Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The marble altar of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Virginia

Since 1868, this elaborate marble altar has graced the church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Virginia.  The text below details the dedication of the altar.

The altar-is erected on a slab of Willunga slate 4 feet by 12, and 2 inches thick, with a foundation of five feet of solid masonry, well concreted. The base is of white Italian marble, which supports four pedestals or pillars of Irish black and red marble, surmounted with caps of alabaster, which support three arches that form the front of the altar. The table, which is in one slab 3 feet by 10 1/2, a foot thick, beautifully polished, and weighing nearly one ton, is of white Italian marble. The back is all of beautifully pained English marble of various colours. The tabernacle, which stands on the table, is two feet by two and a half, and is of coloured marble. A strong course of white Italian marble finishes the first cornice, which is six feet from the base of the altar. Then follows seven recesses or arches, supported by 10 pedestals of black and red marble, exquisitely polished, the caps and bases of which are all alabaster, supporting two piers of black and white English. The top cornice is finished in Italian, freestone projecting six inches over quoins and columns, and is ten feet from the base of the altar. The weight of the altar is five tons, the height and width 12 feet, and the depth from the front of the table to the back three feet nine inches.

The cost of this was £390, including the mouldings in tile sanctuary, which is in keeping with the style of the altar. Mr McMullen, of Adelaide, put the altar together.  The altar arrived by the ship Yatala. The Catholic ladies of Virginia waited on the Vicar-General the Very Rev. J. Smyth, and asked him to send home for plans, which he did, and two were sent out by the agent for the South Australian Diocese, the Very Dr. Heptonstall, of Blackmore Park, England and the one now erected was selected.  It was made by one of the first-class marble manufacturers in London, and it was put together in the studio before it was shipped. The chancel or sanctuary in which it is erected is sixteen feet in the clear.

The dedication of the alter took place on September 20th, 1868, the Very Rev. Vicar-General officiating.  At 11 o'clock the ceremony commenced by the choir chanting " O Immaculati" according to the rubrics of the Catholic Church. The altar was then solemnly dedicated, and the chancel opened by the Vicar-General, who commenced Mass immediately afterwards, and at the finishing of the last Gospel, preached an eloquent and impressive sermon, taking his text from the Hebrews, ch. xiii., v. 10—"We have an altar whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle.'

The altar was beautifully decorated with very costly vases and flowers, and on the marble canopy stood a very large statue of the Madonna and Child, which had been given as a present by Michael Hewitt, of Penfield, and on either side stood two magnificent marble vases. Mr. Hewitt has also made a present of six massive silver candlesticks, which cost in the whole fifteen guineas, and are in admirable keeping with the style of the altar. The Vicar-General has also made a present of a handsome marble Credence table. Miss Ward, of Emerald-hill Melbourne, has sent to the Secretary two guineas to purchase something appropriate in tile shape of ornamentation for the altar, and many other presents have been made, including some large and exquisite bunches of flowers which had been given by the Misses Forrestall, and many other very valuable presents are promised and forthcoming.

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