The Sanctuary

As has been noted, the Basilica design of St Gregory’s focuses on the apse, and this contains the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is the most important area of the church, and the most sacred, for it is here that the priest performs the solemn act of consecration in the Mass, and it is here that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle. The central feature is the High Altar, a simple table which matches the overall simplicity of the church. In the late sixties, the baldachino (canopy) was suspended over the altar. This was made and erected by Weston & Underwood. Once again it was a feature dear to the hearts of both Father Phillips and Comper the architect. Father Phillips was familiar with a similar one designed by Comper’s father at Downside, and a small one was erected in the temporary church (see Page 9). Comper was a strong advocate of the baldachino in church design, which he said gave dignity to the altar.

The layout of the Sanctuary must always reflect its importance and facilitate liturgical practice, and consequently, changes have occurred over the years and will continue to occur, each change seeking to enhance these needs. After Vatican 2, the altar was moved forward to enable the Priest to offer Mass facing the people. Later, in keeping with a view which prevailed at that time, the tabernacle was removed from its central position in the Sanctuary, and the Blessed Sacrament was reserved on the wooden side altar, already mentioned, which stood at the top of the left-hand side aisle.

In more recent times both clergy and people decided that the Blessed Sacrament should be returned to its appropriate and central position in the Sanctuary. The tabernacle rests, at present, on a wooden plinth. This is only temporary. It is intended that, in due course, it will be replaced by a stone plinth, but the funding for this is currently unavailable.