THURIBLE (Lat. thuribulum or turibulum, thus or tus, incense, Gr. 6v6s, from Bvkiv, to offer a burnt sacrifice, cf. Skr. dhuma and Lat. fumus, smoke), the ecclesiastical term for a censer, a portable vessel in which burning incense (q.v.) can be carried. The censer, to use the more general term, is a vessel which contains burning charcoal on which the aromatic substances to be burned are sprinkled. The early Jewish portable censer would seem to have been a bowl with a handle, resembling a ladle. A similar form was used by the ancient Egyptians long prior to the Jewish use. There are very numerous representations on the monuments; in some the censer appears as a small cup or bowl held by a human hand to which a long handle is attached on which is a small box to hold the incense. The Greek and Roman censers (6v(u.a.Ti]pu>v and turibulum or Ihuribulum) are of quite different shape. They are small portable braziers (foculi) of bronze or sometimes of silver and of highly ornate design. One type took the form of a candelabrum with a small flat brazier on the top. They were carried in processions and were lifted by cords. Terra cotta censers have also been found of a similar shape. The censers or thuribles in Christian usage have been specially adapted to be swung, though there are in existence many early specimens 'of heavy weight and made of gold or silver which were obviously not meant to be used in this way and have handles and not chains. The thurible, the proper ecclesiastical term for the vessel in the Western Church, is usually spherical in form, though often square or polygonal, containing a small receptacle for the charcoal and covered by a perforated lid; it is carried and swung by three chains, a fourth being attached to the lid, thus allowing it to be raised at intervals for the volume of smoke to be increased. The early thuribles were usually simple in design; but in the medieval period an architectural form was given to the lids by ornamenting them with towers, battlements and traceries, varying according to the prevalent Gothic style of the period. A censer lid with a late Saxon tower upon it, now in the British Museum, dates from the 12th century or earlier.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)