I recently attended Mass in a very old (400 years old) church in Oberbayern Germany. It was a truly interesting and actually uplifting experience. The Mass itself was an odd mixture of OF and EF sung in beautiful old high German with pipe organ and chorus with an older lady lead singer and respondent with a beautiful operatic voice… What I found really special was that at the moment of consecration the church bells were rung and loud hand canons were fired from the other side of the valley. THAT will leave a very real impression that the consecration is special on anyone. I don’t know if they do this EVERY Sunday as it was a local holiday, but it is a memory I will not soon forget.
It was sad to see an oddly “modern” looking new alter in front of the original alter so that the priest could face the congregation. Really looked out of place and when I asked a congregant he said they HAD to do that to “comply” with the Bishop’s post Vat. II orders after 1962. It was also odd to see that all of the alter servers were little girls, even though most of the women in the congregation were wearing hats or veils and the old women formal traditional tracht or costumes. A VERY odd mix of tradition and “modernization”.
All of that said, what I found interesting is that the men all sat on the right side of the central aisle and the women the left, regardless of age. Now I come from a German/US background but I have NEVER experienced nor heard of segregated seating in a Catholic Church before. Protestant Yes, but not Catholic. Is this an old European custom, or perhaps only limited to the Bavarian Alps region I was visiting?
Perhaps one of our European posters can give some background.