Two questions about the benedictine altar arrangement

  1. If there is a big crucifix attached to the wall behind the altar or hanging above it, would it be liturgically correct to place an additional crucifix on the altar itself?

  2. On weekdays and other days when it is not fitting to use six candles, what do you do? Do you still use six candles without litting all of them, or do you use a less amount of candles?

According to the USCCB’s document Built of Living Stones on art, architecture, and worship in the church:There should be a crucifix “positioned either on the altar or near it, and . . . clearly visible to the people gathered there.” …] If there is already a cross in the sanctuary, the processional cross is placed out of view of the congregation following the procession (§ 91 §).
The way this law is written would make it seem like they are not wanting more than one crucifix on or near the altar, hence the directive to remove the processional cross “if there is already a cross in the sanctuary.”

I am not aware of anything requiring the use of six candles for ordinary celebrations of the Mass in the ordinary form. It is permissible to use as few as two candles in any celebration except for when the Diocesan Bishop celebrates.

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:In addition, on or next to the altar are to be placed candlesticks with lighted candles: at least two in any celebration, or even four or six, especially for a Sunday Mass or a holy day of obligation. If the Diocesan Bishop celebrates, then seven candles should be used (117).
I hope that helps you out.

Sorry, but I totally ignored that you were asking about a Benedictine altar arrangement. In the case of your first question, I would go with what the law has to say. As for the second question, I’m not sure you can still call it a “Benedictine arrangement” without six candles.

If somebody who knows more about this than I doesn’t come by, you can try searching on the New Liturgical Movement blog or Fr. Z’s WDTHPRS? blog.

If the big crucifix in the sanctuary is such that it would not be confused with the altar cross, then there’s no problem having a small cross on the altar.

Here’s a link to the Holy Father’s visit to Washington DC last April, which clearly shows a very large crucifix suspended behind & above the altar, and another smaller crucifix on the altar itself.

If this is forbidden, someone forgot to inform the Pope.

The document Built of Living Stones is merely a suggestion. It carries no force-of-law except when it actually quotes the liturgical laws.

There is no liturgical requirement that there be only one crucifix in the church, or that the processional cross must be hidden.

The actual liturgical law is GIRM 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. In addition, the candlesticks are placed on the altar or near it. It is a praiseworthy practice that the Book of the Gospels be placed upon the altar.

What the GIRM is realy saying is that IF the processional cross is to be used as the altar crucifix, then there should not be another altar crucifix used. That’s not the same thing as saying that it should be the only crucifix in the church building.
“Put away in a dignified place” is not quite the same thing as saying that it must be “out of view of the congregation” As long as it’s placed somewhere and in such a way that it would not be confused for a 2nd altar cross, or otherwise detract from it, it can be placed in any dignified location.

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