Paten: The Communion Plate
Silver paten, Liverpool, 1849
A paten (Latin Patena, Greek patane, "plate") is the plate that holds the consecrated bread during communion. The use of ordinary bread in ancient celebrations of the Eucharist implies that the paten was originally a real platter of considerable size and weight. So it remained in the early Middle Ages, as the wafer was much larger before the 12th or 13th century than in later times.
The material of the paten was probably at first terracotta or glass, but after Constantine there is record of heavy gold and silver patens in the treasuries of Roman bishops and elsewhere. In the cathedral treasury at Halberstadt there is a magnificent gilded silver paten, sixteen inches in diameter, with richly decorated figures and other ornamentation, brought by Bishop Conrad to Halberstadt from Byzantium in 1215.
Noteworthy specimens of German origin are also extant, such as the one in St. Gotthard's Church at Hildesheim, with a filigree setting of pearls and precious stones. Most of these elaborate specimens are associated with ministerial chalices.
In the Gothic period the paten became smaller and less ornamental. It has also very little depth in this period. The rim not infrequently contains inscriptions relating to the communion. In the Greek Church, for protection of the consecrated bread when it is veiled, two metal strips (asterzskoi), put together in the form of a cross and provided with bent feet, are placed over the paten (Greek diskos).
- The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II, p. 168.