Statue of Mary above the altar, liturgically incorrect?


#1

I live in Hong Kong, and something that I have often noticed in the churches here is that, looking back at the old photos of the churches, Mary was placed above the altar rather than to the side, but the statues have been removed from above the altar and placed to the side.

This is what it used to look like:
http://farm1.staticflickr.com/16/23006908_e49989ae05_z.jpg

Now the statue has been replaced by a crucifix.

I asked a nun recently why it was removed, as was the case with MANY other churches dedicated to the BVM, she said that it was liturgically incorrect to place a statue of the BVM above the altar because the Mass was the sacrifice of Christ and that Jesus is the center of our faith, hence the reason for the statue's removal.

It seems to have been ok before Vatican II, and I know of many extremely old churches in other countries with the statue of the BVM placed above the altar.
Is this true?
Thanks and God bless :D !


#2

http://mw2.google.com/mw-panoramio/photos/medium/34065845.jpg

It looks like this now with the crucifix replacing the statue of the Blessed Virgin.


#3

The photo is a little puzzling to me, and I wonder when it was taken. I see a free-standing altar but I do not see a crucifix, nor do I see candles. :confused:


#4

I'm not sure it can be said to be liturgically incorrect. Indeed, if I recall, it used to actually be a rubric that if the BVM was portrayed in some art form above the altar, then whenever a collect mentioned her name, the priest was supposed to very briefly look at her portrayal in veneration.

However, it most certainly cannot be said to be liturgically incorrect to replace the statue with a crucifix or painting of a crucifix either.

If you go into churches you will find lots of altars with paintings and statues other than those of Christ crucified above them. However, in all cases, a crucifix is required in the sanctuary.


#5

I know that there must be a crucifix on or above the altar, but sometimes it's rather small.

Many traditional Churches I've seen (including my own parish, built in 1890) have a "Mary altar" to the north of the high altar, with a big statue of the BVM there above the crucifix. I can't believe so many churches back in the day were doing something wrong.

We have daily Mass at the side altar, btw. That's why there're multiple altars in our parish.


#6

I've seen churches with other statues above the altar - not just Mary. In two cases, they are St. John the Baptist and St. Rose of Lima. Both churches have a crucifix, too.


#7

The main cathedral in my home country has a giant statue of Saint Stephen, who it’s dedicated to, with a small crucifix in front of the statue:

While it’s definitely not the norm, I do think it happens with some frequency. It has bothered me a tiny bit before, because when I look up during prayer, I just expect to have the large statue be one of Jesus, and then it’s not.


#8

Personally I think there is nothing wrong with having an image of the Virgin Mary above the altar . Some countries like The Philippines still practice this but there is usually a crucifix above the statue of the Virgin Mary or beneath it.


#9

I enjoy the history of seeing older norms and do regret seeing things changed even if they are more correct. When we look at historical differences, it's an opportunity to learn and to understand.

As a Lutheran, I would say that it's not entirely appropriate to have anything other than a crucifix or cross at in the most important place in a church, but given the history of these amazing places, I would say leave them alone and provide a good honest explanation.

For instance, I've been told there's a church in Egypt that kept getting ransacked by Muslims. Inside they replace the crucifix with an arabic design. If you knew what to look for you could see the cross in the design, and they've kept that design as a remembrance even though it hasn't been ransacked in years.


#10

Oooh, I just like all of the pictures people are posting. Looking into Catholic Churches is always so much fun. I love seeing what other parishes have done.


#11

Side view of the main altar in the Basilica Regina Pacis in Rome
http://www.reginapacisostia.it/images/foto/foto50.jpg


#12

[quote="Oumashta, post:1, topic:287165"]
I asked a nun recently why it was removed, as was the case with MANY other churches dedicated to the BVM, she said that it was liturgically incorrect to place a statue of the BVM above the altar because the Mass was the sacrifice of Christ and that Jesus is the center of our faith, hence the reason for the statue's removal.

It seems to have been ok before Vatican II, and I know of many extremely old churches in other countries with the statue of the BVM placed above the altar.
Is this true?
Thanks and God bless :D !

