A diaconicon is a room in a church for the use of the deacons in carrying out their duties. Etymologically the word “diaconicon” means “belonging to the deacon.” In antiquity the exact location of the diaconicon in the church does not seem to have been specified. From what is known so far, the designation “diaconicon” was used in Syria for the two side rooms off the apse (pastophoria). Early Christian texts from Egypt attest the diaconicon as a side room in the church accessible from the church proper.
In conformity with the manifold duties of the deacons, the diaconicon accommodated a variety of functions. According to early Christian texts from Egypt, it served, among other things, for the setting up of the incense altar. According to other texts, the sacred vessels were kept there. Thus it is the same as a sacristy (see below). According to G. Graf, the room was called qunumiyyah, which was another word for “sacristy” (Munier, 1930, fol. 60r, 1.12).
A related term is the Arabic diquniyyah, used for a room in which, according to old witnesses, Coptic monks kept their bread (Graf, 1954, p. 46). This is, however, a room in a monastery, not in the church. The designation is rather derived from the diaconia, the institution for poor relief, which was among the oldest duties of the diaconate and later was a particular concern of the monasteries. In the monastery of Saint Matthew the Poor, the diaconia was a building of several stories, from which one could look far into the distance (Till, 1936, p. 12).
- Amélineau, E. Etude sur le Christianisme en Egypt au septième siècle. Paris, 1887.
- Descoeudres, G. Die Pastophorien im syro-byzantinischen Osten. Wiesbaden, 1983.
- Graf, G. Verzeichnis arabischer kirchlicher Termini. CSCO 147, Supp. 8. Louvain, 1954.
- Marrou, H. I. “L’origine orientale des diaconies romaines.” Mélanges Archéologie 57 (1940): 95-142.
- Munier, H. La scala copte 44 de la Bibliothèque nationale de Paris, Vol. 1. Cairo, 1930.
- Till, W. Koptische Heiligen- und Märtyrerlegenden II. Rome, 1936.