AskDefine | Define pulpit

Dictionary Definition

pulpit n : a platform raised above the surrounding level to give prominence to the person on it [syn: dais, podium, rostrum, ambo, stump, soapbox]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latin pulpitum, "platform".


  1. A raised platform in a church, usually enclosed, where the minister or preacher stands to conduct the sermon.
  2. In the context of "obsolete|nautical": The railing at the bow of a boat, which sometimes extends past the deck. It is sometimes referred to as bow pulpit. The railing at the stern of the boat is sometimes referred to as as stern pulpit; other texts use the perhaps more-appropriate term pushpit.

Derived terms


raised platform in church
(obsolete, nautical) the railing at the bow of a boat

Extensive Definition

A pulpit (from Latin pulpitum "scaffold", "platform", "stage") is a small elevated platform where a member of the clergy stands in order to read the Gospel lesson and deliver a sermon.
In many Christian churches, there are two speaker’s which stand at the front of the church. Typically, the one on the left (as viewed by the congregation) is called the pulpit. Since the Gospel lesson is often read from the pulpit, the pulpit side of the church is sometimes called the gospel side.
The other speaker's stand, usually on the right (as viewed by the congregation), is known as the lectern. The word lectern comes from the Latin word meaning "to read", because the lectern primarily functions as a reading stand. It is typically used by lay people to read the scripture lessons (except for the Gospel lesson), to lead the congregation in prayer, and to make announcements. Because the epistle lesson is usually read from the lectern, the lectern side of the church is sometimes called the epistle side. In other churches, the lectern, from which the Epistle is read, is located to the congregation's left and the pulpit, from which the sermon is delivered, is located on the right (the Gospel being read from either the center of the chancel or in front of the altar).


In the parish of Bergatreute, a Late Baroque polychromed pulpit that is entered from the balcony appears to hover against the wall; above, the dove of the Holy Spirit lends authenticity to the spoken word. The pulpit is the work of Franz Schmuzer, 1718, originally made for the Klosterkirche Weingarten, and removed to Bergatreute in 1762.
However, in many Evangelical Christian churches the arrangement is completely different. In these churches, the pulpit stands squarely in the center of the platform, and is generally the largest piece of church furniture. This is to symbolize the proclamation of the Word of God as the central focus of the weekly service of worship. In more contemporary evangelical churches, the pulpit may be much smaller, if used at all, and is generally carried out after the end of the song service. However, it usually is placed in the center of the platform as well.
From the pulpit is often used metaphorically for something which is said with official church authority.

Pulpit in Protestantism

In some Protestant churches, the pulpit is considered the most important piece of furniture in the sanctuary. It is situated central to the congregation and raised. It is where the minister stands and may be decorated with a 'pulpit fall'- a piece of cloth that covers the top of the pulpit and hangs down the front. Flowers may also stand in front of the pulpit.
In the eighteenth century triple-decker pulpits were often introduced in English speaking countries. The three levels of lecterns were intended to show the relative importance of the readings delivered there. The bottom tier was for community announcements, the middle for the gospel, and the top tier was reserved for the delivery of the sermon.


In churches where there is only one speaker's stand in the center of the front of the church, it serves the functions of both lectern and pulpit and is properly called the ambo. In common usage, however, ambos are incorrectly called pulpits.
The word ambo comes from a Greek word meaning an elevation. It was originally an elaborate raised platform in the middle of the nave from which the Epistle and Gospel would be read, and was occasionally used as a speaker's platform for homilies. It was joined to the sanctuary by a raised walkway called the soleas. In modern Eastern Christian use, this form of the ambo is now very rare. Instead, the area directly in front of the Beautiful Gates of the iconostasis from which the Gospel is typically read is called the ambo, and the entire low elevation above the level of the nave in front of the iconostasis is called the soleas. In larger churches, the ambo might be distinguished by three curved steps from which one might reach it from the nave.
In Eastern Orthodox cathedrals there is usually a low platform in the center of the nave called the episcopal ambo where the bishop is vested prior to the Divine Liturgy and where he is enthroned until the Little Entrance. If the bishop is serving in a simple parish church, an episcopal ambo is set temporarily in place.



pulpit in Simple English: Pulpit
pulpit in Czech: Kazatelna (kostel)
pulpit in Danish: Prædikestol
pulpit in German: Kanzel
pulpit in Modern Greek (1453-): Άμβωνας
pulpit in Spanish: Púlpito
pulpit in Esperanto: Predikejo
pulpit in French: Chaire
pulpit in Croatian: Propovjedaonica
pulpit in Italian: Pulpito
pulpit in Luxembourgish: Priedegtstull
pulpit in Dutch: Kansel
pulpit in Norwegian: Prekestol
pulpit in Japanese: 講壇
pulpit in Polish: Ambona (architektura)
pulpit in Slovenian: Prižnica
pulpit in Swedish: Predikstol

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ambo, apostleship, balcony, call, care of souls, catafalque, dais, desk, emplacement, estrade, floor, gallery, heliport, holy orders, hustings, landing, landing pad, landing stage, launching pad, lectern, pastorage, pastoral care, pastorate, platform, podium, priesthood, priestship, rabbinate, reading desk, rostrum, sacred calling, soapbox, stage, step terrace, stump, terrace, the church, the cloth, the desk, the ministry, the pulpit, tribunal, tribune, vocation
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