Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 23 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Pio of Pietrelcina
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Why some medieval churches would leave a hole in the roof

Holy Ghost HOLE

Wolfgang Sauber | CC BY-SA 3.0

Philip Kosloski - published on 05/22/21

The "Holy Ghost Hole" was incorporated into church architecture to remind the faithful of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

One interesting bit of church architecture is known as the “Holy Ghost Hole.” It consists of a large opening purposely left in the ceiling.

This was most commonly done in medieval churches throughout Europe, but has been repeated in other places throughout the world.

The tradition was meant to remind the faithful of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and to be a visible reminder that the Holy Spirit continues to descend upon Christian disciples.

This spiritual symbolism was further reinforced on Pentecost day, when someone would climb up to onto the roof and send down various symbols of the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Francis Weiser explains in his book Holyday Book that live doves or pigeons would sometimes be used, as well as burning pieces of straw.

In some towns of central Europe people even went so far as to drop pieces of burning wick or straw from the Holy Ghost Hole, to represent the flaming tongues of Pentecost. This practice, however, was eventually stopped because it tended to put the people on fire externally, instead of internally as the Holy Spirit had done at Jerusalem. In the thirteenth century in many cathedrals of France real white pigeons were released during the singing of the sequence and new around in the church while roses were dropped from the Holy Ghost Hole.

The “Holy Ghost Hole” is a fascinating medieval tradition, and the symbols dropped through it kept the people conscious that our faith is a union between the physical and spiritual realms.

Tags:
ArchitecturePentecost
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
3
OUR LADY
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
4
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
5
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
6
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
7
ORTHODOX COMMUNION
Philip Kosloski
Why do some Eastern Catholics use spoons for Holy Communion?
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.