Sad: “Cranmer tables” in the Pantheon and many great Roman churches

I was in St. Peter’s Basilica the morning they tore out the Altar of the Chair.    There were people stationed to prevent anyone from taking photos.   Workers pried it apart with crowbars and hauled it off like so much junk.  Theologically, the altar brought deep significance to Bernini’s masterpiece above it.

I am in Rome today, on the morning when a “Cranmer table” will be bolted into the floor of Santa Maria “Ad martyres“.   This day is the Feast of the Dedication of that church which took place in 609.   S. M. ad martyres is also called the Pantheon.  More on that in Italian HERE.

Since I’ve been in Rome these last few days, I’ve seen quite a few nasty changes since my last visit in September for the Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage.  There are more dreadful tables in place and they are ostentatious.   Go into S. Andrea della Valle and weep.  The same for the Chiesa Nuova.   Weep.

How ideological do you have to be to ignore a magnificent high altar, built for that church?     It makes no sense at all.  In fact, its intellectually insulting.   In the end, it comes back to an overreaching and condescending and self-centered clericalism.  These lib clerics have to be the center of attention.  They impose these innovations on people who haven’t asked for them.  They disrespect the contributions of their forebears and squander their treasures.

There seems to be a rush in Rome to get these altars in place.

I wonder if they are not afraid.

Meanwhile, since it is the anniversary of the dedication of the Pantheon as a church in 609, we might have a taste of the exorcism that the Pope performed on that building which was dedicated to pagan gods (demons).  In Italian HERE.

“In 608 the Byzantine emperor Foca gave [the temple] to Pope Boniface IV and there was organized an evocative ceremony to consecrate it to the Christian God.   On 13 May 609 a huge crowd gathered near the Pantheon to witness the event. Chronicles recount chaos and chilling screams that were felt from within: the pagan demons were aware of what was about to happen. The doors were thrown open and the Pope, in front of the entrance, began to recite the formulas for the exorcism. The screams from the idols increased in intensity, and the commotion deafened the ears of the onlookers.  Fear gripped the crowd and no one was able to stand on their feet, looking and hearing that terrible spectacle. Only Boniface IV resisted and, undaunted, prayed and consecrated the Pantheon to Christ. It is said that the demons left the ancient temple chaotically and with a great din, fleeing from the open “eye” of the dome or from the main doors.  Once the ceremony was over, the Pope dedicated the building to the Madonna dei Martiri, in memory, perhaps, of the many Christians killed in honor of those filthy idols … “

Messa in Latino also calls to mind a vision of Catherine Ann Emerich:

One of the visions of Bl. Catherine Emmerich was precisely about the exorcism and consecration of the Pantheon: “…  I saw again the whole ceremony of the consecration of the temple: the holy martyrs assisted with Mary at their head.  The altar was not placed in the middle, but was was up against the wall.  I saw carried into church more than 30 carts of holy bones.  Many of these were put into the walls.  Others could be seen, where there were round holes in the wall, closed up with something that looked like glass. (p. Schmoeger, ‘Vie d’Anne Catherine Emmerich’, tomo III, pp. da 69 a 71)

Battles with the Enemy are fought on many levels.  Let is not forget that demons are territorial and legalistic.  Once they claim a toehold, it requires effort to break their hold and get rid of them from places, things and persons.




About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    While of course there are things that require haste, this would be one where that is decidedly not the case, but people act as if time is more of the essence than a judicious process. The conclave of 2013 seems to have been another.

  2. Ave Maria says:

    How sad, this return to the 70s when so many sacred things were thrown out or destroyed like so much rubbish. It is done by those who do not appreciate beauty, patrimony, or tradition.

  3. Sandy says:

    It hurts to hear of these atrocities as we ask “Why?!” Father, I’m glad that you mention Bl Anne Catherine Emmerich. Reading the 2 volume work about her life and visions years ago taught me so much about what was happening in the Church; the situation is worse now, sad to say. For anyone who has time to read that work, it is quite worthwhile. Mother Mary rescue us!

