Altar und Liturgieraum im römisch-katholischen Kirchenbau : eine bauhistorische Betrachtung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Veränderung des Standorts des Altars nach dem Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzil (1962 - 1965) -

Ahn, Jae-Lyong; Urban, Günter (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2004)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2004


The Christian altar came from the table, at which Jesus ate the Last Supper with the Twelve. Without doubt, the table stood in the middle of the room. However, the infant church did not consider the table as a liturgical device, but only as a dining table. Every table could be used for the Holy Communion and every room as a liturgy room. With the merging of the liturgy of the word with the liturgy of the Eucharist (70 A.D.), the ultimate division of the church from Judaism (70-136 A.D.) and the separation of the Eucharist from the Agape (around 110 A.D.), the liturgy room was transformed into a longitudinal building with a West-East axis. When the church was allowed to build its own buildings, a table for the eucharistic celebration was then considered part of the furnishing of the liturgy room. At the same time, the arrangement between the cathedra and the congregation must have been gradually authorized. Since the epoch of Constantine, "basilica" is used in reference to church buildings. The altar stood in the apse, or in the apse area. With the reorientation of the facilities in the church buildings, - putting the apse to the East and changing the position of the priest, - the position of the altar was changed. In the Middle Ages, the liturgy became a clerical liturgy and the Mass a choir Mass. There was a spatial separation between the clerical and public liturgy room with the rood screen. At that time, every church had a cross altar deep in the nave, - in many churches in their centre, - which acts as a second high altar for the congregation. The understanding of God and the World which had changed since the Renaissance did not venture to shake the old custom. In the Age of Baroque, the tendency of the altar shifting towards the East finally appeared to be formally finished: the cross altar was removed from the nave, and the High Altar and the liturgy room formed a spatial unity. With the modern liturgy movement from 1909 the position of the altar began to move. The celebration versus populum was practiced. The liturgy room was centralized. The altar moved to the centre of the liturgy room. The Second Vatican Council (1962/65) legitimated this tendency. The altar became the centre of the liturgy room. Many old churches received also a new altar, which was moved closer to people, in the many great churches to the crossing area. After the Second Vatican Council, the parish centres were mainly built, the multifunctional room was promoted to a liturgy room and the church was integrated in the centre of the new settlements. The necessity of the church building was being challenged. In midst of this situation, the sacral church building is again revived. Beside the centralized church buildings, longitudinal church buildings start appearing. There are also new test models: an attempt to change the locations for the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist, the principle of the church as the activity room and a new development of the liturgy room with two focuses (altar and ambo) and an activity room in the centre, which is an ellipse model for the church rooms. The altar is a symbol for Christ and his act of the salvation. It is the spiritual and artistic centre. Although, according to the today's interpretation, the church does not need a sacred room and every table can be used for the Holy Communion, a correctly located altar in the liturgy room can help the congregation to experience Christ and his work as the centre of their lives.