Rorate Caeli

Liturgical Renewal at Saint Peter's:
How does an altar disappear?

Saint Pius X says Holy Mass at the Altar of the Chair of Peter, 1906

The center of Christendom, the mighty new Patriarchal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican (whose 500th anniversary we celebrated so conspicuosly this year) has, in its apse, one of the most famous sculptural groups in the world, the Chair of Saint Peter, by Bernini.

The image is well-known to all Catholics: the Holy Cathedra, embedded in a chair-like bronze sculpture, apparently suspended in the air, surrounded by angels, an alabaster window with the Holy Ghost, and four Doctors of East and West.

When Bernini finished this Counter-Reformation masterpiece, he included a marble altar and marble steps, moving (as it were) upwards towards the Cathedra, as it is plainly seen in this picture, with the traditional Roman altar arrangement (six candlesticks and a Crucifix).

And yet...

What many Catholics do not realize is that, sometime in the second half of the last decade of the past century, a liturgical expert in the Vatican (we would venture guessing a name...) decided to do something about that altar: the old, Traditional, look would not do. The complete removal of the altar was necessary. The Basilica had to be updated!

This is how the same place looks today: the traditional Altar, which had been in that place since the age of Bernini, was removed. Several yards to the east of it, a modern "anvil-like" altar has been added. Three marble steps to the old Altar remain, as a sort of pedestal for the celebrants, and as a phantasmagorical reminder of so many wonderful Masses celebrated versus Deum (westwards, circumstantially)...

Photographic collection tip: Cattolici Romani.


  1. In 1965, when Pope John Paul was still Bishop of Krakow, he discussed the phenomenon now referred to as inculturation with a friend, saying "Certainly we will preserve the basic elements, the bread, the wine, but all else will be changed according to local tradition: words, gestures, colors, vestments, chants, architecture, decor. The problem of liturgical reform is immense."

    Indeed, so problematic that it is easy to understand why the modernist movement will change everything in its wake – architecture & decor, too. Nothing is sacred anymore in newchurch except the illusion of obedience to papal authority which like newchurch architecture has undergone a profound “collegial” manicure leaving the pontiff with much less authority than he had in pre-conciliar times and nothing at all to do with false accusations of disobedience calumniating traditionalists. Such accusers should look in their own backyards for a superabundance of that modernistic & revolutionary virtue.

    The consequences are self-evident as the “auto-demolition” has put women on the pseudo-sanctuary (disobeying St Paul); the presider’s chair sits in an awkward pose reminiscent of a type of Masonic temple, leaving bitter aftertastes of Bugnini and his willing protestant liturgical aides whose handprints lie everywhere among the ruins; the anthropocentric orientation of the new service and all new ceremonial because man and not The Christ is the novel focus of attention. And, of course, the previous pontiff is correct in intimating that everything has to change. The major posthumous dilemma for him is that the bread & the wine have become merely that: they have become objects for change - not as he foresaw. Faith in Holy Communion has been ravaged by the lethal process of constant revolution in post-conciliar times: handled by all like appetizers, distributed to non-believers & non-Catholics, even by a pope and his eventual successor and treated to all forms of personal interpretation and phenomenological nuances. As another object for modification, St Peter’s is certainly a potent symbol in post-conciliar days.

    Euphemistically called “reform”, nothing has been left untouched in the race to destroy Roman Catholicism with incessant, unnecessary and unremitting change. Another euphemism is “renewal” which is directly associated with protestant pentecostal charismaticism and Cardinal Suenens, the leader of this movement who also rebelled against & encouraged disobedience to Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae”: a double act by a modernist cardinal symbolic in itself.

    The fact of an old altar being modified in a specific manner is not the issue unless it is contextualized in time and place. In the vain and futile modernist attempt to remove all vestiges of tradition and “fossilize” all that was sacred & meaningful to Catholics, there has been destruction, irreverence, sacrilege, desecration, resultant religious skepticism and plain dull banality. Little marvel then as one country after another dechristianises and searches for new meanings in science, materialism, false religions & paganism. Little marvel, therefore, we are a generation vainly seeking ‘signs’ and ‘wonders’.

  2. Mack said:

    "handled by all like appetizers"

    A BRIT

    And the Word was made Flesh,
    But does that really mesh,
    With authentic faith and dialogue today?

