Monday, October 27, 2008

St. Peter's, Munich

This Saturday I had the opportunity to hear Mass in the city parish church of Munich, St. Peter's. Situated right beside the Marienplatz, the centre of Munich, it is the oldest church of Munich (the first church dating from the 11th century and the present one from 1294), and while it was almost completely destroyed in the war, it has been meticulously reconstructed, the last frescoes on the ceiling only having been finished in 2000. The most striking feature of the church is the Baroque high altar by Egid Quirin Asam of which I will first show you a professional picture (as always, click to enlarge).

(Source: Wikipedia user Diliff)

It is conceived as a theatrical synopsis of Bernini's Baldacchino over the tomb of St. Peter in Rome and the cathedra and gloriole of the Holy Spirit in the apse behind it and thus as a triumphal profession of allegiance to the Holy Roman Church. St Peter is shown enthroned and explaining the Scripture to the four Fathers of the Church who listen attentively with their books firmly closed. St Peter is crowned with the triregnum, and while the Popes have stopped wearing it, in St Peter's Munich the tradition is still observed ob removing the tiara when a Pope dies and crowning the statue again on the day the new Pope officially begins his Petrine office.

The wonderful thing about this altar from a liturgical perspective is that it was never obstructed by a versus populum altar after the introduction of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Instead, every one of the five weekday and six Sunday Masses in this church continues to be celebrated versus Deum upon this splendid high altar, on which even a Pope himself has already celebrated: not only (presumably) Joseph Ratzinger as Archbishop of Munich and Freising, but Pius VI in 1782. The communion rails have also been kept and are even furnished with a Communion cloth, as seen on this picture:

(Source: Wikipedia user Chris 73/Work3)

Now here are two pictures of the Mass I assisted at and the following one (you will need to click in them for a larger version to actually see the priest; I couldn't do any better unobtrusively):

Now, interestingly all the "opening rites" (sign of the Cross, Confiteor, Gloria, collect) are also celebrated at the altar versus Deum. Only then did the priest (there was no lector) descend to the lectern to read the lessons. You can see the lectern, which is unobtrusive and perfectly adapted to the style of the church, in this picture.

Just to give you some more impressions of the church here are the two main side altars (there are many more in little chapels), the altar of the Corpus Christi (there is an archconfraternity of this title at the church which holds a Eucharistic procession with Benediction every Thursday after Mass at 9 a.m.) and the altar of Mary help of Christians (Mariahilf-Altar); note the altar cards (however, I don't think the usus antiquior is celebrated there so far):

I think the implementation of the novus ordo in this most prominent parish church (all Masses are ad orientem in the neighbouring church of the Holy Ghost, too) of Munich, the erstwhile episcopal see of Pope Benedict, can also provide some interesting context for a fuller picture regarding the question of orientation in the liturgy in the Ordinary Form, which Shawn has so excellently adressed in connection with the preface to the first volume of the edition of Pope Benedict's opera omnia, the German original of which, incidentally, I am expecting later this week.

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