More on the Noble Simplicity and Beauty of the Traditional Sanctuary Arrangements of the Latin Rite

As a result of years of writing on liturgical matters, I have gotten accustomed to graphically altering images in order to present design concepts, and one of my "pastimes" (if you will) is 'cleaning up' sanctuaries to consider them in their traditional versus modern arrangements. It is a subject I have presented here on more than one occasion and another example recently came to light, this time in the context of parish church of Gampern, Austria, which still contains a splendid medieval reredos.

The sanctuary arrangement, as it presently stands, contains many of the usual post-conciliar features: the freestanding "people's altar," the lectern-ambo placed near the altar, the sedilia placed facing the nave, and also the modern trend of placing the baptismal font within or near the sanctuary. All of these features are common in any number of churches since the 1970's:

While such arrangements have often been thought of or portrayed as "required," nothing could be further from the truth and the end result is often a rather cluttered arrangement, disrupting the noble simplicity and beauty of the traditional Latin rite sanctuary.

By comparison, let's take a look at the traditional manifestation of such a sanctuary (graphically altered to approximate it as it might look today):

To my mind, this better approximates the Roman ideals of nobility, beauty and simplicity, whereas the common, post-conciliar arrangement often comes off as both visually and liturgically cluttered, being rooted in abstract, intellectual notions that do not translate well either artistically or liturgically.

Of course, the modern temptation is to view these latter considerations as trite and unimportant, but the whole notion of noble simplicity is precisely rooted in clarity which seems best accomplished by the traditional sanctuary orderings of so many centuries. What's more, the traditional ordering is also arguably better suited to the practical demands of the liturgical ceremonial, which is best suited to this simplicty.

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