Saturday, September 17, 2016

IS THERE A LITURGICAL LAW FOR THE CORRECT PLACEMENT OF THE SACRED HEART SHRINE OR CHAPEL IN CHURCH ARCHITECTURE?





Both Saint Joseph Church in Macon and the Cathedral in Savannah have Sacred Heart Shrines. They are both located as follows:

The Sacred Heart Shrine is on the Gospel Side of the Church and the Marian Shrine is on the Epistle Side.

However, when there is no Sacred Heart Shrine or Chapel, the Marian Shrine is traditionally on the Gospel Side of the Church.

I ask this question, because the new Saint Anne Church has a Sacred Heart Statue, but it is placed on the right niche of the Epistle Side of the Church and the St. Joseph Shrine, which is to its left and in a recessed small chapel (which is its traditional place when the Marian Shrine is on the Gospel side of the church).

Our Marian Shrine is on the Gospel side of the church in a similar recessed small chapel and next to its left is a statue of St. Michael the Archangel on a wall niche.

I would like to place the Sacred Heart statue, which is quite lovely, where the current Marian Shrine is; move the Marian Shrine to where the Saint Joseph Shrine is and place the Marian Shrine where Saint Joseph now is, which would put the Mary statue and the Joseph statue on the same side of the church, the Epistle Side.  We would leave the St.Michael statue as is to the left of the Sacred Heart Chapel on the Gospel side of the church.

Is this liturgical law or simply tradition? Does anyone know and can you back my moving of the statues with architectural canonical norms for churches?

16 comments:

rcg said...

The only time I recall the arrangement you suggest is in a parish with the altar arranged with a Gospel and Epistle arrangement or that were constructed before ~1960.

J. Bruce Ismay said...

Can anyone say, "Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic"?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Of course J. Booth, it might be your Catholic Faith is sinking (to hell) since Jesus has clearly taught that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. So she might be listing and a rearranging of deck chairs could easily assist as a remedy for such a situation.

J. Bruce Ismay said...

Where Mary stands in your church is a remedy for "such a situation"? Delusional much?

John Nolan said...

The terms Epistle and Gospel side only refer to a particular altar, and not to the church as a whole; in many cases side altars are at right angles to the nave, and in the 'chevet' design of many Gothic cathedrals they radiate out from the choir. Bentley in his design for Westminster Cathedral (1903) actually oriented his side chapels towards liturgical east, but few Catholic churches had the space to do this.

The traditional place for a 'lady chapel' was east of the high altar but this assumes an ambulatory or retro-choir at the apse end. Where this did not obtain, the lady chapel (or altar) was normally placed to the right of the high altar. This was despite the fact that the figure of Our Lady on a rood loft is always to the right of her crucified Son, i.e. to the left as you look at it.

If it's simply a question of putting a statue in a niche, then it really doesn't matter. What you need to address is the fact that the sanctuary in your new church, especially from the angle you show it, resembles an over-decorated drawing-room. The altar in the Santa Marta chapel where the HF celebrates his daily Mass still has the asymmetrical stubby candles and flower-pot arrangement which reflects the taste of a 1960s suburban housewife. It won't do, and you know it.

Anonymous said...

"What you need to address is the fact that the sanctuary in your new church, especially from the angle you show it, resembles (sniff, sniff) an over-decorated drawing-room."

I can't decide whether John Nolan really Freddie Thornhill or Hyacinth Bucket...

Dialogue said...

Ismay,

Are you someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation?

Dialogue said...

Anonymous,

Are you, too, someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation?

Anonymous said...

One man's disruption is another man's conversation.

John Nolan said...

Anonymous

You're aiming at the wrong target. Hyacinth Bucket would approve of over-decorated drawing-rooms and twee altar arrangements. Freddie would probably go for high-Anglican camp. I don't subscribe to either.

Anonymous said...

But the taste of John Nolan is perfect . . . and should be adopted by all . . . of course, how could I have been so blind . . .

John Nolan said...

There's none so blind as he who will not see (English proverb). Oculos habent et non videbunt (Ps 113). Take your pick, anonymous, both apply to you.

Tom Viggiano said...

Fr,

The traditional usage (which, I believe was found in law prior to VII) was that the image that enjoyed the highest dignity was placed on the Gospel side moving in descending order to the Epistle side. That is why, for example, most Lady altars in parish churches are located on the Gospel side and the altar in honor of St Joseph was found on the Epistle side, unless there was an altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart, which would be on the Gospel side and the Lady altar would be situated on the Epistle side. It also explained why many churches with an image of the Infant of Prauge placed the statue to the left of the Lady altar on the Gospel side, because an image of our Lord enjoyed a higher dignity than one of our Blessed Lady.

James said...

I think the change in practice occurred quite a bit earlier than Vatican II, as it was the popularization of devotion to the Sacred Heart in the 18th century that complicated matters. Prior to then, the norm in European churches (though not cathedrals) was for the Marian chapel to be on the Gospel side, as Tom says.

I suspect that in your new parish, the St Michael and Sacred Heart statues were displayed in the main body of the church simply because they're the nicer statues (the Joseph one looks rather drab in comparison).

Judging from the photos on the church Facebook page, Joseph isn't doing very well in the candle-lighting stakes, which may be an argument for replacing his statue with the Sacred Heart one.

rcg said...

James, about the dearth of candles for St Joseph: that is a good point and ironic in a Craftsman style church.

Anonymous said...

Spoken like a true Priest who really wanted to be an interior designer.