Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches
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On the question of the erection of the Cathedra in Armagh Cathedral, someone has pointed out to me the relevant text containing the rules on the height of a Cathedra and its relation to the height of the High Altar and the stalls of canons: not surprisingly, it was in J. O’Connell’s Church Building and Furnishing: The Church’s Way. As pointed out out, the Cathedra “is to be on a platform approached by three steps – so that it is higher than the canons’ stalls in the chancel, but not higher than the footpace of the High Altar”. Conveniently, he also gives the references for this rule which is found in the Cottectanea Sacrae Congregationis Rituum nn. 2049 (25) and 2231 (7). While other rules mentoned by O’COnnell have been explicitly abolished, the one concerning the height of the Cathedra in relation to the High Altar has not been explicitely abrogated.
The Ceremonial of Bishops (CB) is the law on this point. #47 states that ‘….the chair should have enough steps leading up to it for the bishop to be clearly visible to the faithful’. That is why the Cathedra is physically higher than the altar. Nothing is said about a specific number of steps. The Cathedra is sited where it is because GIRM310 states: ‘Thus the best place for the chair is in a position facing the people at the head of the sanctuary’. The altar is sited where it is because CB #48 states: ‘It (the altar) should be so placed as to be a focal point on which the attention of the whole congregation centres naturally’. This location in my opinion is at the crossing of nave and trancepts which is the ‘architectural’ centre of the space and is the natural focus of the interior. It is presumably why the original altar i.e. the one before Liam McCormick’s reordering, was placed there too. It is also the place where those in the trancepts can see it. Again, CB makes no reference to a height relationship between Cathedra and Altar. It is reasonable to assume that the liturgical law quoted in McConnell’s book (if not formally abrogated) is de facto so. I have a copy of McConnell’s book. It’s a wonderful book and I refer to it from time to time. I find it very useful for historical / traditional purposes but it should be remembered that it and the law quoted / referred to within it has been superceded.
I may seem churlish, but I also have to point out that the colour of the cloth on the cathedra (not to mention the other chairs) is wrong. The colour “red” is reserved for a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. “Green” is reserved for all other archbishops and bishops. This oversight is also remarkable when you notice the heraldic achievement inset in the floor before the Cathedra which correctly displays a “green” galero.
Strictly speaking the colour is not wrong as those rules have been abandoned. The background is that the Cathedra in Armagh is the original one when those laws were applicable. It was retained and incorporated as it was into the new layout. You would have a point in saying why not conform to them as a traditional element and I wouldn’t have a problem on that basis. That is an example of where we can have two legitimate views. But it is simply wrong to take the view that the liturgical law quoted in McConnell has to be complied with and therefore what has been done now is illegitimate.