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What is a Communion Pyx

A communion pyx is a small gold lined box that is used to carry the consecrated communion host to people in the hospital or at home who cannot go out to communion. This case has to be made according to certain specifications in order to be able to be used. There is a burse or bag with a draw string, so that it will go around the neck of the priest that is made only to carry the pyx. These well crafted small, round boxes are decorated with many Catholic symbols on top such as different styles of crosses, wheat and grapes, doves and chalices.

Originally a communion pyx was two glass discs with a gold hinge called a lunette. In the middle ages pyxes were made from ivory, but the Greek work pyxis, which means a container made from the box-wood tree, is the origin of the name. Today it is a small round case made from different metals although always gold lined. Even though it was not condoned by the Church, when a pyx was not available, priests used to put the Eucharist Host between the pages of a prayer book or even wrap it in cloth and put it in a bag.


Sometimes a priest has to take many communion hosts to a rest home or hospital so there are pyxes that hold 15 to 20. This communion pyx is a lot bigger and could be used for something else, such as a jewelry case or rosary box, if it has never been used for carrying communion. These can be found online and are almost like jewelry themselves.


The different designs on the top of the small cases are all Catholic symbols but there is so much variety in the way they are made. There is appliqué of different metals like bronze on pewter or gold on silver. There is engraving, enamel and jewel encrusted. The crosses are infinite including; Latin cross, Celtic cross with the circle in the middle, trefoil crosses with the three buds at the end of each arm, chalice with grapes and wheat, chi-ro cross with the first two letters of the Greek spelling of Christ, Jerusalem cross or Crusaders cross, and many different crucifixes as well. Even small enamel paintings are seen on the communion pyx.

In Auctions online from estate sales as well as people privately selling heirlooms there are ancient pyxes for sale. Good antiques are marked with the year of manufacture. An antique French communion pyx is heaver than the English or American because it is made with a heavier grade of silver. It was made only for use in France because in previous centuries it would have had to have an export stamp to send to another country. Wealthy families had there own personal pyxes for the priest to bring the communion host to their home. Not necessarily because they were sick, they simply wanted a private ceremony. These are not often found these days because they were sold or melted down by the families long ago.



This article was published on Wednesday 10 February, 2010.

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