Altar Candles

In the NO it is bit difficult to tell how many numbers for what.
Even in the UA it has ambiguity.

I was told by an ex-Papal Master of Ceremonies that in St. Peter’s they ussually use this system:

6 Fs and Solemnities
4 Obligatory Mems
2 all other


It is permissible to use as few as two candles in any celebration except for when the Diocesan Bishop celebrates.

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:In addition, on or next to the altar are to be placed candlesticks with lighted candles: at least two in any celebration, or even four or six, especially for a Sunday Mass or a holy day of obligation. If the Diocesan Bishop celebrates, then seven candles should be used (117).
I hope that helps you out.

This much I know. I wanted some other info. THX anyways

I really don’t know about the OF and will, therefore, refrain from saying anything. But, as far as I recall, the standard in the EF has always been 6 candles at “High” Mass plus the bugia for a Pontifical. Low Mass was always a minimum of two.

That information is definitive. Minimum of 2 up to 6 (or more actually) unless the bishop is visiting in which case it’s 7.

There is no other information except local customs which might be (as just one example) something like 2 candles during the week, 4 on Sundays, 6 on Christman and Easter and 7 when the bishop is visiting.

Well I know that is defenitive. It is the customs that I want comentary. Most books are soley on the UA, which complicates things because the “low/high” distinctions are basically unused in the OF. If anyone has any authors commenting the OF and customs based on it, please tell.

When I get home, I’ll see what Bishop Peter J. Elliott’s Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite has to say about the number of candles.

Allow me! :slight_smile:
*Candles *are required for Mass: two, four, or six. Varying the number of candles is a way of distinguishing days and celebrations. A good custom has developed in some places of using two for ferial days and memorials, four for feasts and six for Sundays and solemnities or other important celebrations. The Roman Rite envisages an uneven number of candles on the altar, seven, only when the diocesan bishop celebrates on major occasions (Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, 66).

A 16-year-old who’s learning to sing in Latin and has CMRR? Time for me to retire…

… or else I’ve found myself a protege! :wink:

Nevarr! :frowning:

Thanks again, I knew about that one too. That is the first one we should go to. By any chance you have another author, probably in another language? English is good because many translate to it, but sometimes there is little interest in the English world for some books.

I 've always wondered this this we usually have four candles aound the alter every day of the week lit during mass and two one on either side of the taberncacle lit ( I think when the alter boys remembeer). That is in addtion to the candle that signifies the lord’s presence in the tabernacle. Never have understood it

Lucky You. We have 2 candles. Weekday Mass, Sunday Mass, Bishop celebrating, Easter, Christmas…2 candles.
And when the Paschal candle is brought in at the Easter vigil, only the concelebrating priests hold candles that are lit from te Paschal Candle (sort of makes the passage from the Exsultet about “a flame divided yet undimmed” meaningless.)

We also have 2 candles for everything, bishop or no bishop.

But everyone has tapers at the Vigil and the are gradually lit as Fr. makes his way to the sanctuary from wherever the Blessing of the New Fire took place.

At the Madison (WI) Cathedral (Parish), we have 6 normally, and 7 for the bishop. We don’t really mess with two or four candles. It’s always 6 or 7.

No Bishop:

With Bishop: candles.jpg

It’s pretty simple (the system, not the candlesticks, they’re pretty ornate).

That’s it from me.

I hope you mean for Sundays and solemnities. Or do you also see this on weekdays, optional memorials, and the like?

Are they supposed to be candle-candles? The two on our altar look like candles, but they’re actually oil lamps.


The sign value of a real candle far surpasses any substitute.

Nope. The 6 (or 7, for Bishop) you see is always there, for Sundays and for weekdays.

I don’t know where I saw it, but I believe the altar candles must be wax. The sanctuary lamp may be oil though (I think). For us, the 6 torches that the servers carry are oil inserts, just because before, they would have wax dripping all over their faces and surplices, and it was a mess! :smiley:

Unfortunately I have no time to cite my beliefs from rubrics, but here they are:

You are allowed to have 6 candles at all times I believe.

I believe that oil lamps may only be used for the sanctuary candle. No others.

Also, here is my issue. Often times, in actually more traditional minded parishes, the high altar with the tabernacle has 6 candles and the low alter has 2 on it. Where did this come from?


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