Talk:Altar rails

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This is yet another page on which the picture covers the text, so that the only way to read the text is by clicking on "edit this page".

What browser r u using? I checked with five different browsers and none showed up that problem? It sounds like you have a seriously wonky browser that is screwing up images that are laid out correctly. Is it I explorer? That seems to be the bastard browser for its ability to screw up pages?

I've had the same problem with images. It only happened to me when the image was on the right-hand side. I stopped getting it when I swopped PCs.
But what I really want to ask is, "Why is this article entitled "Altar rails" instead of "Altar rail"?" Deb 19:30 May 1, 2003 (UTC)

Because they always exist in pairs as a set, one on the left side of an altar, one on the right, with a gate in the centre. A single altar rail would be the equivalent of me shaving off the right side of my beard and leaving the left side. It would look weird. Because they exist in pairs they are written in the plural; putting in 'altar rail' seen perceived as a linguistic no-no, though it is sometimes used, usually in inaccurately written locations. Unfortunately far too many magnificent sets of altar-rails have been lost in recent years to disastrous remodelling of Roman Catholic Church sanctuaries; my own local church once had a particularly fine set in dazzling white marble, along with a spectacular green stripped marble reredos and polished oak floor. The altar rails and oak floor were replaced by a hideous pink carpet, the reredos by plastic flowers in yellow vases! The set in the picture were once threatened with removal but sanity prevailed. However the world's longest set were removed from Carlow Cathedral recently; a courtcase is going on to see can their reinstatement be ordered. (The bishop there also wanted to cover in concrete a magnificant sanctuary floor designed by the famed article Pugin; under pressure he agreed to put a false floor over the Pugin floor, which has a grey carpet!!! One bishop famously dumped the entire interior decoration of a world famous cathedral, including the altar rails, altar, floor and reredos, into a skip in a notorious re-ordering. It was revealed decades later that at the time he was shagging an American divorceé, by whom he had a son. Most people when they heard about it wished that that they had shagged a bit more and then maybe he mightn't have had the time to destroy his cathedral and create his own 'new' interior, nicknamed 'Disneyland gothic' by horrified architects, planners and local people.

I have written a lot about the topic in the Irish media, hence my interest in it. (I once called the new altar in St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cathedral as "looking like an almighty pile of pigeon shit", which though widely described as accurate by people who know the altar, was not appreciated by the then Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh, Cathal Daly, who has refused to speak to me since. I was so hurt! *grin*!!!) ÉÍREman 20:27 May 1, 2003 (UTC)

PS: I'll add in a line to explain the pluralisation use.

Be careful what you use for metaphors of ridiculous concepts. In Larry Niven's books, one of the marks of Wunderlander nobility is what he calls an "assymetric beard". ;) -- John Owens
It's completely destroyed my imaginary picture of you, JTD. But, to return to the subject in hand, I have definitely heard the expression, "at the altar rail". Is there a different usage (or different physical manifestation) in the C of E? (I have to ask, being a Presbyterian and therefore not familiar with them.) Deb 17:41 May 2, 2003 (UTC)
I know I'm most familiar with the singular (and have never heard the plural used this way until reading this article). In most churches I can think of, the gate appears to join the two halves of the rail together into a whole. Also, are there others with knowledge outside the Roman Catholic Church who could help with revising this article. Because there are certainly spots that paint with broad brushstrokes, seeming to assume that they are only found in RC churches. I know enough to speak to the Anglican church here, but I don't know how broad to speak of any changes... - Cafemusique 12:12, 16 Oct 2004 (UTC)
There are, in fact, some altar rails that are an altar rail- singular- that is, the half-circle altar rails which I have just added a section on. They have no central gate, you have to walk around them. They are common in Lutheran churches of one of the Scandinavian backgrounds, and symbolically link the congregation to those gone before. --JollyJeanGiant (talk) 04:01, 14 May 2010 (UTC)


This entry contains sections that are not of a neutral point of view towards Vatican II, or, at best - are wildly speculative about it.

"symbolizing a liberalized access to heaven and to priestly functions" - This is conjecture

"New Mass" - This is a radical and negative opinion

"Even liberal catholics" - This statement here implies that the reader would presume that liberal Catholics would be in favor of removing altar rails

- Mark Delano

Made some small edits, which may help a bit.
  1. "symbolizing a greater access to heaven and the increased role of the laity in priestly functions" is a little more precise, but needs work, as does the rest of the paragraph.
  2. linked "new Mass" to "Novus Ordo Missae", of which it is a literal translation. Nothing radical or negative here.
  3. Changed "Even" to "Some", which parallels "Some conservative catholics" above. JHCC 21:32, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Thanks for your editing, I believe that will help to some extent. I would however, disagree that "Novus Ordo Missae" translates to "New Mass" in English, but the link mitigates that complaint to some extent. The "Some Conservatives... Some Liberals..." seems a little strange because now a reader might suppose that conservatives aren't "disputing the belief that the altar rails were a barrier" ... so I'm not sure quite what to do with all of that. It is superior to "Some... Even..." from a neutrality point of view though. Also, perhaps we should talk about what to do with this:

Rails were inconvenient reminders of the need for humility and for the differentiation of members of the Church. Their elimination also forces a reduction in reverence at communion, as queuing while standing is now the only plausible option in such a church.

Such language could make it sound as if the Catholic Church opposes humility and supports a reduction in reverence during Communion. "Inconvenient" seems like entirely the wrong word as well... and while I think it would be great if all Catholic Churches had altar rails I think the language used here is overly cynical. MarkDelano 23:50, 9 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I have recast this phrase and others to be more neutral in my opinion. I think that I have maintained JTD's original sense but it would be nice to have this confirmed. --Theo (Talk) 15:04, 8 Feb 2005 (UTC)


Given the general Wikipedia:Naming conventions (plurals), which says in general only create page titles that are in the singular unless that term is always in a plural form in English, the number of incoming redirected singular links, and the sole external reference being singular[1], this looks as if it should be at altar rail. --Rumping (talk) 15:16, 1 August 2008 (UTC)


Shouldn't there be a section heading like "Controversy" describing the disputes, rather than just "Catholic Church"? (talk) 05:48, 20 June 2013 (UTC)

"Protestant churches that dispense communion"[edit]

I am wholly ignorant (coming from the UK) of the wider implications of this matter, but surely the whole point of Protestantism is to dispense communion under both kinds (as opposed to certain other churches in which only the sanctified liquid is deemed fit for guzzling by the celebrant alone)? If a Protestant church doesn't dispense communion of bread and wine, what sort of church (or Protestantism) is it? Obviously there are disused churches (or churches falling into disuse etc.,) but surely "Protestant churches that don't dispense communion" = null set. The statement seems akin to "Protestant churches that dispense with God" or even "Churches which dispense with communion". Being a tired and emotional (© Private Eye) Olympian, I am happy to watch you fight among your selves. >MinorProphet (talk) 23:24, 3 January 2016 (UTC)

There are plenty, even in the UK. Your summary of "the whole point of Protestantism" is charming but inaccurate, as is your description of Catholic practice for the last 50 years or so. Johnbod (talk) 03:04, 4 January 2016 (UTC)
Thank you for updating my antediluvian attitudes. MinorProphet (talk) 21:34, 2 February 2016 (UTC)