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Author Topic: OO Altars  (Read 3572 times) Average Rating: 0
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samkim
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« on: June 02, 2010, 11:15:04 PM »

Syriac and Armenian altars seem to look very similar to traditional Roman Catholic High Altars. Has this always been the case, or is this a result of liturgical latinization? Coptic Altars seem to look like EO ones (cube-shaped with iconostasis and all).

Also, does anyone know if OO liturgies are allowed to be prayed on EO Altars (when church is being borrowed I guess)?
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« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2010, 12:06:56 AM »

Syriac and Armenian altars seem to look very similar to traditional Roman Catholic High Altars. Has this always been the case, or is this a result of liturgical latinization?

I'm not sure what similarity you see.  Syriac and Armenian altars (also Assyrian ones, if my memory is correct) are not flat, but have "steps" on them.  I don't know what the proper term is, but you can see what I mean in these pictures from an ordination at Etchmiadzin:

side view:


front:



Catholic altars, I think, are flat.

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samkim
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« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2010, 03:36:22 AM »

Some Catholic altars have levels/steps.















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« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2010, 04:50:31 AM »

Really nice no? To be quite honest the step altar is not an ornamental piece. It is the piece iwith overarching view of apostles praying as light with the cross or Christ as its best seen. The basic fundamentals of worship.
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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2010, 08:33:58 AM »


..very pretty.

I was not aware that the OO utilized statuary.

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« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2010, 09:41:54 AM »

Where can you see statues in the photos from the Syrian Church?

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« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2010, 09:46:52 AM »

I was not aware that the OO utilized statuary.

The photos with statues, in reply #2, are from RC churches, not OO ones.
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2010, 10:00:59 AM »

The Catholic pictures are interesting.  The only Catholic altars I have ever seen are completely flat tables that are not against any wall or wall type structure.  The altars you showed are all against some type of wall type structure and I wonder if the steps are a part of that.

If you look at the first picture I pasted, it has nothing in back of it, and yet it still has the steps.  Armenian altars are just never flat.

It's my understanding that the shape of Armenian, Syriac and (I think) Assyrian altars is quite ancient and has nothing to do with any borrowing from the west.
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« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2010, 11:03:20 AM »

The only Catholic altars I have ever seen are completely flat tables that are not against any wall or wall type structure.

Well, you probably have seen more of the post-Vatican II altars which are down closer to the people. Some older Catholic churches still have the old altar back by the wall but many don't use them while some of them ripped out the old altars completely. Just looking at the fifth picture of the RC church, the chair in front of the altar shows that it is probably no longer used as an altar anymore.
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« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2010, 01:19:32 PM »

The Catholic pictures are interesting.  The only Catholic altars I have ever seen are completely flat tables that are not against any wall or wall type structure.  The altars you showed are all against some type of wall type structure and I wonder if the steps are a part of that.

If you look at the first picture I pasted, it has nothing in back of it, and yet it still has the steps. 

The steps are part of the altar. The altars that you are referring to are most likely post Vatican II altars, which were altered (no pun intended) to have the priest able to face the congregation like in protestant services.

Here is a video from a traditional group that shows them "traditionalizing" a modernist Catholic altar:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUNfbgRJOe8
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« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2010, 01:35:39 PM »

It's still different.  You don't just add steps like that.  I think the altar is supposed to be all one piece.

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« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2010, 01:52:33 PM »

It's still different.  You don't just add steps like that.  I think the altar is supposed to be all one piece.



Right. In the video, they are sort of artificially making one from what they have. But clearly, in some of the above images, the altars are made of stone and most likely single piece (not all though). But I'll take your word for it if you say that Armenian and Syrian altars have always looked like that. It just seems odd because EO and Coptic altars look alike.
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« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2010, 02:12:56 PM »

A brief bit of looking around shows that there are Georgian coins showing stepped altars with the cross which reproduce Sassanian coins where fire is shown on a stepped altar. So I imagine that stepped altars are ancient and Eastern.

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« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2010, 03:17:51 PM »

Examples of some old Syriac Altars

Midayat


Der-al-Za'faran monastery church


Der Mor Gabriel monastery church
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« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2010, 03:36:28 PM »

Examples of some old Syriac Altars

Midayat


Der-al-Za'faran monastery church


Der Mor Gabriel monastery church


The first two don't look "stepped." But yes, I have seen altars like these in old ruins in Turkey. But the Armenian altars still look like they have western influence to me (I could be wrong). It doesn't seem unreasonable to me. Aren't the Armenian episcopal mitres influenced by western mitres? Western influence is no bad thing, and that was never what I was trying to say.
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« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2010, 03:40:34 PM »

Western influence is no bad thing, and that was never what I was trying to say.

I am sure you didnt mean it as a bad thing. But I have met Byzantine Orthodox who say that even the way we Oriental Orthodox cross ourselves from left to right is a Latin influence. It is not. It has been the case, and so is the altar. Byzantine brothers need to understand, that anyting that is not Byzantine looking is not necessarily Latin.
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« Reply #16 on: June 03, 2010, 03:47:58 PM »

Anyway, my comments and other questions remain.
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« Reply #17 on: June 03, 2010, 04:00:45 PM »

Aren't the Armenian episcopal mitres influenced by western mitres? Western influence is no bad thing, and that was never what I was trying to say.

That's actually what makes me think the altars are not from the Catholics.  We did borrow several things from them during the Crusades when we had a lot of contact with them and the Armenians in Cilicia actually united with them for a while.

