A catafalque is a raised bier, box, or similar platform, often movable, that is used to support the casket, coffin, or body of the deceased during a Christian funeral or memorial service. Following a Roman Catholic Requiem Mass, a catafalque may be used to stand in place of the body at the absolution of the dead or used during Masses of the Dead and All Souls' Day.
According to Peter Stanford, the term originates from the Italian catafalco, which means scaffolding. However, the Oxford English Dictionary says the word is "[o]f unknown derivation; even the original form is uncertain; French pointing to -fald- or -falt-, Italian to -falc-, Spanish to -fals." The most notable Italian catafalque was the one designed for Michelangelo by his fellow artists in 1564. An elaborate and highly decorated roofed surround for a catafalque, common for grand funerals of the Baroque era, may be called a castrum doloris.
Large processions have followed the catafalques of Popes. The households of the cardinals carried the catafalque of Pope Sixtus V in 1590. The bier, decorated with gold cloth, was followed by "confraternities, religious orders, students of seminaries and colleges, orphans and mendicants". In 1963, a million people filed past the catafalque of Pope John XXIII, which had been carried in procession to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Other than religious leaders such as Popes, famous people have lain in state or been carried in procession to their burial place on a catafalque.
Thirteen years after his death, the remains of Voltaire were transferred on a catafalque to the Panthéon in Paris, a building dedicated to the great men of the French nation. It bore the inscription: "Poet, philosopher, historian, he made a great step forward in the human spirit. He prepared us to become free."
The Lincoln catafalque, first used for United States President Abraham Lincoln's funeral in 1865, has been used for all those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda since Lincoln's death. When not in use, the catafalque is kept on display in the Exhibition Hall at the United States Capitol Visitor Center. It was used for Antonin Scalia, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, in 2016. Commentators noted that the structure of the original pine timbers and boards has been reinforced, albeit being left 'original'.
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- James Empereur; Eduardo Fernández (12 October 2006). La Vida Sacra: Contemporary Hispanic Sacramental Theology. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 294–. ISBN 978-1-4616-3855-1.
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- George Bull (15 July 1998). Michelangelo: A Biography. St. Martin's Press. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-0-312-18746-0.
- Schraven, Minou (2014). Festive Funerals in Early Modern Italy: The Art and Culture of Conspicuous Commemoration. Ashgate Publishing. p. 203. ISBN 9780754665243.
- CriticalPast (2014-06-18), Millions of people pass by the catafalque bearing the body of Pope John XXIII in ...HD Stock Footage, retrieved 2016-07-26
- "Voltaire's funeral procession". www.visitvoltaire.com. Retrieved 2016-07-26.
- William Turner Coggeshall (1865). Lincoln Memorial: The Journeys of Abraham Lincoln: from Springfield to Washington, 1861, as President Elect; and from Washington to Springfield, 1865, as President Martyred; Comprising an Account of Public Ceremonies on the Entire Route, and Full Details of Both Journeys. Ohio State Journal. pp. 277–.
- According to Robert Cromie in his book The Great Chicago Fire, copyright 1958, Lincoln's catafalque was in Woods' Museum in Chicago and was burned in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. However, Lincoln had funeral ceremonies during stops at several major cities as his remains were taken by train from Washington to Springfield, Illinois for burial. Cromie probably meant the catafalque used for ceremonies held at Chicago, rather than the one built for his state funeral in DC and retained at the U.S. Capitol.