Other Modern: The High Altar of Saint-Jean de Montmartre in Paris

One of our readers contacted us about a church they had only just visited in Paris; the church of St-Jean de Montmartre. Of particular interest to me was the high altar which has a very unique design. On the one hand it includes very traditional elements (ranging from gothic to middle eastern influences) and on the other it has elements of modern, Art Nouveau inspiration. It is for this latter reason that I feel it can qualify as an example for our 'Other Modern' considerations. 

Par Mbzt — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 4.0
Of course, many readers may be looking at the image above and feel that something is 'not quite right.'  You're right. The issue is that this altar is essentially in a stripped down, Good Friday like state with its cross, candles and altar linens all absent.

To get a sense of how this altar is intended to look (i.e. when properly dressed) we shall turn to some archival images of it -- and you will see what a difference it makes.

It is well worth taking a closer look at some details, beginning with the altar proper.

The face of the altar -- which is beautifully coloured -- includes a gold Chi-Rho set against a beautiful field of blue and to either side are cosmatesque inspired designs. In both instances we find design elements here that are strongly indicative of earlier Christian and Medieval Rome.

As we proceed upward from the mensa of the altar to the large gradine, we begin to see some of the other influences I mentioned earlier. Take note of the shapes and design around the door of the tabernacle in particular. There are middle eastern elements to be found here, and also Art Nouveau.

A very unique piece of liturgical art coming from an equally unique period in modern times when 'modernity' wasn't equated with 'minimalism.'

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.