John Lewis ceremony: What is the Lincoln catafalque?

Rep. John Lewis to lie in state

Congressman John Lewis’ remains were brought to Washington, D.C., on Monday as the ceremonies honoring his life continue this week.

Lewis, an icon of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, died last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80.

Lewis was in his 17th term representing Georgia’s 5th Congressional District.

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Lewis will lie in state in the Capitol’s rotunda, the first African American to be so honored. The coffin containing Lewis’ remains will rest upon a catafalque, which is a stand constructed to hold a casket.

The catafalque that will be used for Lewis’ coffin is the one that was hastily built to hold the casket of President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in April 1865. The Lincoln catafalque (pronounced cat-a-falk) is a base of rough pine boards nailed together and covered with black cloth, according to the website of the Architect of the Capitol.

The catafalque measures 7 feet, 1 inch long, 2 feet, 6 inches wide and 2 feet high. The attached base is 8 feet, 10 inches long, 4 feet, 3½ inches wide and 2 inches high.

The Lincoln catafalque has been used for most memorial services in the Capitol. Most recently, it was used in the entrance to the House chamber for services for Rep. Elijah Cummings in 2019.

Here is a list of those whose bodies have rested on the Lincoln catafalque:

  • Abraham Lincoln (April 19–21, 1865)
  • Thaddeus Stevens (August 13–14, 1868)
  • Charles Sumner (March 13, 1874)
  • Henry Wilson (November 25–26, 1875)
  • James A. Garfield (September 21–23, 1881)
  • John Alexander Logan (December 30–31, 1886)
  • William McKinley (September 17, 1901)
  • Pierre Charles L'Enfant (April 28, 1909) reinterment
  • George Dewey (January 20, 1917)
  • Unknown Soldier of World War I (November 9–11, 1921)
  • Warren G. Harding (August 8, 1923)
  • William Howard Taft (March 11, 1930)
  • John Joseph Pershing (July 18–19, 1948)
  • Robert Alphonso Taft (August 2–3, 1953)
  • Unknown Soldiers of World War II and the Korean War (May 28–30, 1958)
  • John F. Kennedy (November 24–25, 1963)
  • Douglas MacArthur (April 8–9, 1964)
  • Herbert Hoover (October 23–25, 1964)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (March 30–31, 1969)
  • Everett McKinley Dirksen (September 9–10, 1969)
  • J. Edgar Hoover (May 3–4, 1972)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson (January 24–25, 1973)
  • Hubert Humphrey (January 14–15, 1978)
  • Unknown Soldier of Vietnam Era, later identified as Michael J. Blassie(May 25–28, 1984)
  • Claude Denson Pepper (June 1–2, 1989)
  • Ronald Reagan (June 9–11, 2004)
  • William Rehnquist (September 6–7, 2005)
  • Gerald Ford (December 30, 2006–January 2, 2007)
  • Robert C. Byrd (July 1, 2010)
  • Daniel Inouye (December 19–20, 2012)
  • Frank Lautenberg (June 6, 2013)
  • Antonin Scalia (February 19, 2016)
  • John McCain (August 31, 2018)
  • George H. W. Bush (December 3–5, 2018)
  • John Paul Stevens (July 22, 2019)
  • Elijah Cummings (October 25, 2019)