The Bread of Heaven

Orthodox worship and spirituality involves all the senses: touch, sight, taste, smell, hearing…..

I did some re-organization of kitchen shelves this weekend to enable me to display some of my collection of Orthodox bread seals. The kitchen is the obvious place to keep them! “Prosphora” (Greek for “offering”) is bread prepared for use in the Divine Liturgy, and particular seals are used on it prior to baking. Seals are also used for non-Eucharistic bread and even small cakes and biscuits that are distributed outside the Divine Liturgy on particular Feasts (for example, St Michael’s Bread).
The use of bread seals is an ancient tradition: the seal pictured is a Eucharistic bread mould carved from a single section of wood. Galanaris dates this particular type to the Early Byzantine Period (5th-6th Century AD), and it is most likely from Coptic Egypt.
There is a marvellous web site devoted to the seals and the bread:
The standard works on the subject are:

(1) E.S. Drower “Water into Wine. A Study of Ritual Idiom in the Middle East” John Murray, London, 1956 – despite the title, the book is essentially about bread, and mostly about Oriental Orthodox use of it. Ethel Stefana Lady Drower née Stevens (1879 1972) was a British anthropologist who studied the Middle East and its cultures.
(2) George Galanaris “Bread and the Liturgy. The Symbolism of Early Christian and Byzantine Bread Stamps” The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1970 235pp 95 illus.
(3) Sergei Sveshnikov “Break the Holy Bread, Master. A Theology of Communion Bread” BookSurge Publishing, 2009
(4) R.M. Woolley “The Bread of the Eucharist” Alcuin Club Tracts XI, A.R. Mowbray, London, 1913.
prosphora 2


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