Rorate Caeli

The stripping of the altars... in 2009

A sobering reminder of the fragility of the new liturgical movement, and an incentive to greater prayer and vigilance for the defence of the sacred liturgy -- CAP.

On March 9, 2006, the Archbishop of Oristano, Pier Giuliano Tiddia, in consultation with the metropolitan chapter, gave his approval to the decision of of the cathedral parish priest, Msgr. Costantino Usai, to take away the temporary wooden altar that had been erected some time ago in the chancel of the cathedral in order to facilitate Masses coram populo. All Masses in the cathedral were henceforth offered upon the marble high altar, ad orientem. In addition the crucifix -- which had hitherto been placed at the side -- was restored to its central place upon the high altar. Shortly afterwards, Archbishop Tiddia retired and was succeeded by Msgr. Ignazio Sanna, whose consecration as bishop on June 25, 2006 in the Oristano cathedral saw the newly-consecrated archbishop and Camillo Cardinal Ruini (his principal consecrator) offering Mass on the high altar.

Archbishop Sanna lost no time in making his liturgical preference known. Before 2006 ended he restored the wooden coram populo altar and reinstituted Masses facing the people. The Archbishop denounced Mass offered ad orientem as "(a)n experiment which has failed, an experiment which places the celebration in a pre-conciliar dimension and – this has been my own experience – does not respond to the sensibility of the People of God."

The Archbishop recently revealed plans to take apart the old chancel floor and to construct a permanent table (mensa) with matching ambo at the right side. As part of the renovation (wreckovation) of the cathedral, the old high altar is currently being broken and removed.

BEFORE: The High Altar used for Masses in the Cathedral in 2006

(The Chrism Mass in 2006)

AFTER: The High Altar being dismounted and packed away


  1. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

  2. that is so sad.

    ...and an absolute waste of money to do renovations so that we can make way for some ego farce or a modern setting.

    why not just use an extra altar piece in front of the high altar?

  3. Anonymous6:29 AM

    Satan certainly has this bishop's ear. I pray for him... well, then again, maybe not.


  4. How sad :(

    One can see this kind of devastation in many beautiful churches.
    I wonder is it to late to repair the damage?
    I know Pope BXVI is trying but ... is it too late? Will it work only when all our old bishops are gone and the new ones come up?

  5. Anonymous6:54 AM

    Golly, in the penultimate photograph the altar appears to be bleeding.

  6. mensa = 'picnic table'

  7. Francesco B.7:01 AM

    Where is Rome!? This is intolerable!

    I am at a loss for words.


  8. Anonymous7:42 AM

    It is like Saruman`s orcs at work...

    Remember the advice from Msgr. Bux for how to deal with bishops opposed Summorum Pontificum:
    "St. Joseph is Patron of the Church. You must pray a lot to St. Joseph in this situation, that he either open the bishop’s eyes or he close them for good. This isn’t a joke, eh? St. Joseph is truly very powerful. You must pray a lot to St. Joseph. Moreover St. Joseph was placed in the Roman Canon by Pope John. You can also put him into all the other Eucharistic Prayers after the Blessed Virgin Mary saying ‘and St. Joseph her Spouse’. I am convinced that St. Joseph will do a great deal."

  9. Anonymous8:24 AM

    What a barbarian!!!!

  10. In this case, it's really a shame that the state does not have more control over the Church. Such senseless vandalism against culturally significant buildings could be forbidden by law on purely secular grounds (and is, I think, in several countries).

    "...does not respond to the sensibility of the People of God"

    I would like to show the good Bishop what 'sensibility' means.

  11. Anonymous 08:24 said: What a barbarian!!!!

    Agreed, and a philistine to boot!

  12. Liturgical movement without traditional formation of the clergy is just a waste of time. Another liturgical experiment.

  13. These photos should be forwarded to the local and national media and to His Holiness himself. Unless we take whatever action we can immediately whatever gains that have recently been made will be lost in a moment. Conservationists and not co-religionists may be our best friends in this. We must fight tooth and nail for the restoration of this altar.

    Fratres, sobrii estote et vigilate, quoniam adversarius vester, diabolus, tamquam leo rugiens, circuit quaerens quem devoret; cui resistite forte in fides...

  14. Brick by brick, as they say...

  15. Anonymous12:56 PM

    At what point does the Holy Father step in and put an end to this iconoclastic dementia?

