Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Font

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FONT, the vessel which contains the water for the purposes of baptism. The font is the only relic of our ancient architecture which in its form is at all analogous to the Grecian and Roman vases. Norman fonts are generally square or circular; the first frequently placed on five legs. The circular form continued to be much used during the early English period; so, occasionally, was the square. Throughout the continuance of the Decorated style, the octagon was generally employed, sometimes the hexagon. During the Perpendicular style, the octagon was almost always used. Until the Reformation, and occasionally after, dipping was practiced in England. Pouring or sprinkling was not unusual previous to the Reformation; for as early as the year 754, pouring, in cases of necessity, was declared by Pope Stephen III. to be lawful; and in the year 1311, the Council of Ravenna declared dipping or sprinkling indifferent; yet dipping appears to have been in England the more usual mode. Fonts were required to be covered and locked, and the covers were highly ornamented.