Thursday, October 1

1909: The New High Altar

100 years ago today the new high altar, installed to mark the Golden Jubilee of St Peter's, was consecrated. Canon Billington gives us some details: "On Friday morning, beginning half-past seven, the bishop proceeded to consecrate the altar, Mgr. Gillow and Fr. Langtree being masters of ceremonies. The Rev. T. Murphy of Skerton and Dr. Kenny acted as deacon and subdeacon, the Rev. R. O. Bilsborrow being book-bearer, and the Rev. E. Stephens thurifer. In the stalls were Canon Billington and Dean Crookall. The service for the consecration of an altar lasts about two hours, and though of great interest to those who take part in it, is scarcely intelligible to the distant spectators in the body of the church." He goes on to outline the rite, and his account is too long to reproduce here. In short, it involves the recitation of at least five psalms and other scriptural texts, the placing of the relics within the altar, the use of holy water and later holy oil to anoint the altar with five crosses and then the anointing of the entire surface of the altar. Incense is also used on several occasions during the rite. "When its consecration was finished", Canon Billington tells us, "the bishop said mass at the new altar. Later the Blessed Sacrament, which had during the alterations been reserved in the Lady Chapel, was placed in the tabernacle of the high altar." The church reopened to the public on Sunday 3rd October.