Modern installations: reredos/rood screen
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Hello friends,
    Are any of you familiar with 20th/21st century architectural installations of either A. a reredos; or (I know it may be unlikely, but a semblance example welcomed) B. a rood screen?
    I've perused NLM and Shawn T's new site without success.
  • The Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham has a rood screen.
    It is of wood with gilt details and is topped with a polychrome rood scene.
    It was installed in the autumn of 2017, replacing the earlier rood beam.
    (It can be seen on Walsingham's website.)

    The reredos was installed when the present church was built, in 2004.
    It was, I think, crafted in Spain, is ploychrome and gilt, with our Lord crucified in the centre panel and has St Catherine and St Laurence respectively in the north and south panels. St Laurence was much revered in mediaeval England.

    The tabernacle is a representation of the Ark of the Covenant, complete with prostrate angels on either ends of the top. On the doors are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This tabernacle was designed by Fr Moore, Walsingham's first pastor and a very old friend of mine.
    Thanked by 2melofluent CHGiffen
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,679
    The newly constructed All Saints Newman Center in Tempe, Arizona has something that isn't a rood screen, but is perhaps could be looked at as being a descendant of the rood screen. Pictures online don't quite do the job of showing it... but it's visible here:
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Jackson, do you have links to photos of same to share from OLW?
  • Our Lady of the Atonement Parish in San Antonio, TX also has a rood screen. It is adorned with the four evangelists over its pillars, and has five arches with five sanctuary lamps marking the 5 wounds of Christ (Our Lady's Chapel has 7 for her 7 sorrows).

    The diocese has also been renovating its Spanish colonial missions over the past twenty years and has put a fine retablo in the cathedral, as well as several of the missions.

  • Many of the chapels of the National Basilica in DC are also adorned with various modern takes on a reredos
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • KyleM18
    Posts: 150
    The retablo in the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano is from this century I believe.
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • Charles -
    I do not have pictures, but if you go to Walsingham's website there should be some up-to-date pictures of the sanctuary with screen and reredos. Some pictures are not up-to-date and only show the old rood beam. Others will show the new screen.


    Many thanks to others for the pictures of old Spanish missions and cathedrals.
    They are beautiful.
    Too, it is so refreshing that Catholics are at last (in some places) restoring and caring for their architectural treasures. We went through a period (which isn't over in some too many places) in which such treasures were either destroyed, thrown out, or whitewashed. Deo gratias for these evidences of a more favourable and sane wind.


    Though the intention is tres laudable in the picture of the All Saints' Newman Centre supplied by Matthew, my immediate impression is that of an incomplete work. There is hardly anything there except post and lintel. Some angels or saints atop the posts would be satisfying. An actual rood scene in the centre would likely conflict un-satisfyingly with the very beautiful iconography of the east wall. This is a well-intended but poorly executed screen. Thanks galore at least for the effort.

    Closer inspection reveals a rood in the centre. It is, though, too small in proportion to the screen, which also has two-too-few posts. Two more towards the centre (perhaps in line with those pilasters on the east wall flanking the iconography) would redeem this screen architectually - the central span between the current posts is too great and leaves the beam-lintel unrealistically and psychologically quite insufficiently supported.

    Still - there is a screen, which speaks volumes about the holiness of the space beyond it. Wunderbar!


    For those who may be unfamiliar -
    A rood is a cross with the crucified Christ on it.
    A rood scene (which typically sits atop a rood screen) consists of a rood with our Lady and St John on our Lord's respective right and left.
    Such a screen without a rood scene is called a choir screen (assuming the church has an architectural 'choir').

    Such screens are derived ultimately from the oriental iconostasis and were once common all over Europe. They have become very scarce in continental churches but are not at all rare to this day in English churches. Not only are they very often quite beautiful in themselves, but the holiness which they bespeak of the sanctuary beyond them is profound; too profound, it seems, for modern Catholic thinkers (if one can call them that) and the poor Catholic populace whose minds they have mis-shaped.
  • Yeah. The decline and fall of Catholic liturgy didn't begin with the Second Vatican Council. It began when they started building churches and chapels without Rood screens.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,648
    Which happened centuries ago.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Well, we demarcate and venerate the particular priestly office of the "confectioner" of the Eucharist by vesture. Why not afford the same respect to the particular space of that action via architecture?
    Of course, many will castigate a rood screen as antithetical to their notion of what constitutes "sacred space;" "not in some heaven, light years away....."

