Hanging Pyx

I have just received an e-mail asking me about the hanging pyx.

The hanging pyx is an ancient method of reserving the Blessed Sacrament in a church until it was replaced in most places by a tabernacle on the altar or set into the wall behind the altar. It is rare, but can still be found used in a number of places, even outside England.

Typically, the pyx was made in the shape of a dove or a cylindrical container. I recommend this article The Hanging Pyx by Shawn Tribe.

Not being a silversmith, I made my pyx out of wood. I did consider using some kind of lantern for a pyx, but I never found what I wanted. So I had to make a wooden one. Here is a close-up of it hanging above the altar.

It is lowered on a halyard running through two pulleys, and here it is just above the altar table.

Here, the pyx is unhooked from the chain and the veil removed.

Finally, it is photographed with the door open.

This pyx is made from six strips of pine in a hexagonal shape. Here’s where your old school geometry comes in handy! The corners are planed at the required angle. Take two strips for the door. Glue and clamp. Take the other four strips and the base and top you have previously drawn out and made. Do a trial assembly. Once you have made sure the planed angles are right, glue up, assemble and clamp. It’s not easy to do a perfect job. Mine isn’t!

Finally, paint the pyx inside and outside. Leave it to dry for several days after having applied the second coat, a third if necessary. I chose off-white as a colour. Bull’s blood red is another possibility. Use matt or satin paint, not gloss. Screw a brass ring into the centre of the roof. Fit the door with hinges and a metal latch – which you buy from a model shop or an ironmongery shop. Brass fittings look nicer.

The veil is square, at least three feet by three feet, so that one foot and six inches hangs down at the sides. The corners hang down further. Use the floppiest and most flexible cloth you can find. Sew red binding around it and the hole in the middle. Add red tassles.

Work out the height of the pyx and install a pulley in the ceiling directly above where you want the pyx to hang (I suggest the rear part of the corporal on the altar, and naturally in the centre). You can do this with a plumb line to get it accurate. Use pulleys designed for sailing boats – they are smaller and more discreet. Attach the other pulley at the side of the chapel. Use good-quality white cord for the “halyard”. Use a length of brass chain. Tie the halyard to the top end of the chain with a bowline. Use a “S” hook between the chain and the ring of the pyx. This makes it possible to take the pyx off the chain and remove the veil.

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4 Responses to Hanging Pyx

  1. There is a hanging pix at Ilford Hospital Chapel of St. Mary & St. Thomas of Canterbury where I am the Chaplain. The Chapel is a “peculair” run by Trustees who appoint the Chaplain and The Friends who raise money to preserve this 11th Century building.

    • I’ve just looked up Ilford Hospital Chapel on Google. It is a lovely building. Could you send a photo of the pyx, which I didn’t see in the various images, perhaps to my e-mail address (anthony.chadwick AT wanadoo.fr) and I’ll add it to the article. Do you dare use it?

  2. I will take a photo when I’m there for Mass on Thursday. The pyx is in constant use and has been for many years.

  3. Pingback: The Hanging Pyx – a part of the Anglican patrimony | Ordinariate Expats

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