Must the altar be elevated?

My local Newman Center (go figure) has changed the already-ugly church into even more of a pagan setting. They call it “church in the round.” Basically, all the chairs (no kneelers of course) are in a big circle with the altar in the middle. The altar is simply on the same level as the chairs. Is this allowed? I always thought the altar had to be elevated.

I’m hoping to write a letter to the priest there and ask him to elevate the altar, but I need official documentation that this should be done. So, does anyone know what the GIRM or other official guidelines have to say? Please help me out, and provide citations is possible.

Thanks!

God bless

not as far as i know. there are few if any architectural requirements set by the church. there are guidlines at most. i do not like church in the rounds. it’s like your there to get entertained and not to woriship God because the building style is centered on the community.

I’ve heard the altar is required to be elevated because it’s a symbol of heaven, the nave is earth, and we must strive to reach the heights of heaven in our lives - which is what Mass helps us do. The altar is also where heaven and earth meet in the Eucharist - therefore worthy of being elevated. Not sure if this is true - I heard it at my bible study - no documentation along with, though. Sounded good.

[quote=UKcatholicGuy]My local Newman Center (go figure) has changed the already-ugly church into even more of a pagan setting. They call it “church in the round.” Basically, all the chairs (no kneelers of course) are in a big circle with the altar in the middle. The altar is simply on the same level as the chairs. Is this allowed? I always thought the altar had to be elevated.

I’m hoping to write a letter to the priest there and ask him to elevate the altar, but I need official documentation that this should be done. So, does anyone know what the GIRM or other official guidelines have to say? Please help me out, and provide citations is possible.

Thanks!

God bless
[/quote]

When the Altar is a fixed altar it must be elevated. I do not believe that a movable altar is required to be elevated. Also a Newman center is usually not a parish church.
Also in the US kneelers are not required, only kneeling is required .

The canon law on altars, both fixed and movable, can be found here.

[quote=UKcatholicGuy]My local Newman Center (go figure) has changed the already-ugly church into even more of a pagan setting. They call it “church in the round.” Basically, all the chairs (no kneelers of course) are in a big circle with the altar in the middle. The altar is simply on the same level as the chairs. Is this allowed? I always thought the altar had to be elevated.

I’m hoping to write a letter to the priest there and ask him to elevate the altar, but I need official documentation that this should be done. So, does anyone know what the GIRM or other official guidelines have to say? Please help me out, and provide citations is possible.

Thanks!

God bless
[/quote]

It’s preferable for the altar to be elevated, for the symbolism - but Liverpool Cathedral, which is dedicated to Christ the King, is built “in the round” both outside and inside

http://www.liverpoolmetrocathedral.org.uk/tour/tour.htm ##

[quote=Elzee]I’ve heard the altar is required to be elevated because it’s a symbol of heaven, the nave is earth, and we must strive to reach the heights of heaven in our lives - which is what Mass helps us do. The altar is also where heaven and earth meet in the Eucharist - therefore worthy of being elevated. Not sure if this is true - I heard it at my bible study - no documentation along with, though. Sounded good.
[/quote]

Don’t tell the Fundamentalists :D, but one of the main temples in Babylon was called (among other things) “bond of heaven and earth”.

I read that the symbolism was that of the altar as Golgotha. ##

Accordng to the USCCB’s document “built of living stones” which governs what is and is not acceptable in a church building or remodeling in the US, the Sanctuary should be disinct from the nave. This can be done by elevating the sanctuary or my some other means such as a different (preferrably finer) flooring in the sanctuary or pretty much any other means.

Here’s the text from Section 54 of the document Brain mentioned.

The special character of the sanctuary is emphasized and enhanced by the distinctiveness of its design and furnishings, or by its elevation. The challenge to those responsible for its design is to convey the unique quality of the actions that take place in this area while at the same time expressing the organic relationship between those actions and the prayer and actions of the entire liturgical assembly.

