A Lovely English Altar

Here is a fine English altar by Comper which I found on Facebook. The church is St Wilfrids, Cantley in Yorkshire. A comment says that the altar is still there but now has the big six on it. There is a hanging tester, but no hanging pyx (which is frankly rare in Anglican churches).

Anyway, here it is:

cantley-comper-altar

It is described as dating from 1894 and the photo would have been taken around that time.

Update. I have just received this photo of the church as it is now – beautiful. There’s a possibility the altar has been pushed forward for versus populum celebrations, but that is not obvious in the photo.

cantley2-small

Up-update. Here’s another photo a kind soul sent to me via a link on his comment. It appears still to be eastward facing and like in the late nineteenth-century photo. Only the frontal and riddels are different, and there are no fewer than ten candlesticks on the altar – quite unnecessary – and shortened riddle post candles. Fortunately, in the Church of England, changes can’t be made to churches without a faculty, which is quite irksome to obtain, apparently. Perhaps the church is also a Grade I listed building. Thank goodness for such laws!

cantley3

As a kind soul has reminded me, see my earlier article Four Riddel Posts Do Not Constitute the Sarum Rite.

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9 Responses to A Lovely English Altar

  1. Stephen K says:

    The carved reredos is quite lovely, I agree. And in a small country church, so fitting. I must say however, that I am myself more inclined to Cistercian austerity when it comes to church adornment and altar style. The look of the Cantley altar seems to me to be theologically domestic compared to great monumental stone slab altars whose very isolate plainness evokes ‘sacrifice’ from every aspect; something quite primaeval, almost pagan. But then, it’s definitely horses for courses: maybe the simple altars work best in great abbey churches and not in country chapels and churches – like my own local – where the Gothic style and ornament seem warm and friendly and unthreatening. Just some personal responses.

  2. Stephen K says:

    Oh my goodness! The colour photograph IS exquisite! I like the rood screen. They must be quite rare. The church is clearly well-loved to be so kept. I do agree, the altar appears to have been advanced closer to the front of the top step, but that would be consistent with the church being used vitally and in acknowledgment of contemporary convention and not kept simply as a museum piece. However, I don’t like the six tall candles on it though if it is used versus populum – but that’s just my own personal sense of balance and liturgy coming through: I feel they obscure the view or aspect onto the reredos, as well as confuse the concept of a versus populum eucharist. Thank you for sharing this. (I think the later nineteenth century was an interesting and religiously rich (if sometimes exotic) and significant time for all sorts of reasons.)

    • Michael Frost says:

      Yes, magnificent. I’m struck by the width of the center aisle in relation to the widths of the pews on both sides. Either a whole lot of processing with incense could be done or there aren’t too many worshippers? These pictures really bring out the thoughts expressed in something like Duffy’s book The Stripping of the Altars. And the rubric and liturgics “wars” of the late 19th century.

  3. Beautiful. Explain again, please, the purpose of the panels on each side of the altar.

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