  16. Anonymous1:12 PM

    Outrage, it should be halted immediately. What a disgrace for the parishoners...He said ad orientem orientation has failed, what does he think about ripping out High Altars, has that not indeed invoke outrage on the part of the congregations?

  17. Anonymous1:30 PM

    Pope Benedict must be careful with who he appoints as Bishops.

  18. Anonymous2:00 PM

    This is depressing. I think until most of the bishops now in power are gone there is little hope of any progress of true liturgical renewal. The mindset of this generation of bishops is almost universal. It is sad but true.

  19. Anonymous2:06 PM

    Anyone have the goods on the architectural history of the church and altar?

  20. Anonymous2:09 PM


  21. Anonymous2:26 PM

    And rarely will a "conservarive" pastor or bishop ever rip out an old "wreckovation" from the post-Vatican II era.

  22. Anonymous2:57 PM

    How can this ve stopped? I guarantee this is not the last act of vandalism. There must be a way the faithful can prevent this blatant bad stewardship. This is sinful in so many ways: Wasted money, vandalism, sacrilege. This is the manifestation of an infamous photograph by Andres Serrano--you know the one.

  23. Anonymous5:08 PM

    "(a)n experiment which has failed [to represent the new modernist creed], an experiment which places the celebration in a pre-conciliar dimension [and is opposed to our new faith] and – this has been my own [demolishing] experience – does not respond to [my own sensibility and] the sensibility [I want to impose as that] of the People of God."

  24. Anonymous5:20 PM

    Two steps forward, one step back.

  25. Sadly, this archbishop is probably on canonically solid ground. I remember what happened a few years ago when Archsodomite Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee decided to "renovate" his cathedral, tearing apart a beautiful reredos and replacing it with a grand new pipe organ (!!). The faithful protested all the way to Rome, who told him that it's not appropriate to place a pipe organ as the cathedral's central locus. But what he was doing was technically in accordance with (not in violation of) current law, and within his authority as bishop, so Weakland went ahead with the desecration.

    If only his sodomy had been exposed before he'd had a chance to defile his cathedral liturgically and artistically the way he defiles his body and the bodies of other men.

  26. Anonymous6:32 PM

    "Sadly, this archbishop is probably on canonically solid ground."


    No he is not.

  27. Dan...Please know I don't approve of the Archbishop's actions...but what canon has he violated?

  28. Adamz7:05 PM

    Unless I am mistaken, according to the Italian news report, isn't the existing altar going to be returned to the cathedral after restoration? Can one really compare this with what happened in Milwaukee?

  29. Anonymous8:01 PM

    I wish Bishops could be plucked and removed so easily and without much thought. He will never have my respect or obedience. If that is uncharitable, so be it. Agreed, the Holy Father should see this...These are the type of actions that make the faithful so angry that they no longer want to follow their Bishops, and lose all faith not in the Holy Catholic Church, but in the acts of vandalism and the turning upside down of their faith. People have limits. They want to see no more of it. God help us all.

  30. Anonymous8:17 PM

    The Archbishop has his own website
    where one could write to him.

    He is going to speak at an Symposium in Rome on JPII this October. They provide this short biography:

    In caritate Xp.,

    Bryan Dunne

  31. "Reveteration" would be a more appropriate term; yet since we are going back to the old, maybe "wreckavation" is better...

  32. "The High Altar used for Masses in the Cathedral in 2006"


    Vestments of red,
    Altar cloth too,
    Martyrs who bled
    Did this for you.

    Gold Tabernacles,
    Veiled in red's hue,
    Martyrs in shackles
    Hung for this view.

    Red mums full bloomed,
    In water and brass,
    Martyrs consumed
    Burned for this Mass.

    Red rays of sun,
    Rose-streak the nave,
    Their suf'ring done
    Now red we must crave!

  33. They just can't leave it alone. The phrase "where possible to do so" in the instructions on the missal mean nothing now. I predict that this will be the fate of a great many more altars, according to the Benedictine usage. They want to be able to get around to the back of it as well. so this one will be "restored" to two pieces, with the altar separated from the reredos, which will probably have a chair in front of it. The mensa of the altarpiece will be turned into a block separate from its original back, and will be moved to the front of the sanctuary, thus getting in the liturgical way of any use of the sanctuary for real vespers. The crapicization of the Catholic sanctuary continues.

