Pontifical Mass at the Altar of the Chair – roundup

Initial comments:

Card. Brandmueller wound up being celebrant for the Pontifical Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.  Card. Canizares should have been the celebrant, but he had by accidentally scheduled a flight, apparently because he had been under the impression that this was going to be a Low Mass.  Things happen.  They had a couple Cardinals to spare, however.

Cards. Levada, Bartolucci were there, and one other Cardinal of Holy Roman Church.

The place was jammed, I hear.

I am sure there will be a torrent of photographic eye-candy.  The variety of choir dress should be interesting.


The ever-present and diligent John Sonnen of Orbis Catholics has video and photos.

His video is on Youtube.


Sounds as if they used Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, nisi fallor.

A photo or two… but go to his site.

Here is something you don’t see very often… a Cardinal directing a choir.

A little more video:



Photo album with lots of photos, here.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gregory DiPippo says:

    The third was Cardinal Rodé. The place was jammed, and the liturgy was very well done indeed. A great moment in the life of the Church.

  2. Fr Gregoire Fluet says:

    My plans had been to attend, but emergency eye surgery -prayers, please- cancelled those plans. An email from a friend present confirms that the choir was magnificent, directed by Cardinal Bartolucci. I would love to hear something of Cardinal Brandmuller’s homily, he is perhaps the greatest living Church historian. How wonderful all this is!

  3. Jon says:

    This event begs the question – why wasn’t it broadcast by EWTN?

    Over at New Liturgical Movement, a commenter raised the ominous issue that the USCCB has bore down on EWTN regarding the broadcast of the Extraordinary Form a la the famous Mahony vs Mother Angelica duel.

    For three years after SP, EWTN was broadcasting EF Masses from Mother’s shrine in Hanceville every six to eight weeks. They seem now to have ceased. EWTN usually carries major liturgical events in St. Peter’s as well, although admittedly they’re usually papal. Todays’s Mass however seems like exactly the sort of event they normally would’ve carried – especially given the fact they carried the Pontifical Mass from the National Shrine last year.

    I sincerely hope this isn’t the case. If anyone can confirm one way or another, I think we’d all be grateful. And if pressure has indeed been applied, then I think a polite but firm letter-writing campaign by the sheep to the shepherds is in order.

  4. robtbrown says:

    Was the altar restored?

  5. Jon: This event begs the question – why wasn’t it broadcast by EWTN?

    Do you have any idea how much money EWTN requires for a broadcast of this nature? The broadcast of the Mass from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC last year cost an arm, a leg, and an eye from the head of the organizers.

    Someone has to pay for things other people desire.

  6. Henry Edwards says:

    Card. Canizares should have been the celebrant, but he had by accidentally scheduled a flight, apparently because he had been under the impression that this was going to be a Low Mass.

    Seriously, is this supposed to be funny?

  7. Jon says:


    Absolutely, I understand the cost. But I’m not talking about EWTN enlisting its own crew to be present, as it did in Washington. They carry Masses from Rome constantly, at certain times of the year on an almost weekly basis. This includes all holy day Masses, and other “off the regular schedule” events like consistories and ordinations. They merely plug into the Vatican feed.

    Surely one more Mass for which plane tickets aren’t involved wouldn’t have broken the bank.

  8. Jon: Merely plug into the Vatican feed? Who pays for the Vatican feed? This is all FREE?

  9. Jon says:


    I’m out the door to Mass myself right now. I’ll put a few more bucks in an air-mail envelope, mark it ROME, and drop it in the basket ;^)

  10. Joseph-Mary says:

    Looking forward to the day when the Holy Father is the main celebrant!

  11. teaguytom says:

    I concur with Henry Edwards. I’m hoping Fr Z is joking about the low mass thing. I find it hard to believe that Cardinal Canizares thought this was low mass. Are you kidding? They have been saying solemn pontifical mass over and over. Surely the cardinal knows low vs solemn pontifical. Though I wonder if having Brandmueller and Bartolucci there was a plan of the Holy Father’s. Both seem to be very friendly to tradition.

  12. Denis says:

    Father Z., I understand your point, but EWTN does televise EF Masses, which means funds have been raised for such broadcasts in the past; so the question remains: why not this one, given its historical significance? [I am not sure, but I suspect that there is a touch of thought here that these things are done either by magic or otherwise for free.] It’s not unnatural for such a thought to bubble up in the eternally vigilant minds of us tradition-lovers. The answer could simply be: it’s too expensive. But I wonder whether it would be more expensive than the average EWTN show, especially if it were to be recording of the Mass, without commentary, rather than a live feed with commentary.

