Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican

Over at Holy Whapping, there's been a discussion on the Vatican's Redemptoris Mater Chapel altar's new look. Some commentators have said that the altar looks different and somewhat pushed back if compared to the original design. The Chapel, a gift from the Cardinals to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's sacerdotal ordination, is Byzantine in style and is meant to signify the universality of the Church, which breathes with both lungs, East and West. From the Vatican website:
The chapel is precious to the Holy Father as it is used during his annual spiritual retreats as well as for the homilies given during Advent and Lent. The chapel was completely redone with over 600 square meters of mosaics on the walls and ceilings as a gift to the Holy Father for his 50th anniversary of ordination to priesthood. It was designed to incorporate the theological essence of both the west and east, the "two lungs" of the Church.
Here's some photos of the Chapel.

The original design. Byzantine in style as Byzantine altars are squarish.

The altar as it was originally designed.

During Anglican Archbishop Rowan William's visit year

The altar as it stands now, taken during the Papal Lenten spiritual exercises given by the very beefy Giacomo Cardinal Biffi, Archbishop Emeritus of Bologna. You can clearly see that the mensa is larger and less squarish but there is no sign that the altar had been pushed back towards the wall. Note the addition of the tabernacle and the 6 candle sticks. Somehow though, no one noted that the pews had no kneelers. Perhaps the Curia likes to kneel on the floor? [Good Master Blogs has pointed out the kneelers in the second row which I had missed. That should teach me to blog when I'm under medication =)]

Here's the Lectern in the Chapel. I'm sure the Easterns don't have ambos like these.

The Chair .
Some of the mosaics.

Click here for more about the Chapel from the Knights of Columbus.


Anonymous said...

Buddy, although the first row doesn't have kneelers, the second row does. And no one's sitting on the front row.

It's certainly been changed, and now looks very trad again. Presumably Mass would be celebrated ad orientem?

Andrew said...

LOL! Thanks Master Joee. Duly noted. That'll teach me to blog when I'm under medication. Hehe...

Some say the new modifications have done violence to the original intention of the Chapel. But I like anything with 6 candles and a tabernacle. You can't go wrong there!

The Holy Father does celebrate ad orientem in his private chapel. That's the only way it can be celebrated there. Pope John Paul II had it re-oriented from Pope Paul VI's versus populum altar when he assumed the throne of Peter. The question moving around is what Rite does His Holiness celebrate the Mass in.

Since the new Pontificate does not allow people to attend these Masses as Pope JP2 had done, no one knows for sure and the ones who do know aren't talking.

Fr. J. said...

I realize the point of this post is the orientation and dimensions of the altar, but I just need to say that the altar/chair/pulpit designs are atrocious as are the mosaics. Can Europeans create anything that isn't monstrous?

Andrew said...

Dear Fr. J,

I can't help but agree. I do think the mosaics and the furniture are hideous. Apparently, they were donated by the College of Cardinals to Pope John Paul II for the 25th anniversary of his pontificate. But he had the grace not to decline it.

Though the newly installed mosaics in the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception are pretty ok, they don't come close to the Orthodox ones which they are supposed to be based on. The new designs for the mosaics in Westminster Cathedral are pretty horrendous as well.

Give the money to Archbishop Burke, I say and let him get someone suitable such as Stroik to get the job done properly.