Why has the Church changed its architecture?

So I more or less sort of know the reasons although I don’t think they are good ones nor do I agree…

The changing of Church architecture the removal of the tabernacle from the center of the Church on the altar or behind the altar in a wall or a high altar.

Putting Jesus in the tabernacle onto a side altar or in a completely different room.

The changing of the use of solid altars to dinner and picnic table style altars.

The removal of communion rails and some case kneelers.

Why do you think all this has changed and why can’t we reclaim our tradition?

I think side altars should remain with their own tabernacle especially for those in separate rooms as this originally provided Churches the ability to have Gregorian Masses or Private Masses that could be offered while other Masses are occuring.

But I strongly believe Christ should physically be at the center of the Church for all to bow and worship before as they enter genuflecting.

I personally believe all these changes have contributed to the loss of faith but of course are not the main or only causality.

That’s my two cents I haven’t posted a serious thread in awhile.


I don’t disagree that there’s a lot of bad church architecture, but I disagree that’s why people lose faith. That is my two cents.


More of a loss of understanding that Eucharist is Jesus.

I understand that there was a loss of faith on this subject prior to the changes but they clearly have made things worse by putting less emphasis on Christ in the Eucharist by the placement of the tabernacle placed to the side or worse and more commonly in my neck of the woods in a completely different room.

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Here in Europe, quite a few old churches have undergone such a change.

The primary reason, honestly, is practical : it is so the faithful may have a quiet prayer time with Jesus, away from the sometimes noisy visitors and tourists in the main nave.


I get that but why not just have two tabernacles it’s just as intrusive when the Eucharistic Minister pops in to remove Jesus for Mass while your praying in the chapel.

It would seem to be much simpler to have the priest turn around or remain facing the tabernacle and remove Jesus then.

I think it is more of an individual building issue than a general Church issue. Our current Church building (less than 12 years old) has the Tabernacle prominently visible in the center rear of the Sanctuary and higher than essentially everything else except the Crucifix (and some of the organ pipes). I am not aware of any spot in any of the pews or choir area from which it is not visible, discounting temporary obstructions like another person’s head or back.

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Hopefully newer Churches are built like such but not many here most of them are like that.

One Church has a blessed sacrament chapel in a separate room in a circular shape with the tabernacle in the center.

I hope and wish for the days that the Church would go back to high altars and they don’t have to be super extravagant either I have seen very beautiful and simplistic ones.

Don’t know if this would be properly called a High Altar, but this is what I was talking about.

The angle of the photograph means that you can’t see the steps and raised (above the level of the Sanctuary) platform that holds the small round Altar holding the Tabernacle.

On the other side of the wall you see is a small Chapel with another Tabernacle in a similar layout. That is where I was married a couple of years ago.

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Because Canon law discourages it :

The blessed Eucharist is to be reserved habitually in only one tabernacle of a church or oratory.

(Canon 938, 1)


The tabernacle wasn’t always “front and centre” traditionally. Various configurations have existed in church history. I agree that the removal of altar rails was unfortunate.
That said, my archbishop asked that the tabernacle be moved to the centre of the sanctuary in all churches, if not already there, some years ago. We also use the altar rail at our cathedral at every (OF) Mass.


Like this?


Ours is nowhere near as ornate, and I am not entirely sure if High Altar is the correct terminology for what we have, but it is what it is. Highly visible and definitely not hidden away to the side or in another room.

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At our Cathedral Basilica, we have two tabernacles. But our Cathedral MIGHT qualify as two Churches or oratories?

Reason, the daily Mass Chapel is a totally separate Church built next to & attached to our main Church. They are two totally separate naves.

So while you can walk from one to the other from the inside, you can also enter both from the outside without ever entering the other. They can (and sometimes do) lock one while keeping the other open.

So I don’t know if the one tabernacle rule really only applies to one nave or one building?


You’re asking a lot of different questions all at once here.

First of all, this tract by Catholic Answers describes the basis on which a lot of churches moved the tabernacle to a side altar or side chapel.


A lot of the churches that were built after Vatican II weren’t in the traditional shape of a church. For example, if you have a church in the round and the sanctuary and altar are in the middle, there’s no “back wall” behind the altar where the tabernacle would typically go, so it has to go into a separate space off to the side or in another chapel.

For those churches that were built in the normal cross-shaped church manner, a number of those that moved the tabernacle off to the side seemingly for no good reason have now moved it back or are in the process of doing so. One such church is in my hometown. There are also a number of older churches that never moved the tabernacle and it continues to be right behind the altar.

