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A friend of mine is a few months from ordination to the permanent deaconate, I thought it'd be a fun project for the my Timberwolf troop to make him a Deacon's Bench. But is that something deacon's typically have or is the whole idea of a deacon's bench just a wide bench that a couple of deacons can sit on in the sanctuary of a church during Mass (or do deacons often have butts that wide?)? And hence, kind of a pointless things to give a deacon.

Also, is it a more properly called a deacons' bench?

Pintrest link for people who might want to look at some wide benches.

  • I've never heard of such a thing. This is a Catholic tradition I assume? I don't remember seeing one in the Catholic churches I've visited either. How widespread is this? – curiousdannii Jan 20 at 22:14
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    @curiousdannii I'm not entirely sure if it is Catholic tradition, might be just an American term. There are deacons in lots of other churches. On all the churchy stuff quizes I've never given out to Catechism kids, they've never included "deacons bench" along with ambo, lectern, celebrant's chair etc... so I think it's something different. – Peter Turner Jan 20 at 22:28
  • I am sure that this term in other languages is completely different. – Ken Graham Jan 21 at 0:01
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Where did the idea of deacon's benches come from and what are they for?

To start with the idea of a deacon’s bench is a somewhat modern terminology for a specific type of bench. In fact the first known usage of this phrase dates back to about 1922. Thus it cannot be claimed as a tradition in any stretch of the imagination, ecclesiastical or secular.

By definition a deacon’s bench is defined as follows:

A kind of bench whose hinged seat is also the lid of an enclosed storage compartment. - Source

Thus an example of a properly defined deacon’s bench can be seen below.

Antique Deacon’s Bench

Antique Deacon’s Bench

The terminology of a deacon’s bench in English is somewhat misleading to me. I have seen such types of ecclesiastical furniture in both traditional Catholic churches and in chapter houses of traditional Benedictine monks in France. The term alludes me as to what they actually called in French. In France these are basically ecclesiastical storage pieces of furniture and no one actually sits on them, as they are generally placed in a corner. I guess some clerics or atlas servers could in theory use them for sitting during some liturgical function.

These benches are in actuality not designed for the exclusive usage of deacon’s in the Catholic Church, but are for storing the books required for the service of the altar or chapter house. Just as deacons are ordained for the service of the altar and aiding the priest in celebrating the Divine Mysteries at the altar.

Deacon benches in the actual church would store the missal, the lectionary and the breviary. In monastic chapter houses, the deacon’s bench would contain the Martyrology, and the Rule of St. Benedict, as well as other books pertaining to the monastic customs and the declarations (and norms) of the particular Congregation in question.

In other words, the deacon’s bench contain all the books necessary for any and all liturgical functions in either the church, cathedral or chapter. It is of no consequence if their is actually an ordained deacon in residence or not.

The term now seems to mean a variety of different types of benches in English and are of no ecclesiastical usage whatsoever.

Addendum:

The French term for the style of bench is called a Banc-coffre d'église.

More information may be gleaned here.

A bishop’s chair (cathèdre) in French is quite similar but has actual seating space for the bishop only. The bishop’s chair actually serves two purposes: it seats the bishop and stores his personal liturgical books.

Cathèdre pontificale du palais des papes d'Avignon

Cathèdre pontificale du palais des papes d'Avignon

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