    ‘Cause at Eucharistic meal,
    Which is no big, bloody, deal,
    We smile and our mistakes are washed away.

    We gather round the table,
    To hear a gospel fable
    From Father Bob, the celebrant, divine.

    Never kneels, he always stands
    But he runs to shake your hands,
    Then he sits a lot, perhaps a weakened spine.

    The ladies and the girls,
    Their ministry unfurls,
    A Eucharistic minister’s sensation.

    With servers and the cantor,
    They have a playful banter,
    Then bread and wine, it’s time for celebration.

    As the people, we all sing
    But the bells, they never ring,
    For they took away the Words that made His Flesh…

    For a Corpus? That’s too rough,
    There’s no need for violent stuff,
    That’s as welcomed as a Brit in Bangladesh!

  3. I thought your article was well done, New Catholic. Your pictures were beautiful and your words conveyed a very appropriate sadness.

    Mack, I was wondering where you got that Karol Wojtyla quote. And also, could you elaborate in how Cardinal Suenens encouraged disobedience to Humanae Vitae? Also, in just a few propositions, how would you describe what "phenomenology" is and why it is erroneous?

    Thank you

  4. I had always wondered what happened to that altar...I had seen the bronze monstrosity that they're now using but the altar of the chair itself had been cordoned off whenever I was in St. Peter's. I smell a Marini in this one.

  5. Archbishop Marini does not have the authority to have done this.This is the responsibility of the cardinal resposible for St.Peters.It was the nefarious Cardinal Noe whom one curial cardinal told me was a mason (why does every wicked thing have to have a mason behind it?) I also would like to know where the quote from JP is from.As Pope he cautioned against the excesses of inculturation and before the council ,as Fr.Harrioson has reported,he advocated a minimum use of the vernacular but warned about the vernacular leading to the nationalization of the liturgy.The criticism of phenomenology is unfounded.Obviously the writer is not a phlosopher.JP was of the Lublin school of Thomism which used phenomenolgy.JP as cardinal lectured on phenomenogy at Harvard.His writings are strongly phenomenological. St.Edith Stein was a phenomenologist.If you think that phenomenology is detrimental to the faith than you would have a problem with Dietrich von Hildebrand or Dr.Marra.

  6. The old altar was jackhammered out. Yes, jackhammered. In St. Peter's. A Priest who had been with the P.C.E.D. from 1988 was there. It was the last straw for him, he resigned his post and left Rome for good.

  7. Thanks for that. We hear lots about how St Peter's was the palimsest of liturgical renewal.It seems they just lied - as always.

  8. A Google search for the quote Mack cites points to an article on the matter at Christian Order, a trustworthy publication. See: -- citing the words Mack included above from a book by Fr. M. Malinski. The only mistake is the date: they were allegedly said in an interview in 1963, according to the source "at an interview in Rome, around the same time that he was singing the praises of Vatican II periti like Hans Kung [Mon Ami: Karol Wojtyla, Fr. M. Malinksi, Le Centurion, 1980, p.220]"...

    As to phenomenology and its Catholic disciples, there are very good criticisms of them by good Thomists for trying to reconcile Hume, Locke, Descartes and Kant's (among others) world outlook with Thomism, a thing that seems impossible to do. See the Catholic Encyclopaedia for a good explanation of what is Phenomenalism here:

    There it is is defined as: "Phenomenalism (phainomenon) literally means any system of thought that has to do with appearances. The term is, however, usually restricted to the designation of certain theories by which it is asserted: (1) that there is no knowledge other than that of phenomena — denial of the knowledge of substance in the metaphysical sense; or (2) that all knowledge is phenomenal — denial of the thing-in-itself and assertion that all reality is reality is reality directly or reflectively present to consciousness."

    St. Thomas, with Aristotle, as you may know, asserts that there is an objective reality outside us (our consciousness) that we may come to know and understand whereas the Phenomenologist would deny or at least doubt you can prove that. This has consequences in the study of Theology or of God. The issue, I think, is that Phenomenology can take you ultimately to a subjectivism where you judge all things and define all things by your perception and experience of them not their nature or substance (i.e. not by their reality).

  9. Thank you Publican. I’m still a bit dubious of the authenticity of the quote. Biographical writers are notorious for taking rhetorical liberties. And even accepting a moment that Wojtyla said it, it is difficult to tell whether they were given off-handed or in a teaching forum. Christian Order (and Mack) presents them as the polemical key to JP2’s outlook. But it was very good of you to find the information, Publican.

