Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/393

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ALTAR 351 (Cong. Sac. Rit., 12 Septemter, 1S57; 16 September, ISC')). Candelabra lioUling several candles cannot Ix! used for the candlesticks prescribed by the Rub- rics (Cong. Sac. Rit., 10 September, 1865). Ai.t.vh-Canopy. — The "Ca-rcnioniale Episcopo- rum" (I, xii, 13), treating of the ornaments of the altar, says that a canopy (Ixitildcliiuiim) should lie suspended over the altar. It should be square in form, sufficiently large to cover the Altar and the predella on which the celebrant stands, and if it can easily be done, the colour of the material, silk vel- vet or other cloth, with which it is covered, should vary witli the colour of the ornaments of the altar. It is eitlier suspended from the ceiling by a movable chain, so that it may be lowered or raised when nec- essary, or it may be attached to the wall, or to the reredos at the back of the altar. It may also be a station:iry structure, and this is usually the case in large churclies, and then it is made of marble, stone, metal, or wood beautifully carved and overlaid with gold or silver, in the form of a cupola erected on tour pillars. In liturgy it is called the ciborium (ibid.). The canopy or ciborium is, according to the decision of the Cong. Sac. Rit., to be erected over the altar of the Blessed Sacrament (23 May, 1846), and over the other altars of the church (27 April, 1097), but a contrary custom has so far pre- vailed that even in Rome it is usually erected only over the high altar, and the altar of the Blessed Sac- rament. The purpose of this canopy is to protect the altar from dust or other matter falling upon it from the ceiling, which, being usually very high, cannot be conveniently or easily cleaned. On sol- emn festivals, or at special solemnities, a temporary canopy is sometimes placed over an altar in or out- side the church. The framework on which such a canopy is erected is called the "altar-herse", a word probably derived from hearse, a frame covered with cloth, and formerly set up over a corpse in funeral solemnities. Alt.r-C.rds. — To assist the memory of the cele- brant at Mass in those prayers which he sliould know by heart, cards on which these prayers are printed are placed on the altar in the middle, and at each end. They were not used before the sixteenth cen- tury, and even at present are not employed at the Mass celebrated by a bishop, who reads all the prayers from the Pontifical Canon. At the time that Pius V revised the .Missal, only the card at the middle of the Altar was used, and it was called the "Tabella Secretarum" (tit. xx). Later, another was added containing the Gospel of St. John (re- cited usually at the end of .Mass), and placed on the Gospel side. Tor the sake of symmetry, another containing the prayer " Deus qui humanic substan- tia;", which is said by the celebrant when he blesses the cruet of water, and the psalm " I.avabo", recited at the washing of the hands, W!us placed on the Epistle side. Only during Mass should the cards stand on the altar, the middle one resting against the cnicifix or t:<bernacle, the side ones against the candlesticks or superstnictural steps of the altar. At any other lime they are cither removed or placed face downwards on the altar under the altar cover. When the Blessed ."sacrament is exposed outside of Mass, the cards must be removc<l (Cong. Sac. Rit., 20 December, 1804). If these cards are fiamed, the frames should, as far as possible, correspond to the architecture of the altar. Ai.TAH-C.VRPETs. — The sanctuary and altar-steps of the high altar are ordinarily to be covered with carpets. If the sanctuary floor lie marble, tile, or tessellated woodwork, at least a broad strip of car- pet should Iw placed before the lowest step in plann. On solemn feasts particularly, rugs of fine quality are reserved for the predella and altar-steps. If the whole sanctuary and altar-steps cannot be covered, at least the predella of the high altar, and of the other altars should have a rug (Ca;rem. Episc, I, xii, 16). Exceptions to this rule: (1) From the time of strifv- ping the altars on Maundy Thursday to Holy .Sat- urday the car|)et3 are removed. They are replaced on Holy .Saturday before the Mass. (2) During sol- emn Requiem Masses the floor of the .sanctuary and the altar-steps are to be bare, although a suitable nig may be placed on the predella and, when a bishop celebrates, in front of the faldstool (Carcm. Episc, II, xi, 1). The same authority mentions that the car- pet should be of green colour, but any may be used. Care should be taken that crosses, images of the saints, emblems, e. g. chalice, lamb, etc., and mono- grams of the Holy Names, etc., be not woven into the carpets, for it is unbecoming and unseemly that the figures of sacred things be trodden upon. These remarks apply equally to marble, tile, mosaic, etc., floors. ALT. -CAViTY. — This is a small square or oblong chamber in the body of the altar, in which are placed, according to the " Pontificale Romanum" (De Kcdes. Consecratione) the relics of two canonized martyrs, although the Ong. Sac. Rit. (16 February, 1900) decided that if the relic of only one martyr is placed in it the consecration is valid; to these may be proj)- erly added the relics of other saints, especially of those in whose honour the church of the altar is consecrated. These relics must be actual portions of the saints' bodies, not simply of their garments or of other objects which they may have u.sed or touched; the relics must, moreover, be authenticated. If the altar is a fixed or immovable altar, the relics are placed in a reliquarj- of lead, silver, or gold, whicli should be large enough to contain, besides the relics, three grains of incense and a small piece of parchment on which is written an attest of the consecration. This parchment is usually enclosed in a crystal vessel or small vial, to prevent its decom- position. The size of the cavity varies to suit the size of the reliquary. If it is a portable altar the relics and the grains of incense are placed immedi- ately, i. e. without a reliquary, into the cavity. This cavity must be hewn in the natural stone of the altar. Hence, unless the altar be a single block of stone, a block of natural stone is inserted for the purpose in the support. The location of the cavity in a fixed altar is (1) either at the front or back of the altar, mi<lway between its table and foot; (2) in the table (mcnsa) at its centre, near the front edge; (3) in the centre, on the top of the base or support if the latter Ix; a solid mass. If the first or the second location is selected, a slab or cover of stone, to fit exactly upon the opening, and for this reason somewhat bevelled at the corners, must be provided. The cover should have a cross engraed on the up- per and nether sides. If the third location is chosen the table (mnma) itself serves as the cover. In a portable altar the cavity is usually made on the top of the stone near the front edge, although it may be made in the centre of the stone. This cavity is called, in the language of the Church, the sepiilrhriim. Ai-tak-Clotils — The u.se of altar-cloths goes back to the early centuries of the Church. St. Optatus of Mileve says that in the fourth century every Christian knew that during the celebration of the Mysteries the altar is covered with a cloth (bk. VI). Later it became a law, which, according to Gavantua, w.T-s promulgated by Boniface III in the seventh century. The custom of using three altar-cloths began probably in the ninth century, but at present it is of strict obligation for the licii celebration of .M-ass (Rubr. Gen. .Miss., tit. xx; De Defectibus, tit. x, 1). The rea-son of this prescription of the Church is that if the Precious Blood should by accident be spilt it might be ab.sorbed by the altar cloths before it reached the altar-stone. All authors liold it to bo