Second, regarding “dinner and picnic table style altars”, I don’t know what you mean. I’ve never seen an altar that looked like anything other than an altar, namely a big slab of wood, marble, whatever placed on top of legs or a supporting base. The only place I know that uses a more temporary “movable” altar is one Latin Mass parish in a church from the 1800s that still has its high altar for EF Mass (it was never taken out) but when they want to say OF Mass (I believe they say OF Mass in German language because it was a German parish) they bring in a portable temporary altar, place it in front of the high altar and cover it with an altar cloth. When they are done they take that away and are all ready to say the EF with no separate front altar getting in the way.

Communion rails were removed from some churches because they weren’t going to be used any more. Newer churches were built without them. Communion rails weren’t removed from all churches, quite a few old churches still have them.

I’ve never seen a church where the kneelers were removed - this would have been a big hassle. I have seen newer churches that were built without kneelers. I imagine this was partly to save costs as well as because they figured people wouldn’t be kneeling. It’s a moot point because people who want to kneel will just kneel on the floor. If necessary they bring something like a towel to kneel on. Or they choose to attend a church that has kneelers. I think I have only seen three churches in my life that didn’t have kneelers and this is out of probably at least 300 churches I’ve been in.

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(Coninued because my last post ran up against length limit)

I have also noticed that the newest churches built since about 2000 are returning to the traditional church shape of a cross, with the tabernacle in the center behind the altar.

I was looking through pictures of what I had I mind, because I don’t think it’s always a bad thing.

Here is what I wanted to show, the lovely Saint-Pierre church (built in the 15th-16th centuries) in Plougasnou, Brittany, France (just as one example among many) :

Here is the nave, with its imposing and far away high altar, and its new altar, which I don’t think looks like a picnic table :

And the Blessed Sacrament chapel, on the south side of the nave, which I find really beautiful and intimate :

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Each of these were done for different reasons for orthodox Catholics, while they had the same purpose for heretical Catholics.

This depends on what kind of Church. It was typically in Cathedrals and large pilgrim Churches. However, it was not typically in the average, local parish. The reason why traditional Catholics wanted to move the tabernacle is because they thought it was wrong for the Priest to have his back to the tabernacle. They argued that it sent the wrong message to the lay faithful.

This one is less of an issue. Altars historically were free standing, but over time were pushed against the back wall to increase room in the sanctuary. Cathedrals always had walk around altars. Making the walk around altar was not a “crime” against the liturgy. But destroying beautiful sanctuaries while installing new altars was.

These is never a valid reason to remove kneelers from the pews. And the removal of altar rails was a crime against the people who donated money to build beautiful altar rails. The reason heretical/modernist Catholics wanted the altar rails removed to was to make it harder for future bishops to mandate use of the altar rail again.

The reason for orthodox Catholics to remove them was pretty silly… the argument was for school masses and graduations. They said, no altar rail made it easier to classes to enter the sanctuary for whatever reason. Their argument was if the altar rail served no reason at mass, remove them so school functions.




It was a protestant undercurrent that caused this (and one that started BEFORE Vatican II). We can and will reclaim our tradition. Many new Churches are being built to look like historic Catholic Churches. And many other Churches are being restored. It really comes down to parish spending. When good parish has a pastor who values a liturgical beauty, they are more willing to spend the money. But when a parish suffers from funds, or has a Franciscan view of Catholicism, they are not going to be willing to spend a lot of money to renovate (at least not unless people donate money ear marked towards renovation)

I’m all for side altars, but except at monasteries/priories/friaries/or rectories with several diocesan priest assigned to full time teaching jobs and/or full time with the diocese, you rarely had a parish with enough priests to warrant private masses at the same time as a public mass.

I agree that they had an affect, esp when it happened in the local parishes. Cathedrals and pilgrim churches, not so much.

God Bless


Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the tabernacle in the center behind the altar, and not off to the side…and definitely not in a separate room. It’s more of a “respect” thing for me, or even aesthetic, depending on the church.

That said, if it’s causing people to lose their understanding that the Eucharist is Jesus…they probably never had that understanding to begin with. The bigger problem then would be catechesis.

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At least three Churches I have been to in my life have altars with two or four legs.

One Parish actually has an antique dinner table with a make shift table over it because of the height difference of the priest.

Some Churches do have a high altar and then a makeshift OF Altar in front I have seen that.

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