Are the main altars in churches placed towards the east?


#1

Are the main altars in Catholic churches placed towards the east (so that when we face them, we face the east)?

I know that during the Traditional Latin Mass, the priest faces east (the altar)… so can the Traditional Latin Mass be celebrated in any Catholic church, or only the ones that are built “facing east”?


#2

A TLM can be said whether the altar really does face east or not. I’ve been at TLMs said at altars that face north, east, and west. Don’t think I’ve been at one facing south yet! :smiley:


#3

There’s East and then there’s Liturgical East…


#4

Altars USED to be constructed with the altar in the west and the nave in the east. The mass would be said facing the congregation, and at the consecration all the laity would turn and face the east (towards the door in the east, from which direction Christ would return). With the advent of ad orientum in the mass, the construction of churches was altered such that the altar was built in the east and all the people faced east for the duration of the mass.

As time went on, construction of churches in a particular orientation became more difficult due to land usage and planning. As such, for hundreds of years churches have been built with “east” being understood to mean the “liturgical east”. That is, for purposes of worship, we consider the altar to be in the east, even if it is not physically so.


#5

Not surprisingly, the Eastern Churches have always held that the church / altar should face East. Practically speaking, that is not always possible.

BTW - my current parish church building was formerly a Roman Catholic parish church, and the altar does face south. In addition, our sister parish was formerly a Synagogue, and also faces south.


#6

Ideally it should face east. For several reasons we find many buildings that do not.

I must say though, I have seen pictures where there is a window at the back and the rising sun shining into the sanctuary. Pretty awesome.


#7

newadvent.org/cathen/11305a.htm


#8

Some altars are placed facing towards the east, and some aren't.
The churches can be built facing in any direction.

Thanks for all the responses. :thumbsup:


#9

Our church was built to face natural east. When we celebrate the EF Mass, everyone is literally facing east.

I must say though, I have seen pictures where there is a window at the back and the rising sun shining into the sanctuary. Pretty awesome.

Unless you’re stuck right where the bright sun is shining directly into your eyes.


#10

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