05 June 2014
Old Cathedral Restoration Forgot One Big Thing
Reformulating a comment I left on Facebook yesterday, I'd like to pose a sincere question about the nearly-completed restoration work being done to the Old Cathedral.
My wife and I were married in the Old Cathedral (the Basilica of St. Louis IX, King of France), so that fact adds to the all of the other reasons why I love this church. It is the oldest Cathedral west of the Mississippi. It was the principal church of a diocese which at one time covered the entire Louisiana Purchase. It sits like a jewel beneath the Arch in every touristy-skyline photo, reminding everyone of the presence of the still amazingly vital Catholic Faith in this city.
The City's Catholicism is co-extant with its existence, founded by the French before the nation was founded, and before many of the cities of this continent that are much further east, towards the coast.
So, with all this in mind, as you view and consider the restoration work shown in the video above, do not think my question to be merely one of a cranky trad, when I ask:
Why was not the altar restored as well? Why isn't the altar brought closer to its original design?
As you look at the video in the linked report, you will still see the altar (which appears to be the same as the grainy pre-conciliar photo above) moved away from the reredos, floating in the middle of the sanctuary.
The church is still a functioning parish, yes, but it is also a major tourist attraction, an historical site, a glimpse into the foundations of the Church in our Archdiocese. The Mass first celebrated here is the timeless Mass-- what is called the Extraordinary Form. If this Church is an architectural piece, why not give it its purposed design?
And, true story, one of the great secrets of the modern Church is that not only may the novus ordo be celebrated on an affixed altar, ad orientem, it was actually designed to be so celebrated. No priests or laity would be harmed in the celebration of Mass ad orientem.
Again the EF is timeless, it is not a relic or a thing of the past. It is a currently approved and celebrated form of the Roman Rite. If you think it "extraordinary", why not celebrate it in this "extraordinary" church? If celebrating the Mass ad orientem is no big deal, fix the altar. If it is a "thing of the past", why not put the altar back in a church that is primarily a museum piece for visitors anyway?
The above photo bears no date, and believe me, it is harder than pulling eye teeth to find a pre-V2 interior shot of this church. Certainly, one might have expected it on the church's own website, but even though there are galleries of historical photos in their own "history" tab, one would search in vain.
So, two cheers for Old Cathedral renovations. As Maxwell Smart might say, "Missed it by that much."