1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Credence
CREDENCE, or Credence Table, a small side-table, originally an article of furniture placed near the high table in royal or noble houses, at which the ceremony of the praegustatio, Italian credenziare, the “assay” or tasting of food and drink for poisons was performed by an official of the household, the praegustator or credentiarius as he was called in Medieval Latin. Both the ceremony and the table were known as credentia (Lat. credere, to believe, trust), Ital. credenza, Fr. crédence. After the need for the ceremony had disappeared the name still survived, and the table developed a back and several shelves for the display of plate, and gradually merged into the buffet (q.v.). It is, however, as an article of ecclesiastical furniture that the credence table is most familiar. It takes the form of a small table of wood or stone, sometimes fixed and sometimes merely a shelf above or near the piscina. It usually stands on the south or Epistle side of the altar, and on it are placed, in the Roman Catholic Church, the cruets containing the wine and water, the chalice, the candlesticks to be carried by the acolytes, and other objects to be used in the ceremony of the Mass. The use of such a table, to which earlier the name of paratorium or oblationarium was given, appears to have come into use when the personal presentation of the oblations at the Mass became obsolete. When the pope celebrates Mass a special credence table on the Gospel side of the altar is used, and the ceremony of tasting for poison in the unconsecrated elements is still observed. In some churches in England the old credence tables still exist, as at the church of St Cross near Winchester, where there is a fine stone 15th-century example; more frequent are examples of the stone shelf near the piscina. There are some carved wooden ones surviving, one type being with a semicircular top and three legs placed in a triangle with a lower shelf. The formal use of the credence table for the unconsecrated elements and the holy vessels before the celebration has been revived in the English Church.