Re: Re: reordering and destruction of irish cathedrals and churches
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O’Connell in ‘Church Building & Furnishing’ traces the development of the rail from cancelli, but that the latter were merely barriers rather than a kneeling place for communion. He says that, in England, the rail as we now know it came in in the 15th/16th Centuries. However he groundlessly infers that the absence of rails prior to this demonstrates that the normal posture for receiving communion was to stand. I gather that there is evidence in illuminated MSS that in the sarum use of the Roman Rite the hausling cloth was stretched across the sanctuary by two servers so as to catch any falling particles of the sacred species whilst the people knelt to receive.
Rails certainly are not and never have been required by church law, as far as I understand. The rail primarily makes it easier and more comfortable for the people to kneel, to contemplate the eucharist prior to reception and to make an act of thanksgiving thereafter.