However, whenever I have read anything on this, or heard anyone talk about it, no one mentions that one of the things we borrowed was the shape of the altar.  Other things will be listed, like the shape of the bishop's mitre, and the confession read by the priest at the beginning of the liturgy.  But I've never heard anyone claim that the shape of our altars came from them. 

Also, I don't think the Syriac Church was influenced by the Catholics the way we were, or that they would have borrowed something like this from us.  To the extent that you find things in common between the Armenian and Syriac Churches, it is due to a very early connection going back before the fourth century, and the influence was from the Syriac Church going to the Armenians.
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« Reply #18 on: June 03, 2010, 04:03:57 PM »

Western influence is no bad thing, and that was never what I was trying to say.

I am sure you didnt mean it as a bad thing. But I have met Byzantine Orthodox who say that even the way we Oriental Orthodox cross ourselves from left to right is a Latin influence. It is not. It has been the case, and so is the altar. Byzantine brothers need to understand, that anyting that is not Byzantine looking is not necessarily Latin.

Another example is the Armenian use of unleavened bread.  Everyone who doesn't know the history automatically assumes the Armenians borrowed the practice from the Catholics.  The fact is, however, the Armenians were using unleavened bread centuries before the Catholics started.  Sometimes things like this happen, and they are just coincidences.   Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: June 03, 2010, 05:11:48 PM »

Hmmmm. I see many significant differences between the Armenian altars and the pre-Vatican II Latin ones. It would seem that Armenian altars are raised up as if on a stage and have stairs on the sides leading up to them, whereas I think Tridentine altars at the most have tiny step leading up the altar, it not been raised all that much. Also, the reality of the curtain being in the Armenian altar seems significantly different than the Tridentine. One more feature that I can think of off the top of my head is that there is space behind the Armenian altar that can be used for processions, whereas the Tridentine altar seems to be right up against the wall.
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« Reply #20 on: June 03, 2010, 05:27:02 PM »

Armenian altars look like something in between the ancient Syrian altars and Tridentine altars. During the period of contact with Rome, western aesthetics could have slightly influenced the look of Armenian altars.

Another example of western influence is western style religious art -- which is used with criticism by both OO and EO.

The ancient Syrian altars are still sort of square-ish. Altars that I've seen in Malankara churches are rectangular like Armenian ones. India also had a lot of contact with the West.

Again, I may be wrong. Just offering a hypothesis.
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« Reply #21 on: June 03, 2010, 06:30:29 PM »

But how would you explain the fact that the Armenian sanctuary is essentially a platform, elevated like a stage in a way that neither the Tridentine nor Assyrian altars are?
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« Reply #22 on: June 03, 2010, 08:01:42 PM »

I e-mailed a friend of mine who would know this sort of thing.  What he knows about the Armenian Church and its history is more than I ever would if I lived 200 years.   Smiley

This was his reply:

"As for the question I don't think that the idea of borrowing the shape of the altar is right. The person who expressed it probably has not been in Armenia yet. We were there last month visiting our parents and relatives and had several pilgrimages. The Churches were just amazing they indeed reawakened in us our true identity.

Let me get to the point. As you know Crusades occurred from 1095-1291 and had an aim to reclaim the Holy land. They never actually went to historic Armenia. The only encounters with them were in Cilicia.   

We do have many Churches from 7-th, to 11th centuries which do have the same shape of the Altars.

The 2 most well known Churches are St. Hripsime and St. Gayane (there is no need of mentioning Holy Etchmiadzin 4th c, which is the earliest centered dome Church ever built) are from 6 hundreds. They also have the contemporary shape too.

There was also a political aspect involved. Armenian vardapeds would not adopt Catholic stile at all, since they were in harsh opposition with them. One could read 12-14c Armenian vadapets writings about Catholic Church and its practices. Moreover some Armenian specialists do think that when it comes to architecture Catholics were the ones who borrowed some techniques from us."


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« Reply #23 on: June 04, 2010, 07:28:23 AM »

Stepped Altars are very common amongs the Indians.  I know many people who argue that this is not a Catholic influence.  My parish church has a flat Altar( as in the old Syriac churches) and I remember a very old monk priest in his 90's visiting and telling us that the Met. should have known better than to consecrate a non-traditional altar. Smiley




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« Reply #24 on: June 04, 2010, 03:58:25 PM »

My parish church has a flat Altar( as in the old Syriac churches) and I remember a very old monk priest in his 90's visiting and telling us that the Met. should have known better than to consecrate a non-traditional altar. Smiley

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« Reply #25 on: July 07, 2010, 10:02:16 AM »

The Armenian altars are very ancient and are not a result of Western influence at all. On the contrary, the shape and the iconostasis of the EO Church are of later origin. In ancient times the eastern part of a church or the altar was like stages, elevated, in Byzantine basilicas first of all. There's an interesting article about the history of iconostasis where one can read about this.

http://www.newbyzantines.net/epiphany/iconostasis.htm

When I was in Egypt some years ago, I was told that in the ancient Coptic churches the altar part was elevated too.
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« Reply #26 on: July 07, 2010, 12:18:56 PM »

Salpy,

I don't think there is an "official" name for it, I think we just call them steps or "asdijan". I could be wrong though.
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« Reply #27 on: July 07, 2010, 06:51:06 PM »

Comments on OO mitres were split off and put here:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,28603.0.html
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