    Your comments on phenomenology are well appreciated. I do not believe the author of Fides et Ratio and Veritatis Splendor could be called a phenomenologist in the senses that you describe. My impression is that Wojtyla’s philosophy centered on trying to rediscover the importance and value of the knowing subject in coming to understand objective truth. In other words, he seemed to desire to untwist and integrate the elements of truth in the Enlightenment outlook with the full realism of Anselm, Lombard, Thomas, Scotus and others. In other words, he tried to show that the objective divine reality is made known in various ways in all appearances (although not to the same degree, with the same clarity or without some confusion and error often taking place). In other words, every manner of appearance proceeds from and thus reflects at least some bit of transcendent truth.

    He tried to argue that all knowledge is phenomenal AND it is possible to have knowledge of substance in the metaphysical sense. Now whether he achieved this synthesis or whether this synthesis is even possible, I am not sure. But I think this is the nature of his “phenomenology” and I think it is orthodox. Feel free to correct me if I’ve made a mistake in my observations or conclusions about Wojtyla. These matters involve such complicated jargon that lends itself well to confusion and misunderstanding.

  10. I would not trust that quote either especially in a book which says JPII while a Cardinal praised Hans Kung.Given that Kung was not as radical before the council as he was after still it makes no sense for a Polish bishop (who although very active in the preparation of Gaudium et Spes by all accounts was not that involved in the workings of the council)to praise someone as outspoken as Kung.Anyway JPII disciplined Hans Kung for which Kung never forgave him. Read the statement Kung made on JPII's death.It was horrrendous,calling him a dictatoretc.Also although Benedict XVI responded to a letter from kung and invited him to Castlgandolpho Kung said that he had contacted JP many times but he never answered any of the letters.In the Journal Living Tradition Fr.Harrison published the responses the world's bishops gave to Rome's inquiry as to what the Council should do (this was done on the eve of the council).He writes "The young auxiliary bishop of Cracow,Karol Wojtylla,saw a need for more active participation on the part of the laity...and a 'prudent' use of the vernacular 'without,however,a complete nationalization of the rites'" Harrison notes that this was "ultra-conservative in comparison to the still more sweeping changes which were subsequently introduced by paul VI". On another matter one commented on how you would expect St>Peters to set the tone for liturgy but sad to say that has never been the case.Pope St.Pius X called for congregational singing of Gregorian Chant.But there was none at masses in St.Peters.Pope Pius XII issued the reformed Holy week services in 1951 ad experimentum,then urged churches to adopt it.He mandated it in1956.Up untilthe mandatory date he celebrated all the services in the morning in St.Peters! Hopefully Benedict will do it differently.I would urge him to say a Pontifical Mass in the classical rite in St.Peters.

  11. "It remains for Us now to say a few words about the Modernist as reformer. From all that has preceded, it is abundantly clear how great and how eager is the passion of such men for innovation. In all Catholicism there is absolutely nothing on which it does not fasten. They wish philosophy to be reformed, especially in the ecclesiastical seminaries. They wish the scholastic philosophy to be relegated to the history of philosophy and to be classed among absolute systems, and the young men to be taught modern philosophy which alone is true and suited to the times in which we live. They desire the reform of theology: rational theology is to have modern philosophy for its foundation, and positive theology is to be founded on the history of dogma. As for history, it must be written and taught only according to their methods and modern principles. Dogmas and their evolution, they affirm, are to be harmonized with science and history. In the Catechism no dogmas are to be inserted except those that have been reformed and are within the capacity of the people. Regarding worship, they say, the number of external devotions is to he reduced, and steps must be taken to prevent their further increase, though, indeed, some of the admirers of symbolism are disposed to be more indulgent on this head. They cry out that ecclesiastical government requires to be reformed in all its branches, but especially in its disciplinary and dogmatic departments They insist that both outwardly and inwardly it must be brought into harmony with the modern conscience which now wholly tends towards democracy; a share in ecclesiastical government should therefore be given to the lower ranks of the clergy and even to the laity and authority which is too much concentrated should be decentralized The Roman Congregations and especially the index and the Holy Office, must be likewise modified The ecclesiastical authority must alter its line of conduct in the social and political world; while keeping outside political organizations it must adapt itself to them in order to penetrate them with its spirit. With regard to morals, they adopt the principle of the Americanists, that the active virtues are more important than the passive, and are to be more encouraged in practice. They ask that the clergy should return to their primitive humility and poverty, and that in their ideas and action they should admit the principles of Modernism; and there are some who, gladly listening to the teaching of their Protestant masters, would desire the suppression of the celibacy of the clergy. What is there left in the Church which is not to be reformed by them and according to their principles?" Pope St Pius X.

