In the beginning altars were not erected on steps. Those in the catacombs were constructed on the pavement, and in churches they were usually erected over the confession, or spot where the remains of martyrs were deposited. In the fourth century the altar was supported by one step above the floor of the sanctuary. At present the number of steps leading up to the high altar is for symbolical reasons uneven; usually three, five, or seven, including the upper platform ( predella ). These steps are to pass around the altar on three sides. They may be of wood, stone, or bricks, but St. Charles (Instructions on Ecclesiastical Building, xi, no. 2) would have the two or four lower steps of stone or bricks, whilst he prescribes that the predella, on which the celebrant stands, should be made of wood. The steps should be about one foot in breadth. The predella should extend along the front of the altar with a breadth of about three feet six inches, and at the sides of the altar about one foot. The height of each step ought to be about six inches. Side altars must have at least one step.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online