Sunday, January 24, 2021


 Adding a new altar in front of a magnificent older altar and placing the new altar much lower than the old creates eye disorientation. Which is the most important piece of furniture in this cathedral? Most people religious or not would say the old higher altar—that which is highest is the most important. 

But with the addition of a post Vatican II free standing altar placed at the lowest spot in these two photos, the hierarchy of importance becomes three-fold with the most important now the least important.

In these photos, intuitively ones knows that the high altar the most important; next would be the bishop’s throne and the various chairs strewn about three steps lower than the high altar and three step higher than the low altar and of course the least important is the free standing altar. 



Anonymous said...

It makes sense to folks in the 1970’s, but now it’s outdated. Kind of like an avocado kitchen. If one walks into a big old church and sees a tiny altar you immediately wonder “what happened to the altar?” If there is a tiny altar in front of a grand old altar one wonders “when are they going to move that little thing?” If one sees a grand altar being built to replace the the little table, one says “WOW!”

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A@8:20 so true and yes, if that high altar were being built to replace the free standing one, people would indeed say WOW! But what puzzles me the most is that that the bishop's throne and other chairs are on the level three steps higher than the free standing altar.

Why did they think it was better to place the altar lower? It would have made more sense to have the free standing altar on the level where the chairs are and the bishop's throne and other chairs on the level where the free standing altar currently is. Makes no sense at all from the symbol of this to the intuitive messaging that the free standing altar is of less significance than the chairs and most certainly the high altar.

The Egyptian said...

no, it shows what some in the clergy think of god and themselves. Totally distorted, talk about clericalism ( spellcheck I can't seem to get the right word but you know what I mean)
I believe you said you can't define clericalism but you know it when you see it.

Anonymous said...

That front altar is nice, but it does not belong in that church. Extending the sanctuary has destroyed the architectural lines of the sanctuary and I am sure the building.

Paul McCarthy said...

Looks a lot like our own cathedral.

ByzRus said...


Hasn't for 50+ years now.

John Nolan said...

One advantage of having the 'people's altar' so far forward and so much lower than the sanctuary is that the original high altar can still be used, which is important for the celebration of the older rite. There is plenty of room in the sanctuary for a Pontifical High Mass.

This was not lost on the ideologues who pushed the forward altar concept. In many cases they made the original high altar unusable by cutting down the mensa so that it became a mere shelf upon which flower vases could be placed.

The ill thought out and hastily implemented liturgical revolution of the 1960s certainly had a disruptive effect on church layout and furnishings, and that was only the start of it.