  4. Traductora says:

    Thank you for an interesting post. I remember when they ripped out altars all over NY (city and state). I was living in a town a bit upstate from my homeland, NYC, at that point, and the Monsignor in the little town simply refused to rip out his lovely early-20th century marble or alabaster (I don’t know which it was) altar from his tiny church. He was elderly, and he said he thought they’d probably change their minds in a year or two and want to put it back, so he wasn’t going to pay for a “temporary” removal. LOL. I think he knew perfectly well, thought he’d die pretty soon – since priests didn’t “retire” then until they really had to – and just didn’t want to go along with it. And, frankly, neither did anybody else in New York (city or state). But Cardinal Spellman, whether he liked it or not, did what the Vatican told him to do, and his successor was even worse.

    As for the speed, Francis’ supporters have said that he wants to accelerate his changes so that they can’t be undone, and I’d suspect this is part of the program.

    I’m sorry to hear that they’re bolting these things to the floor. I guess they don’t want guerrilla action during the night.

  5. PTK_70 says:

    Ahh….we must treat the old stuff with the greatest care and reverence. We must, we must. To tear it up is to say that our forebears got it wrong. Really?? They really got it that wrong?

    Build the new stuff in a newer way. Make it sleek, feng shui, tasteful, inviting, etc. Let it be inspired by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. But let the old stuff be. New wine in new wine skins.

  6. JustaSinner says:

    Oh Father, they’ll be afraid, very afraid when they meet their end and find that Mary and the Heavenly Hosts aren’t their to speak in their stead. They will be alone, and oh so afraid. I don’t get joy from such a thought; frightening really, to think of the precipice to Hell and how some truly earn it.

  7. teachermom24 says:

    It’s sad, but reading Church history helps one realize that this is neither the worst of times the Church has endured nor will the current destruction last. Over the centuries so much of beautiful church architecture and art has been lost through both natural causes (esp earthquakes and fires) and deliberate action. These are earthly things and can be, and often are, rebuilt.

    Another observation is that Rome still, with all her diminishments, remains light years beyond where I live in terms of beauty and expression of our Catholic Faith (rural South, so maybe that says something). I had the privilege of visiting Rome last December and nothing I have ever experienced in the US can compare to the glory of the Catholic Church I experienced in Rome. The Church is beautiful, especially in Rome.

  8. jaykay says:

    PTK_70: why do we need to build new “stuff” in the first place when we already have such glorious “stuff” (and we’re talking about consecrated Altars here) in place? The Council never called for that, as we know – it was the reaction of its disobedient, headstrong, children who produced all those diseased fruits we’re living with. Diseased in the sense that we can, 50 years later, see exactly how successful they’ve been.

    And are you really serious about feng shui?

    Maybe I’m missing something. Forgive me, please, if so.

  9. Filipino Catholic says:

    They removed the Altar of the Chair? When was this and why was this not in the news, that is destruction of priceless art and heinous sacrilege to boot!

  10. adriennep says:

    I am confused—when was the Altar of the Chair ripped out of St. Peter’s? This can’t be the Chair of St. Peter there…

  11. Hb says:

    When Archbishop Chaput first came to Philly he wanted to rip out our free standing altar from under the baldachin and place the tabernacle on a pillar as if it was a statue and bring the altar or construct a new one closer to the altar rail.

    Thank God he was persuaded not to do it; reportedly because of the bad optics of spending money unnecessarily when the Archdiocese was nearly bankrupt.

    He dropped a Cranmer table in the sanctuary which all priests offering Mass in our Cathedral are forced to use. The lone exception is the TLM.

    Given the alternative I for one am grateful the Cranmer table is there for the simple reason we can throw it in the dumpster when he retires – barring a liturgically handicapped successor. At the same time, I resent that we must endure it at all. I was going to attach a link but I can’t pictures with it showing.

  12. Rob83 says:

    I am somewhat surprised the Italian authorities would allow such a thing in the Pantheon. Mass there was something special when I visited Rome years ago, it was a tri-lingual NO Mass in German, Italian, and Latin for some German pilgrims.

    Hopefully this is the last gasp of those whose time is just about up. The only useful thing about these wretched tables is that they can be removed rather easily in most cases. In both parishes locally that offer the TLM, the table is quite easily moved by the efforts of one or two men.

  13. frjim4321 says:

    Ripped apart by common laborers, or taken apart skillfully by qualified craftspeople? My recollection is that it was the latter, and there is a difference.

