Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Beautiful Restoration in Chattanooga

The Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Chattanooga, Tennessee (diocese of Knoxville), has recently completed a major restoration of its sanctuary, with the installation of three new altars and a reredos, the removal of the red carpeting from the sanctuary and nave, and the restoration of the original hard pine flooring in the nave. The Blessed Sacrament has been returned to the center of the church, behind the main altar; a new tabernacle will soon be installed. The traditional altar rail will also soon be put back. Here is an overview of the various changes made to the sanctuary over the years (click to enlarge):
A closer view of the sanctuary before the most recent restoration.
The project as it currently stands.
A plan for the completed restoration, with the upcoming installation of the altar rail.

All the altars have been replaced with newly carved wooden bases; the marble tops from the 1930s were retained in all but the new main altar. The stone for the new main altar, a beautiful blue sandstone, was quarried locally, in Morgan County, Tenn.; it now contains the original altar stone from the 1890 altar, with relics of Ss Peter and Paul within it. The electrical and lighting systems were upgraded, highlighting the beautiful artwork in the sanctuary and nave. During the renovation process, two historical alcoves were discovered behind walls in the vestibules. They have since been uncovered and restored to their former beauty. A restoration of the church’s pipe organ is due to be completed by Easter, with 122 additional pipes to form the two final ranks of its original design, the trompettes and clarinets.

On Sunday, December 23rd, His Excellency Richard Stika, Bishop of Knoxville consecrated the new altar of renovated sanctuary. The Mass was sung by a combined choir from the English- and Spanish-speaking communities of the parish, including the youth schola, with Gregorian chant and polyphony, in keeping with the Basilica’s mission of preserving the traditional elements of Catholic worship. (Photos by Christina Bankson, reproduced by permission.)

Members of the altar-guild wipe the oil off the newly-consecrated altar and cover it with the cloths.

The vigil Mass of Christmas in the renovated basilica.

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