Altar Cross/Crucifix
  • Gilbert
    Posts: 106
    Is there are requirement that there be only one crucifix in the sanctuary for Mass? Maybe only one crucifix on the central axis of the church? This is one possible objection I've heard to putting a crucifix on the altar, between the priest, celebrating versus populum, and the people. Thanks.
  • There has waged for some time now a battle over "multiplicity of symbols," and this may have been one of them.

    Nevertheless, you raise an interesting issue. We have an ENORMOUS crucifix hanging in the sanctuary. . . and I mean GIGANTIC. . . bigger than life-size. It's almost too much. What's worse, it's "off center" from the center aisle. It doesn't hang on a central axis, so it's not directly over the altar, it's kind of off to the left, between the altar and the pulpit (not "ambo," thank you, frogman noel!). When the servers process in, the crucifer is the first one to the sanctuary (it's almost like a foot-race . . . which would go along way toward explaining why our servers think sneakers, Skechers or cross-trainers are acceptable footwear when serving). They immediately proceed to a small doorway and "stow" the processional crucifix out of sight until just before the recessional, when it reappears.

    Not that we'll ever see the Benedictine arrangement on our altar, but if we wanted to do it, there would be by comparison a diminutive brass crucifix on the altar with this HUUUUUUUUGE one hanging over, sort of, the priest/celebrant's head.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Actually, from what I hear it's common to "stow" the processional cross. My past boss (a priest whose name is synonymous with orthodoxy) had it put in the sacristy during Mass. I actually questioned him over it, he said it isn't necessarily supposed to stay out. Although when I was at an Anglo-Catholic parish, the processional cross WAS stored in the sanctuary - right attached to the organ console! So it may just be an Anglican/Catholic thing.

    As for multiplicity of symbols, how many crucifixes are too many?? Since when was Catholic art and architecture based on having "only enough, no more"??
  • Gilbert
    Posts: 106
    Well, the GIRM does say this regarding the processional crucifix.

    122. On reaching the altar, the priest and ministers make a profound bow.
    The cross adorned with a figure of Christ crucified and perhaps carried in procession may be
    placed next to the altar to serve as the altar cross, in which case it ought to be the only cross
    used; otherwise it is put away in a dignified place. In addition, the candlesticks are placed on the
    altar or near it. It is a praiseworthy practice that the Book of the Gospels be placed upon the

    So, it seems that if the processional cross is used as the altar cross, it has to be the only one. A Crucifix on or near the altar serves as an altar cross, but it seems that it's only necessarily an altar cross if it is on the altar. So if you put the processional cross near the altar, as an altar cross, there can't be one on the altar. But the giant crucifix? It's not necessarily an altar cross, so it seems that the processional cross can be used as one, as long as there's not a cross on the altar itself. This is just my interpretation of what it says.

    And as for using an altar cross, after thinking about it, there seems to be no problem having a central big crucifix and a cross on the altar, as long as the giant crucifix isn't considered a second altar cross. Afterall, if the priest is celebrating versus populum, then he should have a crucifix to meditate on, as well as the people, right? So the giant crucifix that the priest can't see doesn't fully realize it's purpose if it's designated as the altar cross.