Altar Stone Required?

Today I was in the church. We have a high altar and a …front altar (for lack of better words). The front altar is made out of wood. Mass is generally said Versus Populum, and in the OF. Well I noticed that the front altar does not have an altar stone and does not seem to have any place for relics to be put/sealed it. According to the current rubrics, is an altar stone/relic required on a front fixed altar?

No longer required. Many chapels have solid wood altars which are not consecrated, but blessed. Priests in the field can celebrate mass on any table.

It’s no longer required, but it is encouraged and appropriate. From the GIRM:

  1. It is appropriate to have a fixed altar in every church, since it more clearly and permanently signifies Christ Jesus, the living stone (1 Pt 2:4; cf. Eph 2:20). In other places set aside for sacred celebrations, the altar may be movable. …]

  2. In keeping with the Church’s traditional practice and the altar’s symbolism, the table of a fixed altar is to be of stone and indeed of natural stone. In the dioceses of the United States of America, however, wood which is worthy, solid, and well-crafted may be used, provided that the altar is structurally immobile. The supports or base for upholding the table, however, may be made of any sort of material, provided it is worthy and solid. A movable altar may be constructed of any noble and solid materials suited to liturgical use, according to the traditions and usages of the different regions.

  3. The practice of placing relics of Saints, even those not Martyrs, under the altar to be dedicated is fittingly retained. Care should be taken, however, to ensure the authenticity of such relics.

The closest RC church to us removed the stone altar, replacing it with a wooden one, and put it outside, tipped up and vertical to be a sign with the Church’s name on it. Like a gravestone. This action many years ago must have grieved many Catholics.

The newer churches altar is mad of wood; you will find in the older churches much marble which is beautiful. As for the relic, it is madatory that each have a relic placed in the altar.
This is why at the beginning of the mass the priest goes up to the altar and kisses the relic. Sometime, ask your pastor if you can see whose relic in in your altar.


Actually Jim, this is the pre-conciliar reform / extraordinary practice. The encasement of relics is commended, but no longer required for the Ordinary usage. Likewise, as mentioned, relics may not be encased in the mensa of the altar, e.g. by the use of an altar stone. This is a return to the medieval practice when whole body parts as relics were placed under the altar table, itself.

I also send regrets to PennyinCanada–I think that using an altar (especially one that was consecrated) for a marquee is reprehensible! I hope the relics were at least removed.

Oops. A clarification on my reply to Jim is due here: I was not refering to an altar stone which already is in an altar–this refers to new altars.

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