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Receptacle for baptismal or holy water, normally made of stone, more rarely of metal or wood. Wooden fonts have stone or metal containers for the water. In the early Church, when adult baptism was more commonly administered by immersion, the font was a large basin below ground level in which the neophyte stood while the water was poured over him. For infant baptism, the font, quite large, was somewhat raised above ground so that the child could easily be immersed. As baptism by pouring became the rule, fonts became smaller and higher, often richly ornamented, and gradually took on the present shape. They are also covered by a lid. In many churches fonts either stand in a separate chapel (baptistery) or are railed off in a closed section of the church. Holy water fonts stand in the vestibule of a church, or inside the church proper, and are conveniently placed at the entrance and exit doors for people to bless themselves as they enter and leave the church.
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.