Whither Noble Simplicity?

It has been awhile since we did one of our 'digital renovations' and recently an image of St. Catherine's Church in Krakow, Poland came to my attention and it seemed to be a good candidate for just such an exercise (the intent of which are to prompt people to re-consider, in the light of the principles of the same, approaches in liturgical arrangement often seen following the Second Vatican Council). 

Now two of the principles coming out of the liturgical constitution of that particular council were those of noble beauty and noble simplicity. The former -- noble beauty -- is frequently ignored, while the latter -- noble simplicity -- is frequently misunderstood or misrepresented to mean 'minimalism.'  Simplicity need not mean "plain" however, and the importance of nobility and beauty in liturgical art cannot be ignored either. Also important to remember in all of this is that the Second Vatican Council neither mandated "Mass facing the people" nor did it require the installation of a free-standing altar in a historical church; these were options, not requirements and this is important to recall if we are to accurately consider what is and isn't truly required in these particular exercises.

Bearing all that in mind then and turning back to St. Catherine's, we see here in the current arrangement a situation that will be familiar to many of our readers: a non-freestanding altar with an attached reredos is seen in behind while a newer, free-standing altar has been installed before it. In and around the sanctuary, extra chairs have been added for concelebrants (rather than simply utilizing the chancel) and the sedilia for the priest has been arranged so as to face toward the nave:

Now it must be said that the freestanding altar seen here looks to be both noble and beautiful in nature and while that is certainly good, that is not the issue. The issue is that arrangements such as this needlessly complicate and clutter a perfectly fine sanctuary.  Wbat do I mean? Well, by comparison, look at what happens when we remove the freestanding altar as well as the extraneous seating in the sanctuary proper:

If we return to the principles of noble beauty and simplicity then, of the two iterations of the sanctuary shown here, which do you find to be the more noble, simple and beautiful? I know my answer. I shall leave you to yours.  

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