  12. It's appalling beyond words. Someone took a jackhammer to a priceless and sacred example of world-famous Bernini sculpture????

    Yeah, I know the altar technically wasn't a part of Bernini's main artwork there, but even so, it was placed there as a part of the whole piece that Bernini executed. Even if one isn't moved by the fact that it's a holy altar, you'd think at least the fact that it's Bernini might give one a moment's pause before going ahead with the act of vandalism.

    It's just appalling beyond words. Who would ever think to destroy centuries' old sacred implements and artifacts?

    God rest the soul of John Paul II, but did he give the go-ahead for that?

  13. Mack- I think the quote describes Hans Kung and the Dutch Catechism (1968), whose ideas have been explicitly rejected by "the Magisterium in the post-conciliar period" (wink, New Catholic).

    At the same time, I must admit with sadness that it describes a tendency in the Church today that has not been rejected with the vociferousness as the spear-heads of "modern modernism." A lot of folks, even cardinals (LA, Det, outgoing Was), are permitted to endlessly dance back and forth across the line.

    I don't think that Pascendi can be taken to condemn the author of Humanae Vitae and the Credo of the People of God, much less the author of Catechesi Tradendae and Veritatis Splendor. Although it might cast some shadows on a good number of their episcopal appointments (but these shadows have existed for every pope).

  14. John Paul II was not a phenomenologist, though he appreciated their philosophy, particularly the works of Husserl and Max Scheler (a womanizer).

    He was a "Personalist", in the line of thought of Emmanuel Mournier. It is hard to pin down exactly what personalists really believe because atleast in JPII's case he is all over the place.

  15. From a practical point of view this mutilation of the altar of the chair, done under JPII's nose, has the most terrible consequences for other historic churches elsewhere in Christendom: Any 'wreckovator' can say to the naysayers 'if St Peter's can be reordered then any church, regardless of it's architectural and artistic merits can be renovated.' I heard somewhere that when he was bishop of Cracow JPII even permanently reordered his private chapel at a very early date. We may infer that he approved of Noe's vandalism at St Peter's even if he did not instigate it.

  16. "These matters involve such complicated jargon that lends itself well to confusion and misunderstanding." (WP)


    "It is hard to pin down exactly what personalists really believe because atleast in JPII's case he is all over the place." (Ath.)

    Pretty much sum up the issue and the problem: it is JP II's jargon, to use With Peter's term, that is the problem and leads people to state he was a phenomenologist, Kantian, etc. The problem comes when there is an attempt at Catholicizing that jargon. Not easy to do since words have meaning, and in St. Thomas they have very precise meanings. The intent is good but the result is confusing to the point, perhaps, of being counterproductive to the understanding of the Faith, if the intent is to explain the Faith more deeply.

    One can speculate that JP II's intent was to convert the modern theologians using their own language, perhaps, in order to bring them to what he states in Veritatis Splendor and Fides et Ratio about St. Thomas, but actions speak louder than words. There is no denying that acts of destruction such as the one we are commenting on that remain unpunished, together with that "tendency in the Church" (to use With Peter's words again) that ran amok during JP II's term seem to confirm the interpretation that would say that while JP II was not a phenomenologist in the sense of denying a thing's substance outside of one's consciousness, his actions spoke of a belief that one's personal experience (phenomenon) at least in liturgy is paramount and independent of the exterior influences, as opposed to the belief that there is an objective reality that may and does influence the way one prays (and therefore believes). What I want to say is that there seems to be a disconnect between the lex orandi and the lex credendi in JPII's more personalist or phenomenological language, as if, following Kant, there would be an a priori experience [in this case of God, not so much space and time] that everyone has that comes up to the surface and allows one to pray with any liturgy or prayer no matter how banal....

