Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/407

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ALTAR 365 ALTAR conccniinp the use of Iho foniior for this purpose the ICiiplisli Synod of Calcluil (Cclicvtli.C'lit'lsca, HKi) riiacic ;i rofiuialiou (can. 22, in Wilkins, Concilia AmkIi:!', London, 17.37, I, HiO; Mansi, Coll. Cone, XIV, '.ih.'i). lip to the middle of the sixth century in the Roman Church the .solemn celebration of Ma.s,s was the only form of dedication. If, however, it had been decided to place in the altar the relics of a martyr, this ceremony preceded the first solemn function in the new edifice. Duchesne points ovit (op. cit., 40G) that the liturgical prayers of the Gelasian Sacramentary recited for the consecration of altars bear the unmistakable stamp of the funeral liturgy; this fact is evidently attributable to the custom of entombing relics, regarded as rci)re.senting the bodies of the saints, at the time of dedication. The translation of relics was a second solemn inter- ment of the saint's body, and hence the liturgical Crayers composed for such occasions appropriately ore tlie characteristics of the burial service. The principal features of the earliest form of consecration

n the Roman Church, as given in the Gelasian

Sacramentary, are as follows: The bishop with his clergy, chanting the litany, first proceeded in solemn proce.ssion to the place where tlie relics were kept. A prayer was then chanted and the relics were borne by the bishop to the door of the church, and there placed in the custody of a priest. The bishop then entered the church, accompanied by his imnic<liale attendants, and after exorcising the water and mixing with it a few drops of chrism, he prejiared the mortar for enclosing the sepulchre. With a sponge he then washed the table of the altar, and returning to the door he sprinkled the people with what remained of the holy water. After this he took the relics and re-entered the church, followed by the clergy and people chanting another litany. The sepulchre was then anointed with chrism, the relics were placed therein, and the tomb sealed. The ceremony concluded with the solemn celebration of Mass (Duchesne, op cit., 40.5-407). The Gallican liturgy of consecration, unlike that of Rome, partook of the character of the liturgy for the administration of baptism and confirmation r.ather than that of the funeral liturgy. "Just as the Christian is dedicated by water and oil, by baptism and confirmation, so the altar first, then the church, is con.secrated by ablution and unction" (Duchesne, op. cit., 407-409). In the eighth and ninth centuries attempts were made by Frankish liturgists to combine the two liturgies of Rome and Gaul; from the result then achieved has developed the actual consecration ritual of the Western Church. In the Greek Church the dedication of the altar was a ceremony distinct from that of the deposition of relics; the two functions were ordinarily performed on different days. On the first day the table of the altar was placed on its support of colunms by the bishop in person. After this he proceeded to the consecration which consisted of washing the table, first with baptismal wafer then with wme. The altar was next anointed with chrism and incensed. The following day the relics were placed in the sepulchre with the greatest solemnity. Duchesne calls attention to the close resemblance between the Gallican and the Ryzantine liturgy for the consecration of altars (op. cit., 410). VIII. OniEVTATioM. — The custom of praying with faces turned towards the East is probably as old as Christianity. The earliest allusion to it in Christian literature is in the second book of the Apostolic Constitutions (20fl-2.")0, probably) which prescribes that a church should be oblong "with its head to the East". Tert'.illinn also speaks of churches as erected in "high and open places, and facing the light (.■Vdv. Valent., iii). The rea.son for this practice, which dirl not originate with Christian- ity, as given by St. Gregory of Nyssa (De Orat. Dominic, V. G., XLIV, 1183), is that the Orient is the first home of the human race, the seat of the earthly paradise. In the Middle Ages additional rc:isons for orientation were given, namely, that Our Lord from the Cross looked towards the West, and from the East He shall come for the Last Judgment (I)urand, Rationale, V, 2; St. Thomas, Sutiima Theol., II-II, Q. Ixxxiv, a. 3). The existence of the custom among pagans is referred to by Clement of Alexandria, who states that their "most ancient temples lookeil towards the West, that people might be taught to turn to the East when facing the images" (Stromata, vii, 17, 43). The form of orientation which in the Middle Ages was generally adopted con- sisted in placing the apse and altar in the Eastern end of the basilica, A .system of orientation exactly the opposite of this was adopted in the basilicas of the age of Constantino. The Lateran, St. Peter's, St. Paul's, and .San Lorenzo in Rome, as well as the Basilicas of Tyre and Antioch and the Church of the Resurrection at Jcru.salem, had their apses facing the West. Thus, in these cases the bishop from his throne in the apse looked towards the East. At Rome the second Basilica of St. Paul, erected in 3S'J, and the B;isilica of San Pietro in V'incoli, erected probably in the latter half of the fourth century, reversed this order and complied with the rule. The Eastern apse is the rule also in the churches of Ravenna, and generally throughout the Ea.st. Whether this form of orientation exercised any in- fluence on the change of the celebrant from the back to the front of the altar cannot well be determined; but at all events this custom gradually supplanted the older one, and it became the rule for both priest and people to look in the same direction, namely, towards the East (Mabillon, Mus;eum Italicum, ii, 9). Strict adherence to either form of orientation was, necessarily, in many instances impossible; the direction of streets in cities naturally governed the position of churches. Some of the most ancient churches of Rome are directed towards various points of the compass. IX. Ancient and Medieval Alt.vrs. — Few an- cient altars have survived the ravages of time. Probably the oldest of these is the fifth-century altar discovered at Auriol, near Marseilles. The stone table, on the front of which the monogram of Christ, with twelve doves, is engraved, rests on a single column. Similar in construction to this are three altars in the confexxio of the Church of St. Ca'cilia in Rome, which are attributed to the ninth century. In two sixth-century mosaics, of San Vitale and Sant' Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, two table altars of wood, resting on four feet, are represented. They are covered by a long cloth which completely hides the tables. Enlart regards it as probable that the tables enclosed in the altars of the Lateran and Santa Pudenziana are similar in appearance (Manuel d'arch<5ol. FranQaise, I, Archit. Relig. , note 1). Altars of the tomb type, like the sarcophagi of the Constantinian epoch, offered a surface the front of which wiis well adapted to sculptured decoration. The earliest existing example of an altar witli a carved antepcndium, however, in the Church of Cividale, dales from the beginning of the eighth century. Our Lord is here represented in the centre of the antependium, accompanied by angels, while the hand of the Father apjicars above His head. Of greater interest is the antependium, as well as the side panels, of the altar of the Ambrosian basilica in Milan. The front, over seven feet in length, is of gold, the back and sides of silver. Both front and back are panelled into three compartments, in which reliefs from the life of Christ and St. Ambrose are represented. The subjects of the central panel 'of the front are a Greek cross, in the centre of which Our Lord is represented; in the arms of the cross are