BALDACHIN, originally a supported "canopy" of rich silk material supported on four or six columns, named after the city of Baghdad where this material was made. The old Italian form of the name is Baldacco, from which is derived the diminutive baldacchino. Since the beginning of the seventeenth century, this term had been borrowed by other European languages. Functionally the baldachin served as the emblem of rank of secular rulers and spiritual dignitaries as well as for the visual identification and display of relics, inner sanctums, and altars. It could be carried or erected only for use on special occasions or be set permanently in a fixed position. It is related to the ciborium and differs from it in principle only in its lack of stability. Inevitably the baldachin appears frequently as a substitute for it. But whereas the ciborium was open
on all sides, the baldachin, especially as of a throne or statue, could also stand in front of a pillar or wall and consequently be open only on three sides. In this form it also shows architectural affinities with the aedicula. In Arabic texts the baldachin in most cases is simply called QUBBAH, which denotes a cupola and thus cannot be distinguished from the ciborium or tabernacle.
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