    My personal experience (my own phenomenon?) is quite the contrary and leads me to gasp with Jordan Potter at the depth of depravity of the entity that ordered the destruction of such an altar. Ironically, that person must have been quite the realist, and understood what he was about such an altar. The mere value of the artwork destroyed precludes any other explanation.

  17. It is very common and frustrating tendency among traditionalists to make no distinction between liturgical practices that are opposed by Rome and those that are approved. In one sentence, many traditionalists object to communion in the hand and crackers given out in place of the Eucharist to young children. This issue, however, really deals with one clear liturgical practice explicitly approved, commended and defended by the Magisterium: namely, the bringing out of the altar, separating it from the tabernacle (see GIRM 299, 315). I believe this is the reason that altar at St. Peter’s was removed.

    The reason the Magisterium gives for separating the altar has to do with the four principal modes of Christ’s presence as they progressively unfold during the liturgy (i.e. people, priest, scripture, sacrament). “Consequently, on the grounds of the sign value, it is more in keeping with the nature of the celebration that, through reservation of the sacrament in the tabernacle, Christ not be present eucharistically from the beginning on the altar where Mass is celebrated. That presence is the effect of the consecration and should appear as such” (Eucharisticum Mysterium 55).

    There is no question that the liturgical reform wanted to reestablish the dual sacrifice-banquet meaning of the Eucharist, which means reawakening the dual altar-table meaning (CCC 1182). I can see the traditionalist eyes rolling at this—discounting this as a silly modernist pretext to gratify their depraved desires to jackhammer tradition—but I think this is a mistake. Setting aside the wisdom or foresightedness of the liturgical reform——or certain reformers who may have been heretical ideologues——I believe that it was generally sincere by the popes and vast majority of bishops, theologians and liturgists who worked on it.

    The biggest problem is that there are really very few English-speaking Catholic communities and institutions (e.g. Opus Dei, Steubenville, etc) that understand and celebrate the 1970 Missal as the popes and bishops intended. So it is very difficult to speak of “lex orandi, lex credendi” when so great a part of the Catholic Church has been secularized. To simply blame the secularization on Vatican II and the 1970 Missal——as is so common among traditionalists——is to ignore/scapegoat a larger problem, which has been growing for several centuries.

  18. Ah, the ever-changing Magisterium of "With Peter"...

    Why, "With Peter", even if you were correct, the instalation of the new "anvil altar" would not necessitate the demolition of the old one, or is this architectural arrangement offensive to your MMT (Multifarious Magisterium Theory)?

  19. "This issue, however, really deals with one clear liturgical practice explicitly approved, commended and defended by the Magisterium: namely, the bringing out of the altar, separating it from the tabernacle (see GIRM 299, 315). I believe this is the reason that altar at St. Peter’s was removed."

    As New Catholic said, and as has already been pointed out, they had already added a new altar. There was no need to destroy the old one.

  20. Exactly. Let it be pointed out that, in any case, there is no "Magisterial" argument in favor of table-altars. In the two main Magisterial texts on Holy Liturgy of the (approximately) second half of the 20th Century, the option is either vehemently rejected (Mediator Dei) or simply ignored (Sacrosanctum Concilium, which did not revoke Mediator Dei's clear rejection), and is only first mentioned in a post-Conciliar document(not as an order, but as a possibility, in Inter Oecumenici, a mere instruction, with no Magisterial standing and which, in any case, could never mandatorily change an age-old Ecclesiastical Tradition -- see Nicaea II).

    With Peter: For mere clarifying purposes, it should be added that in no other rites is the "dual element" of the Most Holy Sacrament as clear as in the Traditional rites of the West, especially the Roman Mass, as it is obvious to anyone who has ever been to one: the Sacrifice, which is what the Sacrament IS, is effected upon the altar; whereas what you and others would call the "meal aspect", regarding the praiseworthy, yet dispensable, Communion of the people, which is a mere consequence of what the Sacrament is, happens at the communion rail.

    The position of the Tabernacle (which you consider, by some interpretation of your ever-changing Magisterium to demand a "separation of Altar and Tabernacle") is irrelevant in this discussion, since there was no Tabernacle on the Altar which was destroyed.

    I end this debate here, because: (1) it is not appropriate for laymen to discuss such matters in public; (2) there are plenty of websites and forums available for this discussion. Other comments on the specific situation of the Altar of the Cathedra in Saint Peter's will be allowed.