  14. tho says:

    Where are the liberals taking us? If it is back to the 1970s, we have been there before, and it was a disaster. We have had Renew and it didn’t work.
    It seems to me that the laity is asking for tradition, but the Trotsky’s are forcing their way upon us. As Pat Buchanan once said we are headed back to the catacombs. My heart breaks for the good sisters and priests who nurtured me, while we turn the other cheek.

  15. mdoolittle says:

    It’s been several years since I was last in Rome, but after visiting Santa Maria Maggiore and the Lateran and several other ancient sanctuaries, I was, naturally, impressed with the great age of these sacred places. What impressed me most was that they still retained so much of their original character. They had not, for instance, been turned into Baroque churches or Renaissance churches. I thought of all the hundreds of bishops and cardinals who understood that they did not “own” these places, and the many sacred places all over Europe which have survived the centuries intact. What great humility these men had, humility and wisdom, to understand that they did not need to “make their mark” on these places. They maintained them as they were, and left no trace of themselves.
    And how different are the bishops who are driven to “remodel” the many churches placed in their care. These self-centered, proud bishops destroy what has been faithfully handed down. They have no thought to the many poor people who sacrificed to create these places. It makes me weep.

  16. Prayerful says:

    The Roman Emperor ‘Foca’ was Phocas (602-610), overthrown by the great Heraclius. The last column with a statue atop, erected in the Forum Romanum was dedicated to him. All those tables bespeak deep insecurity. The ‘Spirit of V2’ generation are dying off and are not being replaced. Changing teaching on marriage by private letters and putting up tables in front of high altars is eminently reversible.

  17. Henry Edwards says:

    “There seems to be a rush in Rome to get these altars in place.
    I wonder if they are not afraid.”

    Why? Of what? Do they know something the rest of us don’t?

  18. Chris in Maryland 2 says:

    Fr. Z:

    What was the day when the Altar of The Chair was removed from St. Peter’s?

  19. Mike says:

    The more we learn about what was robbed from us (and from God) by the self-appointed directors and implementers of Vatican 2, the more obviously hideous become the past and current obsessions with novelty. Fortunately, imposing ugliness does not invalidate beauty, as the present generation of wreckovators will presently learn to their everlasting sorrow.

  20. PTK_70 says:

    @jaykay….In my lexicon, “stuff” does not equal “junk”. I suppose I was hoping against hope that my comment might reach those without an appreciation for the venerable artifacts of Christian faith. There’s not much point in saying “we must preserve the venerable artifacts of Christian faith” since everyone would agree that anything “venerable” is to be preserved. The issue is that the tear-it-down clan regard the high altars, princely vestments, rails, etc. as anything but venerable. These are instead seen as stale relics of an out-dated mentality which inhibit the “new springtime”, “second Pentecost”, etc, etc.

    As to your comment about not needing to build new worship spaces since there’s plenty of churches to go around, I can only imagine that the situation in Europe is rather different from that in places where people are in the habit of relocating (for example, the U.S.) and different also from places where Christianity is growing (as I understand is the case in Africa). Anyway, new worship spaces are being built and I presume will continue to be built. No sense in trying to recreate the magnificent structures of previous centuries. This may sound cheesy but I think a faith-informed boldness is called for. And yes, this boldness ought extend as far as the consideration of elements from feng shui. I mean, why not?

  21. cpt-tom says:

    At least it is just a Cranmer table…it could be a huge (over 3000 + 900 pounds for the glass tops alone) hunk of stone and glass…like they did to the Basilica of St Denis in France: Cranmer tables can be ripped out too. And burned.

  22. NBW says:

    Perhaps when Katy Perry was in Rome for the conference, she suggested that these altars would look better at her new home and paid a very high price for them. I don’t see why these beautiful and HISTORICAL altars would be removed. Why are they in such a hurry?? Are they anticipating a Traditionalist tsunami that will finally drown their modernist movement once and for all?

  23. Weep, indeed. I will reiterate what another comment mentioned. Those responsible give no thought to their particular judgement. Forgive them, Father, for they no not what they do. With Rob83, I pray that this is the final act of liberal revisionists.

  24. TonyO says:

    There seems to be a rush in Rome to get these altars in place.

