Altar crucifix?



I have some questions about so-called ‘benedictine arrangement’.
Before asking questions, I want to say sorry for my poor English.

  1. Is it acceptable to have two crucifixes on the sanctuary?
    In general, many churches place a large crucifix on the wall behind the altar, but is it possible to put another smaller crucifix on the altar for the priest? Some say yes, others say no, Which one is correct?

  2. If it is allowed, What size of crucifix is appropriate?
    For example, If the crucifix on the wall behind the altar is 60 to 80 inches, Would it be appropriate if the altar crucifix is 30-35 inches?

  3. I aware that many bishops don’t like ad orientem.
    But, Can bishops even ban ‘Benedictine Arrangement’ or altar altar crucifix?

Thank you for reading my questions!

  1. Yes it’s fine. There is likely more than one in the Sanctuary already if a Crucifer is used.

  2. That crucifix should be larger in Ad Orientem worship and smaller in Versus Popolum worship. Either way it can be used. The size you mention seems rather large, though I suppose there are different sizes for different sized altars.

  3. I doubt it.


Thank you for your relpy!

I suppose that most normal altars would be about one meter high.
And I thought it would be nice to have the crucifix at the priest’s eye level.

What size of crucifix do you think is good under the assumption(a meter high altar)?


Sizes can vary.


As a sacristan, I look at that photo…and immediately notice the drippy candles and feel sorry for the nameless, faceless sacristans who get to clean off all of the dried-on wax from the candlesticks! :rofl:


As a fellow sacristan I do, too. I don’t know how many skirts and tops that have dried-on wax from blowing out candles or moving candles around in my parish church. Not to talk about lilies staining my clothes. Or a priest spilling red wine or it could be the Blood of Christ on the altar cloth and cleaning a close to 3 metre long cloth according to how it is supposed to be done.

In my parish there is a smaller sized crucifix flat on the altar. I read somewhere, that there is supposed to be a crucifix on the altar but I can’t remember where. Do you know where?


We have always had a smaller crucifix placed on the altar as well as the one on the wall behind the altar. But it is no where near 30-35". Our crucifix on the altar is maybe 12" in height. I would think a 2 1/2 to 3 foot crucifix on the altar would be a bit large(but we have Mass in the Ordinary/Novus Ordo form)

Our wall crucifix actually takes up the entire back wall that is “bumped out” to contain the central AC unit. The wood of the cross spans the entire area of that bumped out space. The corpus on the cross is not quite life size but maybe 3/4ths life size.


It is my understanding that there has to be a crucifix standing on the altar during Mass, of an appropriate size.
I don’t remember where I read it. I’ll see if I can find it again.


The crucifix does not have to be on the altar, but prominently near by. As for having two, this came up when we were designing our new church. We wanted a large crucifix, on the wall behind and above the altar, and yes we were initially told that would conflict with a professional crucifix that is then used closed to the altar during mass. This thought comes from a document (I think the GIRM ) which says there should not be redundant art work in churches. But it was decided that there is nothing redundant with a large, fixed crucifix and a small one by the altar.


Yes… sometimes candle followers are hard to locate, especially in silver!


Bishops can never, ever ban either ad orientem, thank God (it’s the direction assumed by the GIRM) or the Benedictine arrangement. It is, in fact, a wonderful step on the road to tradition, and should be used whenever ad orientem is impossible, to help bring about the hermeneutic of continuity Pope Benedict strove to develop.


It should be used in Versus Populum worship as well. The two candle per side arrangement is inadequate.


Yes, I agree. Woefully inadequate. I may add that it should it is an imperfect solution, and should only be employed where ad orientem is impossible. It is, however, hugely preferable to versus populum with two or four small candles. A good temporary solution for a troubled Church, and one to aid in the resurgence of our faith.


Ad Orientem is only impossible in the minds of the priests who refuse to offer it.


Overwhelmingly so. I meant in Churches where the priest would physically fall off the sanctuary if he tried it, (and, believe me, I’ve seen plenty of them!) as such a small amount of space has been left between the top step and the altar that it is impossible to celebrate mass according to this venerable practise. Of course, what man has destroyed man can restore, and I’m sure we can eventually restore our altars to their proper place.


Hasn’t stopped one priest I know. He has to genuflect sideways.


Well, he sounds like a very holy man, and sets an example many others should pursue. I have, however, seen countless churches where the space wouldn’t be sufficient for a rodent, let alone an alter Christus. :wink:

  1. Generally speaking (though not to be taken too strictly) there should only be one image of any given saint or theme in a church (GIRM 318). So, there should be only 1 crucifix in a church. However, by tradition, the priest should be able to see the crucifix during the consecration; consequently, it’s become custom to have a small crucifix on the altar if the main crucifix is behind him (versus populum).

  2. There’s no single answer to this. Basically, it should not be so large that it’s disproportionate to the altar itself and the rest of the arrangement.

  3. No.


Go to see you responding again Father David.


In my understanding of the GIRM, there should only be one cross in the church, and if this cross is on the altar, it must be large enough to be clearly seen by the people, and logically the corpus (body) must also be facing them, which is the opposite of what is usually done.

  1. Likewise, either on the altar or near it, there is to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, clearly visible to the assembled people. It is desirable that such a cross should remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations, so as to call to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord.
  2. Upon reaching the altar, however, the acolyte places the cross upright near the altar so that it may serve as the altar cross; otherwise, he puts it away in a dignified place. Then he takes his place in the sanctuary.

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