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Tenebrae (tĕnˈĕbrā) [key] [Lat., = darkness], in the Roman Catholic Church, ceremony performed on the Wednesday and following evenings of Holy Week. As the choir chants, a number of candles set on a hearse (a kind of candelabrum) are extinguished one by one until only one remains. The last candle is hidden behind the altar, and in the darkness a noise is made, symbolizing the convulsion of nature at the Crucifixion. The single lighted candle is then replaced on the hearse. The traditional plainsong for the ceremony is much esteemed.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches: Liturgy, Hymns, and Prayers

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