    I think that there is indeed a rush: the fruitcake libs feel the cold wind of time blowing at their backs. They are not producing a solid new crop behind the old fogeys now running things. The young men in the seminaries are not buying the crud any more. This is their “last gasp” as it were.

    How ideological do you have to be to ignore a magnificent high altar, built for that church? It makes no sense at all. In fact, its intellectually insulting.

    True, it is insulting. If only it were ignorance or stupidity that were the root of this. Sadly, it isn’t. First of all, it is certainly Satan and his cohort pushing the drive toward ugliness, and the drive to separate us from our traditions. Satan hates that we should enjoy beauty and savor our customs from time immemorial in the Church. It would be nice if Satan were merely leading by the nose all of those useful idiots , the humans in collars who order all of these precipitate changes, i.e. fooling them into doing his bidding, and for some that’s what he does. But there are some (probably many) who know what they are doing, who know that their objective is to get rid of the beautiful because it is beautiful, who target anything of tradition because it is tradition; these men are not fooled, they have bought into the poison.

    It hurts to hear of these atrocities as we ask “Why?!”

    It does indeed hurt to ponder these doings. The “why”, though, is straightforward: because Satan wants to both hurt us now, and undermine our connection with the good, the true, and the beautiful. This is intentional attack, not coincidentally painful to us who just happen to like the beautiful stuff. What’s sad, though, is the poor, befuddled knuckleheads who are (like Stalin’s ‘useful idiots’) just mouthing the words given to them by the people really driving this, who somehow imagine that they are replacing with “something better”. Oh, golly, what benighted nonsense.

    I am somewhat surprised the Italian authorities would allow such a thing in the Pantheon.

    Me too, Rob83. I am quite sure that if the item were a symbol of leftist propaganda, they would be screaming to the hills about “tearing down our history” and all that. I guess that the officials in the Church have enough “leaning” power to push on civil officials to ignore what they would otherwise spend a lot of effort to prevent.

  25. Prayerful says:

    It should be noted that there were no rules requiring those horrible tables, not even the misinterpretations of Sacrosanctum Concilium. The Oratorians, for example, made no changes, even though they offer the NOM as well as TLM. I suppose that’s almost the point, making the altar smashing, almost more brutal than Reformation iconoclasm, all the more wicked.

  26. danielinnola says:

    With all due Respect, i have been hearing my entire adult life “the biological solution “ or “just wait until this generation of 60’s and 70’s priests retire or until they are summoned before the Throne. I have come to the conclusion that “they dont die.. they multiply”

  27. maternalView says:

    If these churches were enough to inspire the saints then I see no need to change them.

    But alas there are those who don’t seem to want to be a Saint and they don’t want anyone else to be either.

    The ugliest church in Rome when I visited was Santa Suzanna run by the Americans. We sat in chairs around the altar for Mass. I believe I read the Americans are no longer at that church.

  28. jaykay says:

    PTK_70: yes, I probably did misunderstand you a little. Hence the apology, and thanks for the explanation.

    However, when you say: “As to your comment about not needing to build new worship spaces since there’s plenty of churches to go around,” that’s not actually what I meant, or said. I was referring to the wreckovation of existing structures. And even in Europe we do in fact need to build new churches – and we do. Here in Ireland in my parish we built our last one to serve a new housing area back in the 90s – others had been built before that. It’s well enough attended, and given the necessary budgetary constraints not at all bad architecturally. The Tabernacle is in the centre, for example, and very clearly defined. It also has a decent electronic organ, and the acoustics are good – carpet tiles and all!

    But as for feng shui – no, I can’t, with respect, agree. Why would we need to import such a concept into church design? We have the Tabernacle as focus, based on our own ancient tradition – that’s all we need.

  29. Prayerful says:

    @danielinnola There is isn’t remotely near enough priestly NOM only vocations to support even the shrunken, clustered diocesan structure. Any result orientated pragmatic bishop sees how tradition revives near dead parishes. Priests trained only in the NOM will remain a majority for good while outside France, but ideologues who are deliberately hostile to the Mass of Ages, are a dying breed. Pope Francis still manages to find a few examples to promote, but the ‘Spirit of Vatican 2’ dreamers must know that it’s over really.

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