Two crucifixes allowed?

Hello to all,

Just want to know if this is allowed/permissible under the liturgical laws for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite:

A free-standing altar, mass celebrated with priest ad populum/ facing the people position. There is a large crucifix behind the altar, attached to the reredo/wall and placed above the tabernacle. The tabernacle is placed in the middle of the sanctuary, also behind the altar. The altar itself is in Benedictine altar arrangement; altar crucifix on the top of the altar, centered and its corpus facing the celebrant; candlesticks placed also on the altar.

All comments are welcome. Just ask me also if my post is ambiguous. Gratias!

In gloria Dei Patris,


No, there is no maximum written in the norms (as far as I know). It only states that a crucifix must be in the sanctuary (not that one and only one must be there).

At my Parish, we have two crucifixes in the sanctuary proper (we have more!) – one is beautiful, large processional crucifix that was donated a couple of years ago – the other is a small altar crucifix that stands on top of the tabernacle on the high altar during Mass (there is a little niche there where it goes, and where the monstrance goes during adoration).

Personally, I am not familiar with any rules about this. On EWTN, their chapel seems to have several crucifixes. Chiefly, it seems to be justified so that they can have the crucifix in view from any of their cameras during Mass.

On the related subject, I think that the Cross is the most important part of the entrance and exit processions at Mass. The candles are around the Cross, not the priest.

When Archbishop Doran was just installed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York two weeks ago, the procession of deacons, priests, and bishops seemed to be ridiculously long. It took 45 minutes to march them all in. When the Pope was there last year, the procession couldn’t have had more than a hundred men in it.

From what I understand (i’m not quoting) there should be a Crucifix (an image of Christ crucified), visable by most of those present, on or near the altar. It should not block the view of those present from seeing the priest at the altar, etc. The rule of excessive statues or pictures that distract from the Mass should apply.

It is a matter of liturgical law that images should not be “duplicated” meaning that there should only be one image of a given saint, for example. But this is not an absolute, as it has all too often been misunderstood. The law itself if a matter of “should” not “must” because common sense says that there might be sometimes be duplication.
There “should” only be one crucifix, so long as one would suffice given the layout of the sanctuary. If a parish has 4 processional crucifixes, only 1 should be in the sanctuary at any given time.

What you’ve described is perfectly licit because the two crucifixes serve two different purposes. The large one is there to be “seen” by everyone, while the small one on the altar is for the priest celebrant to “see” when saying the Mass.

To put this another way, if the arrangement were different–turn the altar around so that the priest is facing the large crucifix, then it would not be proper to have 2.

There is a real value to having only one crucifix visible to everyone, and this is the ideal situation, but that’s not always possible or practical.

Our pastor says he is following the example of Pope Benedict XVI in placing a standing crucifix on the altar so that he, too, can face the crucifix during the celebration of the Mass.

Our pastor says he is following the example of Pope Benedict XVI in placing a standing crucifix on the altar so that he, too, can face the crucifix during the celebration of the Mass.

Seems like a good idea to me, unless it is illict. I dont think so though, but dont quote me.

From the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved for the USA, which can be accessed from :
“122. … The cross adorned with a figure of Christ crucified and perhaps carried in procession may be placed next to the altar to serve as the altar cross, in which case it ought to be the only cross used; otherwise it is put away in a dignified place.”

And: “308. There is also to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation.” (My bold text.)

1968 Instruction Pontificalis ritus: “20. Only a single cross is to be carried in a procession, to increase the dignity of the cross and its veneration. If an archbishop is present, the cross will be the archiepiscopal cross, to be carried at the head of the procession, with the image of Christ crucified facing forward. The recommended practice is to stand the processional cross near the altar so that it serves as the altar cross. If this is not done, the processional cross is put away.” (From Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979, Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 1982, ISBN 0-8146-1281-4, page 1394).

Book of Blessings: “1238 The order presented in this chapter is meant for only two situations:
1 the solemn blessing of a cross erected in a public place, separate from a church;
2 the blessing of the principal cross that occupies a central place in the body of the church where the worshiping community assembles.”
(Book of Blessings, Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 1989, ISBN 0-8146-1875-8, page 455).

I am not aware of any official documentation that supports the practice of one main cross in the sanctuary and a second cross on the altar.

First, there should be an altar cross. This is a matter of a tradition that dates back to time immemorial. Likewise, from time immemorial the Church has had the practice of having more than one cross, serving different purposes.

What is actually absent is any prohibition against having more than one cross. If (again if) the processional cross is placed near the altar and used as the altar cross, then it “ought to be the only cross used” but that’s not the same thing as saying that it can be the only cross in the sanctuary. This is especially true since GIRM 308 is specifically addressing the issue of the altar crucifix, and not saying that this applies to the whole sanctuary, or the whole church.

The Pontifical says that “only a single cross is to be carried in procession” but some people want to point to that and claim that it should be the only cross, period. That’s not what the document says.

In the Book of Blessings we read about the “principal cross.” Now common sense and the plain meaning of the words says that if a church has a “principal cross” there is at least the possibility of a “secondary” cross. Not so?

Most importantly, keep in mind that there is nothing to prohibit more than one cross in the sanctuary. Unfortunately, the neo-iconoclasts attempt to use liturgical laws/norms to “prove” that there must be no more than one cross–that’s just not the case.

I will say that common liturgical sense is that we should not “duplicate” images, so a pair of matching crucifixes, for example, would make no sense. But if two crucifixes serve two different purposes, then that’s perfectly fine. As I said in an earlier post, if there is a large crucifix on the East wall, the priest cannot see it when celebrating Mass versus populum, so a small one on the altar would be almost “necessary.” Pope Benedict sees it this way because that’s how the altars are arranged for papal masses when he’s travelling. I recall several photos of just this in another thread.

Now what I would truly like to see is an interpretation of liturgical norms which prohibits more than one felt banner in the church!

I disagree. There should be NO felt banners! :smiley:

There can be lots of crosses in the church. From the Book of Blessings “1401 Whether the stations consist of images with crosses or simply of crosses, they should be set up in the church or in a place of the own, and in a manner convenient for the faithful.”

And in the Roman Missal, Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent: “The practice of covering crosses and images in the church may be observed, if the episcopal conference decides. The crosses are to be covered …”. (Roman Missal, Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, 1985, page 113.)

But descriptions of the sanctuary (such as GIRM n. 308 quoted above) use the singular “cross” not “crosses”. The word “crosses” is not used in the GIRM. But “the cross” appears regularly, for example: “144. If incense is used, the priest then puts some in the thurible, blesses it without saying anything, and incenses the offerings, the cross, and the altar.”

In GIRM 144, it’s speaking of “the altar cross” and ideally there “should” only be one because one should suit all purposes. So other crucifixes (which might or might not be there) would not be incensed. But there is a misconception out there (and I’m not saying that you have it, only that it’s out there) that any more than one crucifix in the sanctuary is forbidden.

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