    PS. Excerpt from Wikipedia:
    "The decrees of the Council of Trent (1545–1563) enjoined that the celebration of the Mass should be made much more accessible to lay worshippers; and this was widely interpreted as requiring the removal of rood screens as physical and visual barriers, even though the Council had made no explicit condemnation of screens. "

    Does that analysis seem redolent as regards the place of chant in the immediate post conciliar era?
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,648

    It's not like chant exactly had a heyday everywhere in the lived experience of the PIPs after Trent, either. And Trent called for frequent communion by the faithful, something that was not implemented until...Pope St Pius X just over a century ago.
  • Liam -

    The most perfidious errors have a gestation period of many centuries. Just look at Ockham's nominalism. That's the germ of Modernism (and I suppose post-Modernism) right there.

    Melo -

    Concerning the erroneous interpretation of Trent (Oh Lord, save us from interpretations of Councils!): The Greeks have iconostasi. That doesn't stop them from singing their whole service.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Gentlemen, I fear my language was imprecise: I meant the widespread notion that chanting was dead after V2, not Trent.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,648
    "The most perfidious errors have a gestation period of many centuries. Just look at Ockham's nominalism. That's the germ of Modernism (and I suppose post-Modernism) right there."

    I think that meme is oversold. Ockham wasn't quite so original as to be the Ground Zero or Germ, as it were. As it was/is, moderate metaphysical realism is a matter of degree, not an absolute pole position. I tend towards the idea that that erstwhile heresies are rarely as new as we may think they are. In any event, years ago, I realized that disagreements (and heresies) about the faith can be thought of within the following framework:

    Starting with 1 John 4 (“God is love”), perhaps the first and most profound *description* of Most Holy Trinity, a Scriptural passage illuminates the necessarily Trinitarian nature of God’s essence and economy, the keys to apprehend (if not comprehend) the nature and purpose of the Incarnation and Paschal mysteries. Most questions involving basic belief implicate the following series of questions (and variations thereon), the first of which is clearly indicated by Scripture as the paradigmatic first question posed by Jesus to his disciples:

    1. Who is Jesus of Nazareth? ("Who do you say that I am?") Real or myth? Man or God, both or neither?

    2. Who is God? If Jesus is God, how can that be?

    3. Who am I?

    4. How do we know the answers to these questions? How do we know we don’t know such answers?

    5. Who gets to say so? How do we know that?

    Thus, the initial theological and anthropological questions tend to be ontological, epistemological and ecclesiological.

    However, the journey of the believer is to get to answer the question we may be asked at the end of our earthly lives: “[Name], do you love Me?” The answer to which we can't fake.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    The attached image made me think of this thread.

    The images of the renovation underway at St. Francis de Sales show a truly remarkable transformation of a small church being restored to its former beauty. (For more images, find "Regina Pacis Chaplaincy" on Facebook.)

  • igneusigneus
    Posts: 283
    Enjoy this (brand new, wonderful, 2017) reredos (in stainless steel).
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,840
    Please oh please oh please Mrs. Cooze. Tell me that is being used for a rood screen.


    Please oh please of please Brother Igneus. Tell me that is being used at the graduation ceremony of Starfleet Academy. (J/K - it is pretty impressive)
    Thanked by 1PaxTecum
  • Such screens are derived ultimately from the oriental iconostasis

    Or rather they ultimately are derived form the cancelli which still can be seen in some ancient churches in Italy (e.g. St. Clement in Rome). Both western rood screens (and communion rails) and oriental iconostases appear to be developments of it.
  • What a good topic. My priest wishes to have a prominent chancel or rood screen (perhaps even baldichin) installed whenever the mission grows big enough, but this would likely be years rom now. A few of our WR Orthodox missions/parishes do have them but I would not say they are a common feature in actual practice due to the WR communities being for the most part, in their infancy.

