retained at the U.S. Capitol. ]
* [http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/w/west_norwood_cemetery/index.shtml West Norwood Cemetery Catacombs]
* [http://www.aoc.gov/cc/capitol/catafalque.cfm Architect of the Capitol]
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