Flowers on the altar are incorrect

I believe that It is slightly wrong to display flowers on the altar. Members of the congregation should not genuflect or make obeisance to a bunch of geraniums or even roses. Yet I believe this practice is now increasing. Any views on this topic? I’d like to hear from an expert on liturgy.


I’m not an expert on the liturgy by any means… But is it not a part of our faith that “all creation” glorifies the Lord? In some sense, albeit a little abstract, I imagine the flowers themselves are bowing and genuflecting before Christ present in the Eucharist:)

The flowers, in a less abstract sense, serve as OUR means of honoring Him, in addition to our bowing, genuflecting and worship. Even in a home altar, it is not uncommon to place flowers beside religious objects. That doesn’t mean we are honoring the flowers, but that we are using the flowers to give honor to that which deserves veneration.

Hope that helps:)

Depends upon what you mean by “on the altar.” Do you mean “in the sanctuary” or literally “on” the altar itself?

First of all, we do not genuflect to the altar. We bow to the altar. We only genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament, which is typically either behind the altar or somewhere in the sanctuary in the Tabernacle.

Floral decoration is certainly allowed around the altar and in the sanctuary. From the GIRM (305): Floral decorations should always be done with moderation and placed around the altar rather than on its mensa. GIRM 306 discussese what should be on the altar itself, and flowers are not among those items.

See here for details.

To Ike,

Thank you very much for your contribution.

In my parents’ church, which church of England, at a wedding, flowers were placed on the altar, obscuring the cross. My mother [the church warden] objected to this but backed down to avoid an argument.



To Ashley, thank you for your helpful views. I still think that flowers should not be put on the altar table in church.


This is not from a liturgy expert, but flowers are not to be on the altar or on top of the tabernacle.


The rubrics I posted are for the Catholic Church, not the Church of England. This is a Catholic forum, and I did not realize you were talking about the Church of England. I have no idea what their rubrics allow. You should consult Church of England liturgical documents.

I wasn’t sure in responding whether you meant “around” the altar… or on it. For example, our parish (and most I’ve seen) keep flowers down in front of the altar, on the floor, and also to the sides of the tabernacle, where the candles are. I agree though, that I don’t think flowers should be on the altar itself, and apologize for my misunderstanding.

TO Ashley Belle,

The reason why I have asked this question in the Catholic Answers forum is that there is no equivalent web site for the C/E;

secondly, I don’t think a C/E rubric exists and

thirdly, I am high church and often look to the Roman Catholic church for guidance.



This is a Standard Floral Arrangement at an Anglican Church - Please note that the Flowers are placed so the Tabernacle and Crucifix are both visible (Mass is said Ad Orientum) (Scroll Down)

[FONT=Comic Sans MS]I hope you don’t mind if I added a few more - It’s normal to place 2 vases of flowers, one on each side of the cross or of the altar… I would say the obscuring of the cross with a Floral Arrangement in an Anglican Church is not something the Anglicans I deal with would do, but I deal with Anglicans who believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and who strongly believe in the Prime Tenets of the Catholic Faith…

The Big Problem in the Church of England is that fewer than 1/2 of the Ministers in the C of E actually believe in Basic Christian Dogmas such as the Divinity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection of Christ & His Ascension into Heaven, and fewer than 1/3 believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar - That’s unlike the people in the TAC… As far as many in the C of E are concerned, they’re not obscuring the means of their salvation or the Lord of the Universe.

I think your mother was right - Unless you were talking to a believer, you’re wasting your breath. And, If you’re talking to a believer, the conversation would last about 1 - 1/2 minutes:
Your Mother: Did you know that the Flowers were blocking the view of the Cross?
Alter Guild Member: I’m Sorry - I didn’t notice that. Thank you for calling it to my attention. Would you mind helping me fix the situation?
Your Mother: Sure…

I suspect that your mother backed down because she realized she was dealing with someone who wasn’t a convinced Christian. You don’t become a Senior Warden by being a “Shrinking violet”- I’ve had to convince one that she had to stop backing a priest who was involved in a cult, committing adultery and failing to perform his priestly duties, while the very ill curate who was trying to do his duties went in and out of Intensive Care (with NO HELP from the wayward Rector) and our Bishop gathered a case for removing the Rector under the Canons of the ACA. And, I had to convince another to give substantial concessions to the new Rector in spite of our Parish’s financial situation and previous mistakes with previous Rectors…

I can only say your mother must have seen one heck of an argument coming…

Your Brother in Christ, Michael[/FONT]


Don’t let it get to you. Your question was appropriate - esp since some Catholic Parishes do things that are similar to what you described, and many of us ignore the means of our Salvation and forget to be grateful to the Lord who saved us from eternal death and hellfire.

One thing with the TAC Sites is that these show how it “Should be done”. Here’s the TAC Main Website - Use it to get to more “Examples”:

[FONT=Comic Sans MS]The TAC has been negotiating with Rome for a Sui Iuris (I think some in the Vatican favor a Personal Prelature) since 1994, and there’s some talk about combining whatever the Pope is going to do with the TAC with the Beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman…

I don’t think most Catholics have any idea how much High Church Anglo-Catholics look to the Roman Catholic Church for guidance.

Your Brother in Christ, Michael[/FONT]

Thing is, it used to be that flowers and plants would only be way out to the side of the altar, or perhaps on the back “wall” of the altar in little vases. The front of the altar facing out toward the congregation would be decorated with a “frontal”, which was either a special embroidered or painted cloth fitting the season and wrapped around a board, or just an elaborately painted or carved board. This also allowed the priest et al. to walk around the sanctuary area without worrying about tripping over plants.

Nowadays, plants and flowers are used pretty much as a replacement for the frontal, and often various knickknacks take over the area in front of the altar entirely.

The ironic bit is that the reason Catholic churches installed altars that weren’t flush up against the wall was so that the priest could walk all the way around the altar to incense it. But now, people don’t use the incense and you’d break a leg on planters and vases and tchotchkes if you tried to walk around. :frowning:

Dear Michael,

I wondered if you belong to St. Mary of the Angles. I did and left with the priest and many others when our priests went to Rome and petitioned for the Anglican Use. Now as I am sure you are aware that there has been establised the Pastoral Provision and If the US part of TAC want to enter the Catholic Church I feel at this point they should go the way of the Pastoral Provision. I have other opinions but don’t feel the need to share them online. Fr. Barker did a wonderful job of redoing the church and I am sure that the members also have a lovely liturgy. It is so strange I have met several on CAF that have some attachment to my present parish and now maybe one from my former parish.

God Bless


Someone recently told me that flowers are not to be placed in front of the altar.
I had never heard that - does any one know anything about that?

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