Thursday, March 05, 2009

Another Altar "Metamorphosis" and Some Suggestions

One of our Chilean readers send in the following video of another altar "metamorphosis". It looks like quite a splendid church generally, and, wonderfully, with a ciborium.

Before watching the video however, here is a still of the before and after:



And now, the video which shows how they got to the "after" with some thoughts and suggestions to follow:

A great deal of thought has gone into this and the visual effect is quite stunning to say the least.

Now that said, I know there will be some debate about the question of the two structural elements applied to the altar (the facing and the temporary gradine) and, accordingly I wished to share a couple of thoughts as to how we might perfect these sorts of things, and in a way which lessens the debate that can surround them and which might be quite consonant with our liturgical principles and tradition.

One thought that strikes me here pertains to the facing that is put upon this altar – which intends to approximate marble altar facing. (And that shown here is indeed visually quite beautiful and of evident high quality.) One can see from its construction that it was possibly built in this way because there was no facility to hang a textile frontal from the altar itself as it traditionally would be, either by frame or by hooks, without making structural modifications to the altar itself.

However, it strikes me there is a potential here which, on the level of liturgical and architectural principle, is arguably more ideal. Namely, to employ this idea of the self-supporting frame that we see in basic principle here (which requires no structural modifications to the altar itself), and then, instead of making it approximate an altar facing, build into that frame a way to insert or attach another frame which will have stretched ecclesiastical fabrics in the liturgical colours within them. These frames can be stored in the sacristy, and a frame can be constructed in each of the liturgical colours, either one frame per colour, or reversible. By so doing, one is simply employing another form of a traditionally framed and stretched antependium as are often found in Rome and the Continent generally. One thereby also gains the visual substantiality it accords the altar, while further gaining the benefit of a fully vested altar.

A thought about the temporary gradine box. This is something that is not uncommonly seen, and while the effect here is particularly beautiful, and I must confess I am always rather torn about these being placed upon the mensa of the altar. It seems to me that in these cases first preference should be to simply place the candlesticks and cross upon the mensa directly, as is done in the Roman basilicas. Of course, sometimes these gradine boxes are employed to allow for greater height to the candles and cross, or as a place to lean the altar cards. However, using taller candles (and candlesticks if you have the budget) and a taller altar cross would likely do the trick, and the altar cards can then be leaned up against the candlesticks and cross.

Another possibility, however, where it is felt a gradine is absolutely necessary for some reason (and I should note I am not against gradines generally; my thinking here is simply as it pertains to temporary gradines upon the mensa) is to instead build one from the ground up which will sit behind the altar on the ground. This is thereby not placed upon the consecrated mensa of the altar itself and thus presents a compromise which is probably more in keeping with traditional gradines, and which may resolve any debate about the question of temporary gradines upon the mensa.

I was very pleased that the Chileans sent me this video, and quite impressed by the thought they have put into this metamorphosis. It has further helped to spark some ideas which I think might be useful to others as well, and which I had not myself thought of previously.

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