  21. I'd like to make a post showing that what happened at St. Peters actually violated the liturgical norms in place during the 1970s and 1980s. Will you allow it through?

  22. Okay, I've completed some research and can safely conclude that what happened at St. Peter's violated the liturgical norms in place during the 70s and 80s. A very well known 1967 document on the Eucharist explicitly says: "Care should be taken agaisnt destroying treasures of sacred art in the course of remodeling churchs. On the judgment of the local Ordinary, after consulting experts and, when applicable, with consent of other concerned parties, the decision may be made to relocate some of these treasures in the interest of the liturgical reform. In such a case this should be done with good sense and in a way that even in their new locations they will be set up in a manner befitting and worthy of the works themselves" (Eucharisticum Mysterium 24).

    In a lesser known 1977 document, there are instructions about the importance of having only one altar in the sanctuary, but this applies ONLY IN CONSTRUCTING NEW CHURCHES, in which case, "the single altar signifies the one Savior Jesus Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church" (Introduction to the Rite of Dedication of a Church and Altar, Ch. IV, no. 7). This instruction clearly DOES NOT apply to St. Peters, which is the farthest imaginable thing from a "new church."

    Ten years passed between these documents and I suppose it is possible that the tragic affair at St. Peters resulted from an erroneous interpretation of the second document. Nevertheless, the removal or destruction of the old altar stands as a CLEAR LITURGICAL ABUSE, potentially subject to canonical censure. It should not have happened and absolutely cannot be justified with an appeal to magisterial teaching (my apologies for implying otherwise JP and NC). Although the Code of Canon Law does not attain this level of specificity in its treatment of altars (can. 1235-1239), the above passage from EM represents a universal liturgical law and its violation is thus forbidden by canon 838 among others.

    Perhaps as a direct result of the tragic affair at St. Peters, the latest edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002) includes a revision that is particularly relevant to what happened: "In building new churches, it is preferable to erect a single altar which in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church. In already existing churches, however, when the old altar is positioned so that it makes people's participation difficult but cannot be moved without damage to its artistic value, another fixed altar, of artistic merit and duly dedicated, should be erected and sacred rites celebrated on it alone" (no. 303).

    Although this teaching was in place in lesser known documents cited above, there was unfortunately no parallel paragraph in the 1975 edition of the GIRM; such a paragraph would have undoubtedly saved the old altar at St. Peters.

  23. "Although this teaching was in place in lesser known documents cited above, there was unfortunately no parallel paragraph in the 1975 edition of the GIRM; such a paragraph would have undoubtedly saved the old altar at St. Peters."

    Just musing here, but could the desecration at St. Peter's Basilica have helped in some way to ensure the insertion of the text in the 2002 GIRM?

  24. Oh yes, Jordan, I definitely think so.

  25. "cannot be moved without damage to its artistic value"

    This part is new to the Church's teaching.

    I bet they tried to move the altar, accidentally ruined it and then brought in the jackhammars. Just a guess. In my somewhat extensive experience of ecclesial construction-oriented projects, this sort ineptitude and naivite is far more common than malice.

    Considering that Jesus was a carpenter, it's really rather ironic...

  26. with peter said:

    "Although this teaching was in place in lesser known documents cited above, there was unfortunately no parallel paragraph in the 1975 edition of the GIRM; such a paragraph would have undoubtedly saved the old altar at St. Peters."

    Are you serious?

  27. Yes, Philothea. There is some evidence to suggest that the insertion of the paragraph into the GIRM was a direct result of what happened at St. Peters, i.e. in order to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.

  28. Anonymous8:50 PM

    I agree that the removal of the altar of the chair was most unfortunate, but I have always been under the impression that this altar was not original to Bernini's masterpiece, but was added by Bl. Pope Pius IX. I do know that Pius IX consecrated it, though I can't say whether his altar replaced an earlier one on this spot or whether perhaps the altar needed to be re-consecrated. At any rate, there has never been a liturgical reason necessitating the presence of an altar in the apse under Bernini's masterpiece. The high altar of St. Peter's is the altar under the dome, not the altar of the chair. I would say that the tragedy consists in this, that a very prominent altar consecrated by such a holy pontiff was removed for no good reason.


  29. I am willing to rewrite this detail if there is documentary evidence for it. It seems that there had been an altar under Bernini's masterpiece ever since its completion - though it may have been modified afterwards.


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