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In medieval times, an aumbry was a cabinet in the wall of a Christian church or in the sacristy which was used to store chalices and other vessels and which was used also for the reserved sacrament, the consecrated elements from the communion service. This was an uncommon usage in pre-Reformation churches (though it was known in Scotland, Sweden, Germany and Italy). More usually the sacrament was reserved in a pyx usually hanging in front of and above the altar or later in a "sacrament house".
After the Reformation and the Tridentine reforms, in the Roman Catholic Church the use of aumbries for this purpose was abandoned and some of them were used to house the oil for the Anointing of the Sick. Reservation in an aumbry in the Roman Catholic Church is now forbidden; a tabernacle or hanging pyx are used
The Reformed churches abandoned reservation of any kind so that aumbries, unless used for housing vessels, became redundant. However, in the Scottish Episcopal church from the eighteenth century and other Anglican churches in the nineteenth century following the Tractarian revival reservation has begun to be practised again. Permission for reservation has to be sought from the bishop following which a faculty may be granted by the Chancellor of the diocese for the installation of an aumbry or tabernacle.
Reservation is quite common in the Episcopal Church of the United States,the Anglican Church in Australia, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, as well as in the Anglican Church of Canada (though with varying degrees of veneration, depending on the parish). Even traditionally Low Church parishes, such as St. Anne's, Toronto, reserve the sacrament.
For the cabinet which is used to contain the holy oils, see Almery.
- Walker, Charles, The ritual reason why. Paragraph 396
- Eucharistic Reservation in the Western Church A.A. King & C.E. Pocknee (1965)
- Halsbury's Laws of England (Fourth edition) vol Ecclesiastical Law