Altar Rails to Keep Dogs Out?

I’ve heard, can’t remember from where, that in England (when England was Catholic) the altar rails were used to keep dogs out of the sanctuary (people brought their dogs to church, supposedly). Is this true, or just a legend?

People used to bring certain farm animals with them to the Church, That is a true fact,

No the altar rails were not there to keep the dogs out. As far as I can determine this legend is one of the early protestant ones instituted to demean th Church and mock Her traditions.

The altar rail is a subdued version of the rood screen which used to separate the Sanctuary from the rest of the Church, and was never used as a guard rail for dos.

Originally Posted by palamas85:

The altar rail is a subdued version of the rood screen which used to separate the Sanctuary from the rest of the Church, and was never used as a guard rail for dos.

Well, maybe the altar rail has its derivation from the Rood Screen; but that doesn’t mean the people made a good secondary use of it to keep dogs out. :smiley:

screens were meant to keep the holy: priest, alter servers, monks and cloistered nuns, and the Eucharist from the unholy: peasants, livestock and traveling bags they brought as an offering. The reason bells are used when the priest raises his hands come from the idea that the longer a priest could hold up the Eucharist the holier you became. This would go on for hours with much cheering and chanting and making noise by the peasants. Often alter boys or younger priests were called to hold up a priests arms for longer amounts of time.

On an interesting note, that little white square of cloth placed over a chalice was originally to protect the wine from accidental contamination by bird poo.

I have not heard anything even similar to what you have said. Can you back any of these claims up?

I thought the Bells were rung (outdoor bells, of course) so that people outside would stop what they were doing, enter the Church, and say “My Lord and My God.” It’s interesting: two Ruthenian churches I’ve been to ring their outdoor bells when the Words of Institution are pronounced. Not Western churches, true, but interesting nontheless.

LOL… nor have I…

I am assuming this is the same same as the “This is my body/blood… give up for you” and then the elevation?

My church rings the big steeple bells at this point. I like it :smiley:


Woo, glad to see I was not the only one who read this and went “huh?” The same goes for the thread topic:shrug:

The screens were more like the separating the laity from the Holy of Holies like in the Temple in Jerusalem. Only the Priest who had drawn the lot for that time got to enter the Holy of Holies. The bells are rung to let the people in attendance know that Jesus was now present in the Host and then in the Cup. The outside bells were rung at the same times so those who could not go to Mass could stop what they were doing and pray.

I would have to do some digging to get the information for this but I am not the one who made these claims in the first quote here so I would like to know where you read or heard this Meggie :).

Brenda V.

I was at a teaching mass

Teaching What.

They step through a mass and teach you why we say the prayers we do, what it means, and the history behind it, everything from the alb the priest wears to the shapes churches are built in, their orientation to the final procession. I’ve gone to three, all in different diocese, one in a different state. All with different ministries children’s/youth/adult. I heard the chalice one at all three and the bringing livestock as offering at two.

Basically the priest talks before Mass opens. Here he usually discusses traditional things like church structure, his garments, candles and use of insence, and what Sacred Vessels are. (this takes about 45 min) Then they open the Mass and the priest introduces the part of mass (as if he was reading word for word out of the misselette) He reads the two readings, the psalm, and the Gospel and backtracks over the things he just did explaing such things as the readings are often old testiment, the church calender, and what the psalms are, for example. Then he explains the next part of mass and some of the prayers we pray, why he washes his hand, where the “we are not worthy” prayer comes from, a bit about transubstantian, and proceeds. (Its a LONG homily) After the Mass has been ended the priest covers what parts of Mass he hasn’t covered. Such as how the GIRM was revised in referance to standing before the prayer of the faithful as opposed to after. Often then the crowd is lead to a more approprate venue for q&a.

Maybe someone should have asked the priest where that idea came from.

Not everything that Priests teach is true and everything should be checked into.

"Test Everything; Hold Fast to What Is Good"
This is important to keep in mind.

I had a nun tell me that God calls women to the Priesthood and it is only a matter of time before the Church changes.

In Christ

After the English Reformation during the reign of Edward the VI, the Puritanical elements removed virtually anything smacking of Catholic worship and the table was moved into the middle of the chancel and turned the other way i.e. the longest side vertical (table wise) instead of horizontal (altar wise). When William Laud became Archbishop of Canterbury some years later, he advocated certain high “Popish” practises, one of which was placing the table back at the East end, altar wise, and railed off, ostensibly to keep the dogs away. One more famous incident was in Tadlow, where in 1638, a dog came up during the sermon and snatched the bread from the communion table and consequently they couldn’t have communion because there was any other fitting bread.

The altar rail is a subdued version of the rood screen which used to separate the Sanctuary from the rest of the Church, and was never used as a guard rail for dos.

This fascinating essay explores the relation of the various screens of the English Church to their modern variants.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The pall is a small square of stiffened linen ornamented with a cross, which is laid upon the orifice of the chalice to protect its contents from flies or dust. The word pallium, or palla, was originally used of all kinds of coverings, notably of what we now call the altar-cloths, and also of the corporal. Even in St. Gregory of Tours (Hist. Franc., VII, xxii) we read of the sacred gifts being veiled by a pallium, which was probably some sort of corporal. But about the time of St. Anselm (c. 1100) the custom seems to have grown up in some places of using two corporals at the altar. One was spread out, and upon it the chalice and host were laid. The other, folded into smaller compass, served only to cover the chalice (sce Giorgi, Liturgia Rom. Pont., II, 220, III, 79-81). This folded corporal is now represented by the little disk of linen which we call the pall. At one time it was forbidden to cover the pall with silk or rich embroidery; now the upper surface may be of silk and embroidered, but the under-side, which is in contact with the chalice, must still be linen. The original identity of the pall and the corporal is further illustrated by the fact that both alike require to be specially blessed before use.

I’ve heard of the chalice covering before, but I heard it was to keep out flies, not bird droppings. Haven’t heard about ringing the bells though. I always thought it was so that people would look up at the Host since in the Latin Mass the Canon is silent.

The Chalice Cover is used in many parishes still, and for the exact same reason, to keep foreign matter of ANY TYPE out of the Chalice.

That includes, dust, dandruff from the priest’s head, flies, whatever. All of which should be prevented from entering the chalice. (does anyone really think that dandruff should NOT be prevented from falling into the chalice :cool: )

As far as the bells; the bells are also used in Eastern Catholic\Orthodox liturgies as well, which are nominally in the language of the people. It is a sign of joy and exaltation.

A separate place for q&a? I believe thats out of respect of the Church building, esp since Jesus is in the tabernacle. Or why we do a teaching Mass…thats so teens, young adults, and even kids can know there’s a method to the Catholic calestetics they endure every week.

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