    Here is low res photo of one at St Benedict's WR Antiochian Orthodox CHurch in Wichita Falls, TX. image

    It is an unfortunate fact that the spirit of the 16th c. Counter-Reformation and humanist renaissance reasoning promoted tearing down various screens from sanctuaries, not unlike, and pointing to the roots of the 20th c. vat II destruction of sanctuaries/altars.

    We are blessed to be in an age when the most faithful Roman Catholics, small as they may be, recognize that in order to survive, it is necessary for them to return to the stable timeless Traditio of the Church. Everything old is new again.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,648
    Except when it's not. (And neither a stable nor timeless Traditio in terms of church furnishings and design.)
  • image
    imageThis not a stable tradition?
    I could concede that some elements here, the reredos for instance, are post 13th century, but the idea of a screen and curtains around the altar is a bonafide 4th/5th century development that was there for over a thousand years.
  • doneill
    Posts: 204
    The Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake has a screen that was not historic, but added during the 90's renovation. It even has a modern liturgical function in making the chapel where the tabernacle is a distinct space, and providing a wall in back of the chairs; the bishop's coat of arms is on the screen as well. The choir also sings from behind the screen; although it's not ideal to be in the same space as the tabernacle, the rear loft doesn't accommodate a large choir easily. There are some modern churches where the addition of a rood screen to set off and hide the choir area front and center would make more sense than having them off to the side.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,648
    "This not a stable tradition?"

    No, it's not. One might argue it's part of many different types of furnishings used over the centuries, but that does not make *it* congruent with "stable timeless Traditio". Cherry-picking to reverse engineer an argument may be extremely common, but it's not necessarily persuasive.
  • This paper provides solid pictorial evidence that between 500-1500 chancel barriers were everywhere, in the entire church, east, west, north, south. Sadly, the topic of chancel screens in early church history seems to be an unknown esoteric topic. This is why this particular paper proves so helpful in revealing what evidence exists for it in the latin church.

    It could be argued that having columns, architraves and or obscuring the view was less, frequent but was common, between 500-1200 in particular regions, such as in Iberia, gaul and england. Completely enclosed solid barriers, which entirely obscure the view (with the exception of some use of curtains) I would agree is a later medieval, post 13th c. development, but to deny chancel barriers, and barriers around the apse in general, a place in a millenium of worship is to solidly disagree with all the scholarly evidence I know of, and the first time i have heard such an assertion.

    Chancel barriers with an architrave (templa) gradually replaced waist-high chancel screens and became the common type of barriers separating the altar area from the nave in the 10th century onwards, especially in Greece and Asia Minor, e.g. in the mid-10th — mid-11th century church at Xanthos, in the 11th century katholikon of the Monastery of Hosios Loukas, and in the katholikon of several monasteries of Mount Athos where this type of a chancel barrier with an architrave has been preserved behind a high iconostasis added later [10; 29, pp. 127–135; 44].

    There is no consensus among scholars whether curtains were drawn in the intercolumnar
    spaces of the templon, or when wooden icons began to be inserted in these spaces. Some scholars claim that in the 11th century, curtains were shut in the intercolumnar spaces to conceal the altar area at certain moments of the liturgy [28, pp. 36, 39], but both Matthews [33, p. 163–171; 34, p. 126] and Bortoli-Doucet [8, p. 44] contend that this is not substantiated by archaeological and liturgical evidence and the liturgy remained perfectly visible for the faithful. Chatzidakis [12], followed by Mango [32, p. 40], is of the opinion that icons were already introduced in the intercolumnar spaces in the 11th century, but Lazarev [29, pp. 130–136] believes that in Russia these spaces remained free of icons until the 14th century. Holy personages were represented on the templa of the 11th–13th centuries, but these were placed on the columns flanking the templon (generally made of fresco or mosaic), or painted on small wooden icons which were
    set upon the top of the architrave [11; 13; 16, pp. 2–10; 3, p. 353]. This apparently continued to be so in most of the churches of the 13th and 14th centuries, e.g. the 13th century templon of the south Church of the Pantocrator (Zeyrek Camii) at Constantinople [16, p. 4, fig. 1; 14, p. 109, fig. 4]. Even in the early 15th century, the description by Symeon of Thessaloniki of a templon decorated with figures of Christ, the Virgin, John the Baptist, angels, archangels, saints, and apostles would refer to the architrave, according to Lazarev [29, pp. 135–140], or to the columns flanking the door of the templon, according to Walter [48, pp. 251, 266].