[/quote]

The truth is, this is not really a matter of "correct" versus "incorrect" (or "right" versus "wrong"), but of what is a good idea. There are no official rulings on this question, and one can certainly imagine how in different circumstances and different churches the thinking might be different. Likewise, for instance, something having a statue of a saint towering over a side altar might make sense even when it is preferred to have Christ over the main altar.


#13

Here's the Basilica of the Virgin of Macarena in Seville, Spain:

http://curtwalters.com/cms/images/paintings/Gilcrease2012/la-macarena_thumb_medium600_0.png


#14

Yes, in the Philippines its typical to have the statue of the patron saint of the parish to be the "main" statue at the center of the church. I don't think there are any rules around it as supposed to an Eastern iconostasis which has strict rules on which icons of whom are where on the iconostas (ie., the Annunciation icon should always be on the royal doors, Jesus on the right of the doors, Theotokos on the left, then the deacon doors should always be either the icon of a deacon saint or an archangel).


#15

[quote="Oumashta, post:1, topic:287165"]
I live in Hong Kong, and something that I have often noticed in the churches here is that, looking back at the old photos of the churches, Mary was placed above the altar rather than to the side, but the statues have been removed from above the altar and placed to the side.

This is what it used to look like:
http://farm1.staticflickr.com/16/23006908_e49989ae05_z.jpg

Now the statue has been replaced by a crucifix.

I asked a nun recently why it was removed, as was the case with MANY other churches dedicated to the BVM, she said that it was liturgically incorrect to place a statue of the BVM above the altar because the Mass was the sacrifice of Christ and that Jesus is the center of our faith, hence the reason for the statue's removal.

It seems to have been ok before Vatican II, and I know of many extremely old churches in other countries with the statue of the BVM placed above the altar.
Is this true?
Thanks and God bless :D !

[/quote]

According to the Rite for the Dedication of an altar, in *new * churches, images/pictures of the saints should not be placed above the altar. The reason is to make it clear that the Mass is not being offered "to" that saint. Some commentators however, allow for the depiction of a mural or scene that does not have the saint in isolation, but shows some aspect of his/her life.

Thus in churches constructed after 1977, this should not happen. Churches constructed before that time do not have to alter their decoration to conform to this, though in some cases, especially when it is not a question of preserving a work of great artistic merit/cultural value/etc., it may be decided to do so.


#16

All the Alta California Mission originally had a statue of their patron saint (which the town was eventually named after) front and center on the retablo, above the crucifix/tabernacle. Most still do.


#17

[quote="Rich_C, post:5, topic:287165"]
I know that there must be a crucifix on or above the altar, but sometimes it's rather small.

Many traditional Churches I've seen (including my own parish, built in 1890) have a "Mary altar" to the north of the high altar, with a big statue of the BVM there above the crucifix. I can't believe so many churches back in the day were doing something wrong.

We have daily Mass at the side altar, btw. That's why there're multiple altars in our parish.

[/quote]

That's interesting. The history of my parish church shows the Joseph and Mary side altars being removed just before 1890. 1886 I believe.


#18

At the Cathedral Guadalupe in Dallas, behind/above the altar is a large reproduction of the tilda of St. Juan Diego, and above the Virgin is a crown that is 24-karat gold plated and contains jewels donated by parishioners. The crucifix is off to the side of the main altar, but it is almost life sized. There are also some amazing stained glass windows of St. Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart directly above the portrait of Our Lady.

The right side altar houses the tabernacle, and the left side altar has a statue of the Sacred Heart above it. I've never seen masses celebrated at the side altars there before, though.

Click picture for full sized copy
forums.catholic.com/picture.php?albumid=1945&pictureid=13071


#19

[quote="AJV, post:15, topic:287165"]
According to the Rite for the Dedication of an altar, in *new * churches, images/pictures of the saints should not be placed above the altar. The reason is to make it clear that the Mass is not being offered "to" that saint. Some commentators however, allow for the depiction of a mural or scene that does not have the saint in isolation, but shows some aspect of his/her life.

Thus in churches constructed after 1977, this should not happen. Churches constructed before that time do not have to alter their decoration to conform to this, though in some cases, especially when it is not a question of preserving a work of great artistic merit/cultural value/etc., it may be decided to do so.

[/quote]

Hmmm... That's interesting. Would you happen to know why they decided to do such a thing? I'm sure that if there was not a problem with it before, they wouldn't have added that extra rule... :shrug:


#20

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