Side Altar Question

I have a question about side altars. I grew up during the “change”, having received my First Holy Communion right before Vatican II, and was an altar server during the transition period. With that history in mind, I was reflecting upon the thought that in my early years, I had never attended Mass when it was celebrated at a side altar.

Just what were the side altars used for? I remember that the church of my childhood even had a small tabernacle (urn shaped and flanked by two worshiping angels) on each of the two side altars.

Alas, those two altars in my childhood church are gone now, as I remember seeing piles of cracked and crushed marble in the side parking lot when the altars were taken out. I still remember how sad I felt when I saw that pile, as we played near it during recess at the parish school.

Thanks for any thoughts you might have as to the use of the side altars in our churches.


Usualy they might be dedicated to a certain Saint, St.Mary, St.Joseph etc., they were simply used to say Mass. For example if there were 30 priests living in a community in a church with 4 side altars and a main one , 5 priests could have Mass said in 20 minutes, ten the next 5 etc etc., Now a days they aren’t used in the Novus Ordo because priests concelebrate instead.

One of the two side altars is used in our Cathedral parish for the daily NO mass. (Our bishop has never allowed the TLM–don’t know what’s going to happen about that now.) There are also people who prefer to sit in the side chapels (which are open to the main body of the church) for the Saturday evening and Sunday masses…

One of the local parishes here uses their side altar for their daily N.O. Mass.

I went to a daily TLM once that was celebrated at a side altar due to some construction on the high altar (restoration work). I kinda liked the more intimate setting, it was what I needed that morning.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit