Autonomy Lost and Regained: The Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolia of Kyiv, 1633-2019

What is an antimension?

In the Orthodox and Greek Catholic Church, an antimension (Greek, literally "instead of the table") is rectangular piece of cloth without which a priest is forbidden to celebrate the Eucharist. It is consecrated and signed by a bishop, and has a small relic of a martyr sewn into it (usually in a small pocket on the back). The name comes from the fact that an antimension can serve as a substitute for the altar table, allowing a priest to celebrate the Eucharist outside of a consecrated church. The antimension remains the property of the bishop, and in effect serves as the bishop's license to hold divine services.

When not in use, an antimension is folded in thirds both vertically and horizontally and stored underneath the Gospel book on the altar. During the Divine Liturgy, it is unfolded part-way, then fully, and the vessels holding the Eucharistic bread and wine are placed on the antimension. It is then re-folded at the conclusion of the Liturgy.

An antimension need not contain any special imagery, and some early antimensia were very minimalist in their designs. Traditionally, however, an antimension will have symbolic images of the Evangelists in the corners, and typically (though not always) some variant of the Deposition in the Tomb as a central image.

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