  34. Mr. Palad, isn't this a bit sensationalistic if the situation is really as described in the "L'unione sarda" article to which you link? (Adamz, thanks for pointing that out.)

    That article says that they are taking down the high altar for cleaning and repairs. (Remember, my American fellow-countrymen, most churches in Italy are usually 100-1300 years older than churches in America.) Now, the wisdom of dismantling it and sending it away, as opposed to fixing it in place, is something that I, no architect, can't discuss.

    The article goes on to say that *meanwhile*, the old wooden altar will be used. When the high altar is fixed, it will be brought back and put a bit further back than it was. They'll put in the mentioned, presumably stone "table-altar" in front of the high altar, and the ambo. Then they'll get rid of that wooden altar for good.

    Obviously, we'd all rather they just restored the high altar and put it back. But your article misrepresents the Italian media article you link to. Now, I know the Italian media are famous for being inaccurate. But shouldn't you address that in your article if that's the case here? The blogger "Fides et Forma" who lives in Italy paints a more depressing picture, that they want to put a cathedra right in front of the high altar, which certainly would be bad. But that's STILL not what your article says.

    I usually appreciate Rorate Caeli very much indeed and have a high regard for it as a resource, which is why I'm so bemused at the moment. Pax et bonum.

  35. Anonymous1:00 AM

    The current legislation governing the Novus Ordo does not prevent this type of action. You reap what you sow.

  36. Gerard2:01 AM

    Until Pope Benedict puts the heads of a few liberal bishops on pikes (metaphorically speaking) his silence is his consent on these issues.

  37. Anonymous2:22 AM

    In Italy most Church property belongs to the state> This means many churches have not been wreckovated. Also isn't there a part of the Curia that looks after the artistic treasures of the Church? If they knew they would stop it on artistic, historical and cultural grounds. The altar looks baroque to me. The bishop should be slapped across the face. "What the barbarians failed to destroy the bishops did !"

  38. Anonymous2:58 AM

    It is all well and good to moan about this new bishop making stupid changes in his diocese but let us not forget the many disasters in churches of the very city of Rome itself. Why has the Bishop of Rome continued to tolerate the bad taste and liturgical high jinx that surround him in his diocese? Sadly, liturgical issues are relegated to the personal whim of the current bishop/pope which can be changed back and forth depending on who and when.

  39. Anonymous4:57 AM

    Why has the Bishop of Rome continued to tolerate the bad taste and liturgical high jinx that surround him in his diocese?

    Because recent Popes are weak. It's as simple as that. Someday we'll get another Pius X and then the neo-cons and libs will see how a Pope is supposed to actually act and rule.

  40. Mary:

    Obviously I'm not in Italy and I've had to depend on various sources (the articles I linked to plus private correspondence) to get an accurate picture of what is going on. As you say, one of the Italian sources paints a more somber picture than the one I present, while the bishop's interview naturally would try to understate the amount of change being carried out. My article stands somewhere in between, and I think I've been sufficiently restrained in the words I use. (The comments are not my work)

    Just looking at the pictures of the broken altar and missing gradine and tabernacle convince me that the altar isn't just being taken somewhere for cleaning, and definitely not for repairs!

  41. Anonymous8:41 AM

    What an ugly altar!

    Typical Italian post-mediaeval art.

  42. What happens to the sacred relics inside the altar?!

  43. Anonymous1:15 PM

    Anonymous of 22 September, 2009 06:29

    I noticed it too, it definitely looks like it's bleeding to me.

  44. Anonymous5:37 PM

    This alteration is indeed superfluous and annoying, but this particular sanctuary afer "renovation" will still be vivid, like sanctuaries in other refurbished cathedrals in Italy. Substantial wreckovations very close to iconoclam are fare more widespread or omnipresent in transalpine countries like Germany and Austria.

  45. What is the matter with these priests? How can we expect lay people to follow what Rome promotes when these priests dont!

  46. Anonymous12:10 AM

    All this proves is that human action cannot be placed on a Cartesian coordinate graph and depicted with a smooth curve...

    The restoration is, therefore, a function of something other than mere action. It's got to begin on the level of first principles, as Lefebvre argued.

  47. What an ugly altar!

    Typical Italian post-mediaeval art.

    You probably prefer modern Italian art, like




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