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Altar Rail

The railing which guards the sanctuary and separates the latter from the body of the church. It is also called the communion-rail as the faithful kneel at it when receiving Holy Communion. It is made of carved wood, metal, marble, or other precious material, it should be about two feet six inches high, and on the upper part from six to nine inches wide. The "Rituale Romanum" (tit. iv, cap. ii, n. I) prescribes that a clean white cloth be extended before those who receive Holy Communion. This cloth is to be of fine linen, as it is solely intended as a sort of corporal to receive the particles which may by chance fall from the hands of the priest. It is usually fastened on the sanctuary side and when in use is drawn over the top of the rail. It should extend the full length of the rail, and be about two feet wide, so that the communicant, taking it in both hands, may hold it under his chin. Its very purpose suggests that it is not to be made of lace or netting, although there is nothing to forbid its having a border of fine lace or embroidery. Instead of this cloth a gilt paten, larger than the paten used at the altar, to which a handle may be attached, or a small gilt or silver salver, or a pall, larger than the chalice pall, may be used. These latter are usually passed from one communicant to the other, and when the last at the end of the rail at the Gospel side has received Holy Communion the altar boy carries the paten to the first communicants at the Epistle side. A consecrated paten may never be placed for this purpose in the hands of lay persons.

A.J. SCHULTE Transcribed by Michael C. Tinkler

From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by New Advent, Inc., P.O. Box 281096, Denver, Colorado, USA, 80228. (knight@knight.org)

This article is part of the Catholic Encyclopedia Project, an effort aimed at placing the entire Catholic Encyclopedia 1913 edition on the World Wide Web. The coordinator is Kevin Knight, editor of the New Advent Catholic Website. If you would like to contribute to this worthwhile project, you can contact him by e-mail at (knight@knight.org).


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You are here: Art & Architecture > Architecture Features > Altar Rail  Back one page.

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All contents © copyright, 1998-2014
The Catholic Liturgical Library
http://www.catholicliturgy.com