  13. Dr. Eric says:

    In the good ol’ days. Where were the Solemn Papal Masses held? At the Chair or under the Baldacchino?

  14. irishgirl says:

    From what I saw in the video, simply glorious!
    You were right, Father Z, about the varieties of choir dress! I saw Franciscans of the Immaculate, Benedictines, Dominicans, [probably] some FSSPs and a smattering of ICKSPs thrown in for good measure! Even a Papal knight or two!
    Oh, man…I wish I had the money to go back to Rome again!

  15. Supertradmum says:

    Wish I was as well. Wondering why relgious orders in England such as the Friars of the Renewal and most of the Benedictnes do not offer the EF.

  16. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Dr. Eric, the Pope celebrated at the main altar, under the Baldacchino, as indeed he still does.

  17. Father K says:

    Nice to see Bishop Peter Elliott there, auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, Australia. If I am not mistaken, the Diocese of Toowomba is vacant? LOL. Maybe a case of ‘happy days are here again’ for the longsuffering people of that beautiful city!

  18. wanda says:

    Beautiful. Multiple maniples sighted.

  19. UncleBlobb says:

    Did they have the processing with cappa magna and vesting of the celebrant already before this? Either way, is that an optional part of a Pontifical Mass?

  20. KevinSymonds says:

    At 1:51…the two Benedictine monks are from the Norcia community. Fr. Benedict Nivakoff (left) and Br. Anthony Zemenek (right).

    5:20–Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. I forget their names….

    7:00–“Iubilate Deo…”

    This is the stuff of Saints….thank you for posting!


  21. JKnott says:

    St. Teresa of Avila: ” I am a daughter of the Church”
    Beautiful beyond words.

  22. Centristian says:

    “Did they have the processing with cappa magna and vesting of the celebrant already before this? Either way, is that an optional part of a Pontifical Mass?”

    I may be wrong, but I’m under the impression that prelates and cardinals are prohibited from wearing the cappa magna when in Rome out of deference to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome.

    “In the good ol’ days. Where were the Solemn Papal Masses held? At the Chair or under the Baldacchino?”

    Actually, the answer is both (in a sense). While the pope would have celebrated the actual sacrifice on the main altar, the pontifical throne was placed immediately before the Altar of the Chair, on a dais, under an elaborate canopy. The ostrich feather fans that followed the pope in procession stood on either side of it, and there the pope was surrounded by his clergy and his court. The entire stretch between the main altar and the Chair served as the chancel for papal solemn Masses.

    The pontiff would, therefore, have begun the liturgy at the pontifical throne erected before the altar of the Chair of Peter (just as any bishop would begin any pontifical Mass at the throne or cathedra). Interestingly, it was the custom for the pope to actually communicate at the throne, and not at the altar. The sacred species, which the pope, himself, would have consecrated on the altar, were, at the pope’s communion, brought to him to receive at the throne (standing), to where he would have repaired in advance. The pope received the Precious Blood from the chalice, but through a golden straw, if you can imagine.

    The altar you see today is not the altar that would have stood beneath the relic of the Chair back in the day. That altar was removed and replaced with a modern, versus populum table, not at all harmonious with the grand architecture of St. Peter’s, which today, I notice, is frequently covered by a traditional antependium, so that it appears to be a traditional-looking altar.

  23. Paul says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but does anyone have estimates of the number of attendees? I haven’t even found reliable estimates on the internet of the capacity of the Basilica itself. Some of the pictures show what looks to be the entire Basilica, including the transepts, were standing room only. If this is the case, they should consider scaling it up another notch for next year (and possibly that EWTN broadcast via VaticanTV that everyone seems to be abuzz about).

    I’m so glad for those who were graced with the opportunity to assist at this amazing Mass. I know envy’s a sin and all, but would you allow it just this once?

  24. Radagast the Brown says:

    Wow, I even saw a couple norbertines in that video assisting the pontifical mass! Way to go for frater Maximilian and frater Alan!

  25. Alan Aversa says:

    This was at the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter? I thought it was off at some dinky side-altar. Wow! Laus tibi, Domine!

    There is a good video of the whole thing on YouTube.

    Also, wasn’t the MC from the Institute of Christ the King?

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