And from Section 59,

During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the altar must be visible from all parts of the church but not so elevated that it causes visual or symbolic division from the liturgical assembly.

This may imply that during other parts of the mass, the altar need not be visible. A retractable altar does not seem appropriate, as elsewhere it is stated that the altar must normally be fixed. However, I find no such restriction on a mobile platform for the congregation. Furthermore, cloaking technology could conceivably be employed. I think the idea of keeping the altar visible only during the Liturgy of the Eucharist could help reinforce the Nicene theme that God is the creator of all that is seen and unseen.:smiley:

"You need make for me only an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your offerings of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. But if you make for me an altar of stone, do not build it of hewn stones; for if you use a chisel upon it you profane it. You shall not go up by steps to my altar, so that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.”
Exodus 20:24-26
Just a point I thought I would lob into the discussion.

[quote=Catholic2003]The canon law on altars, both fixed and movable, can be found here.
[/quote]

Canon Law does not go into detail. This is found in the Liturgy documents governing worship space.

[quote=Br. Rich SFO]Canon Law does not go into detail. This is found in the Liturgy documents governing worship space.
[/quote]

Where?

[quote=Brain]Accordng to the USCCB’s document “built of living stones” which governs what is and is not acceptable in a church building or remodeling in the US, the Sanctuary should be disinct from the nave. This can be done by elevating the sanctuary or my some other means such as a different (preferrably finer) flooring in the sanctuary or pretty much any other means.
[/quote]

Or even a communion railing!

While I don’t believe BLS is a document that necessarily must be followed, I also do not see evidence that a sanctuary must be elevated.

[quote=AltarMan]Or even a communion railing!

While I don’t believe BLS is a document that necessarily must be followed, I also do not see evidence that a sanctuary must be elevated.
[/quote]

its not said but implied that the sanctary should be raised. just like it is implied but never said that semicircular naves are discoraged. there are a lot of things that are implied in BLS because churches exist and are halfway though construction that contain these discoraged practices, so the bishops hint that any new projects should do X but existing Y is okay.

There was an earlier document from the USCCB that was replaced by this latest one. The latest reversed some of the recommendations in the earlier edition. As a result we have a church with a raised altar at the apex of a semi-circle and the tabernacle in a seperate chapel that is used for daily mass and perpetual adoration. Opposite the altar through a number of doors is a gathering area where people can stop and chat before and after mass and which is used to provide a sign-up area for many parish functions. My son recently refused to be married in the parish because “the church” did not look like a church should; at least to his way of thinking. He was married by a priest in a University Chapel that was built to look like “a church.”

So what is the most official, latest document on the guidelines? Would it be “Built of Living Stone?” If so, is that available online?

[quote=Sgt Sweaters]“Built of Living Stone?”… is that available online?
[/quote]

See my link in post #9.

[quote=Sgt Sweaters]So what is the most official, latest document on the guidelines? Would it be “Built of Living Stone?” If so, is that available online?
[/quote]

From: freerepublic.com/focus/religion/750666/posts

  • A final category of documents, and these have no binding authority, are statements or “guidelines” of committees or subcommittees of the national conference issued without the approval of the conference. Such documents have often been accorded an authority that they do not possess, however. In the liturgy, examples of these non-binding statements of the US Bishops Liturgy Committee are Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, (replaced by the guidelines on church architecture, Built of Living Stones); Music in Catholic Worship, and Liturgical Music Today. These “guidelines” do not possess the authority of the bishops’ conference. *

Also for your reading pleasure:
adoremus.org/12-0101BOLS.html

“In the end, however, virtually every decision is left to the individual bishop and to whomever he chooses to delegate his responsibility. And there can be vast variations in the way even explicit law is interpreted by Church authorities (as seen, for example, in the vexing problems with Catholic institutions such as hospitals and universities).”

So that’s what we have…confusion…

Joe B

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