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1640s, from French catafalque (17c.), from Italian catafalco "scaffold," from Vulgar Latin *catafalicum, from Greek kata- "down" (see cata-), used in Medieval Latin with a sense of "beside, alongside" + fala "scaffolding, wooden siege tower," a word said to be of Etruscan origin. The Medieval Latin word also yielded Old French chaffaut, chafaud (Modern French échafaud) "scaffold."
ornate, often theatrical, usually movable funereal structure mounted on a stage to support a coffin for a lying-in-state. It is used for royalty and personages of distinction and is normally set up in a historic public hall, such as Westminster Hall, London, and the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. The reputation of the Spanish architect Jose Churriguera, known for his exuberant and fantastic Baroque style, was established overnight in 1689 by his design for the catafalque for Queen Maria Louisa, first wife of Charles II. Certain European shrines of saints in which the body is visible are sometimes regarded as catafalques.