    In the late 14th and 15th centuries, the icons, particularly those executed in Russia, grew
    in size and the transparency of the early chancel barriers became gradually more and more opaque. The last evolution, the creation of a solid screen which totally cuts off the sanctuary from the nave and prevents the faithful from glimpsing at sacerdotal proceedings behind the screen, became standard in the 15th century in Russia.

    In Early Christian architecture the templon was a barrier dividing off the sanctuary from the rest of the church; in Eastern Christianity this developed into different arrangements from those of the Western church, with the sanctuary often not visible by the congregation. In the West the ciborium, an open-walled but usually roofed structure sheltering the altar, became common, and was originally fitted with curtains that were drawn and pulled back at different points in the Mass, in a way that some Oriental Orthodox churches still practice today.

    A large (or "deep") chancel made most sense in monasteries and cathedrals where there was a large number of singing clergy and boys from a choir school to occupy the choir. In many orders "choir monk" was a term used to distinguish the educated monks who had taken full vows, or were training to do so, from another class, called "lay brothers" or other terms, who had taken lesser vows and mostly did manual tasks, including farming the monastery's land. These usually sat in the nave, with any lay congregation.

    Following the exposition of the doctrine of transubstantiation at the fourth Lateran Council of 1215, clergy were required to ensure that the blessed sacrament was to be kept protected from irreverent access or abuse; and accordingly the area of the church used by the lay congregation was to be screened off from that used by the clergy. This distinction was enforced by the development of canon law, by which the construction and upkeep of the chancel was the responsibility of the rector, whereas the construction and upkeep of the nave was the responsibility of the parish. Barriers demarcating the chancel became increasing elaborate, but were largely swept away after both the Protestant Reformation and then the Counter-Reformation prioritized the congregation having a good view of what was happening in the chancel. Now the low communion rail is generally the only barrier; despite being essentially a Counter-Reformation invention, this has proved useful and accepted in the Protestant churches that dispense communion. However the screen enjoyed a small revival in the 19th century, after the passionate urgings of Augustus Pugin, who wrote A Treatise on Chancel Screens and Rood Lofts,[7] and others.

    The other argument that comes into the picture is that both the counter-reformation and reformation dispense with organic continuity in the life of the Church and substitute it with something artificial, thus to continue what was left behind, pre-1517, pre-1572, is in many ways just as necessary, if not more so than picking up before 1962, which is still retains the underlying counter-reformation ideologies. In this context, rood screens are an organic and development, which are than a form of stable tradition, in the sense of a barrier being normative since the 500s, a time when full legalization of the faith gave it the ability to move beyond house churches and into what God intended it to be in a more mature, less primitive state.

  • One could assert that the degree of architectural separation (protection?) of the Holy One's Presence from the public areas of a church is a reliable indicator of the degree of holiness accorded to the Sacred Species and of the shallow vsersus deep reverence in which they are held. On the other hand, one could suggest that such 'out of sight and out of touch' arrangements lead to 'out of mind' and a sense of greater or lesser alienation. Personally, I think that a choir or rood screen through which one can (more or less) see strikes the ideal balance. However, one could go on to assert that any degree of architectural definition, however great or however small, is better than none at all. And one is aware that 'none at all' is quite the fad in many of our newer churches - a 'fad' which hasn't the vaguest historical precedent.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Elmar
  • IdeK
    Posts: 87
    There has always be some kind of separation between the choir and the rest of the church, from the IVth century up to Vatican II.

    However the form it took has known lots of variations, even at a given time. Take the 13th century : some cathedral (Paris, Bourges...) had massive jubés, while some (Evreux) had only very light separation, of which we haven't kept any archaeological trace.

    Thus it would be hard to find "a stable tradition" that would be more precise than "ok so there has always been something".

    (Things are different in Orient of course).
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,434
    The Mission San Juan Capistrano installed a reredos not many years ago.
    Thanked by 1chonak