Not all the sanctuary reorderings I saw in France last year were as felicitous, in my opinion, as those of Chartres and Tournus. Here we see the modern high altar of the cathedral of Tours. Now, no one can fairly claim that this is a mere picnic table and despite its...lack of(shall we say?) aesthetic merit... (I am trying to avoid the obvious term "ugliness") I think there is a clear enough attempt to evoke the stone rolled away from the door of the Tomb- and thus assert the link between the Lord's death and Resurrection and the Mass. One could, perhaps, argue that a traditional notion has been impressively articulated in a modern idiom. Interestingly, descriptions of altars in the Old Testament refer to "un-dressed stones"- which might well have seemed to chime in nicely with a modern aesthetic of the kind described by E.H. Gombrich in "The Taste for the Primitive". Indeed this is far from kitsch- but, perhaps a little too far. Its uncompromisingly rugged grandeur is a million miles away from the trite "coffee table" altars with which so many of our churches have been provided.
Incidentally, perhaps following the example of St Martin who gave half of his cloak to a beggar, a more recent bishop appears to have parted with half of his candlesticks! The asymmetric placing of candlesticks is a widespread peculiarity in France where, as often as not I have found mass celebrated with just one candle.
Four meetings to paint - Perhaps the greatest trauma of my school-days were the art classes. They would sit us down with some rather stiff paint brushes and a few pots of paints, a...
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