Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Shrines of the Blessed Eucharist : 1
The Sacrament House

Long before tabernacles for the Reservation of the Most Holy Sacrament came to be placed upon the High altars of Catholic churches, a more common form of Reservation in Western Europe was the Sacrament House. Although taking a variety of forms, the Sacrament House was always one unit, even if it had a number of levels or stages.

Blessed Sacrament Shrine
Church of Saint John Vianney, Houston, Texas.

In the last 50 years, however, when the place of Reservation has come to be disassociated with the High altar, we have seen the phenomenon of tabernacles sitting on top of plinths (often freestanding). Some of these are very noble, but they do not have the dignity of the mediaeval Sacrament House.

Recently found was the adjacent photograph of the Eucharistic Shrine in the Church of Saint John Vianney in Houston Texas. This is a recently built church, having a skyline reminiscent of mediaeval Italian churches.

We see an imaginative treatment of the Shrine of the Blessed Eucharist. A wall is built behind the tabernacle, but separate from it, creating a layered effect. The wall is of stone and resembles the facade of a church. It gives the illusion that there is a room beyond the tabernacle, the wall being the door to it.

Were the tabernacle just sitting on top of this pleasing stone plinth, it would not have anywhere near the impact of this arrangement. It would have been even more effective had more colour been used : it seems rather monochromatic. The tabernacle itself is of beautiful proportions and form.

This Shrine does not attempt to give the impression of an altar : there are no cloths on the plinth, nor candles upon it, nor crucifix. It is simple, attractive, noble and worthy of its sacred purpose.