Pre Vatican II Church with no middle aisle?

Besides being a (long) place for bride and groom to be honored as they walk out, a main center aisle is where the deceased goes out which is also very much part of the experience (for the survivors, that is).

One pastor was a fanatic for having church in a semi circle, so he converted his 1960 church so that altar faced what was the long side wall, creating short aisles radiating out. There was sort of a middle aisle, but it was so short the coffin was out the door before the final hymn was barely underway.

For both wedding or funeral, you don’t have the same feeling, “now they are passing my pew” with eye contact, perhaps touching.

Looking at the historic photos, it is a travesty what they did to that beautiful church!

I’ve visited Saint Mary’s in New Haven, CT (birth place of the Knights of Columbus). I was saddened that even they removed the original high altar. I later learned that the original was actually destroyed in a fire, not purposefully removed.

The original in photo appears to be wood as well. Saint Mary’s mentioned above originally had a wood altar rail, as well. Luckily, they are in the process of rebuilding the high altar and altar rails!


I think it may depend on where the main door is. Typically churches have their main door in the middle of the west facade, so when you enter there you are automatically standing in the centre aisle. It is thus practical to have the aisle align with it, as you say, for weddings, funerals etc.

But what about churches that do not have a door in that location? The door can also be in one of the side walls or indeed in one of the back corners. This may be dictated by exterior constraints of the site on which the church was built. Especially older inner-city churches were built on very restricted plots. So often there will not be a car park or a garden but the church building will be hemmed in by secular buildings on all sides except for the entrance. If the plot is on a slope or a hillside you may also wish the entrance to be in a place that doesn’t require too many steps. In other words, the architect has very little wiggle room.

So with the main entrance doorway being in a location that is dicacted by exterior circumstances, the aisle has to be maybe be functionally aligned with it, which may mean the aisle has to be off centre.

I one attended a church where there were no steps going up to the altar from the middle. There were only steps from the two sides. This was again because space was restricted. So having a aisle run up the middle would not have been practical as processions would then have had to turn sideways to reach the steps.

My recollection, having knelt there to receive Communion from 1960-65, is that it was marble. But it was a long time ago.

May I be the first to suggest that we go back to separate men’s and women’s seating areas, for modesty’s sake and as a favor to men who have a wandering eye, to help keep them on the straight and narrow?
Also separate boy’s and girl’s high school.
This could be like veiling times ten here on the forum!

Saint Mary’s is no doubt gearing up for an influx of pilgrims when Fr. McGivney is beatified.
Probably want to make the church look like it did when he was a priest there.

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Saint Mary’s is no doubt gearing up for an influx of pilgrims when Fr. McGivney is beatified.
Probably want to make the church look like it did when he was a priest there.

It is actually serendipity that the church will be fully restored for Blessed McGivney’s canonization. The 140 year old plaster in the church started failing, so they had to close the church for 18 months of emergency repairs. After the plaster was fixed, they repainted the church and recreated the stenciling from when the church opened. The altar and and rail are part of the next phase of restoration!


It wasn’t eyes that were wandering that led St. John Chrysostom to install the divider . . .


Then there are the Shakers.

Not only did they worship separately, they ate and slept separately.

As of 2017 there were only two of them left.


I wonder if the pews were laid out with no center aisle to make a “white side” and a “black side”?


The parish website says that St Katherine Drexel contributed money for the pews, under the condition that black peoples could use them

An early benefactor of St Peter was Saint Katharine Drexel of Philadelphia. She founded Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Black and Native American peoples. Her gift of pews to the parish was contingent on a promise that they would be reserved for the “colored” people, in fulfillment of her order’s mission.

Can I just put on a burka and go to the men’s Mass if it’s a more convenient time? I promise not to say a word to anyone except good day to the priest.


Very likely. I hadn’t thought of that.

Though it seems hardly possible now, Charlotte in 1860 had only 2300 people. I have to think that very few of them were Catholic. The city didn’t reach 100,000 people until the 1940s. The growth in that area has been phenomenal, and much if not most of this has been transplants, many of them Catholic (and that is putting it mildly). It has actually gotten to be a place that serious, faithful Catholics might want to seek out as someplace to live. I’ve considered it myself.


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