Sacred Beauty

Florentine Altars of Repose

In 1988 the Holy See published Paschales Solemnitatis, a “Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts” which directs how parishes and religious Orders should prepare for the Triduum. The faithful are encouraged to visit seven churches on the night of Holy Thursday after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It Italy it is a venerable tradition and in Florence, the Catholic world’s art capital, REGINA Magazine’s Losana Boyd made the rounds of some of ‘La Citta Bella’s’ grandest churches to photograph their beautiful Altars of Repose. Text by Beverly De Soto Stevens.


Basilica di Santa Maria Novella: In the Mass on Holy Thursday two Hosts are consecrated; after the consumption of the first, the second Host is placed in a chalice, which is covered with a pall and inverted paten; over the whole is placed a white veil, tied with a ribbon. This remains on the corporal in the center of the altar till the end of Mass, when it is carried in solemn procession to the altar of repose, there to remain in the tabernacle or in an urn placed in a prominent position above the altar. – New Advent

Chiesa di San Firenze (San Filippo Neri): “AFTER THE MASS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER the faithful should be encouraged to spend a suitable period of time during the night in the church in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which has been solemnly reserved. Where appropriate, this prolonged Eucharistic adoration may be accompanied by the reading of some part of the Gospel of St. John (chapters 13-17). From midnight onwards, however, the adoration should be made without external solemnity, because the day of the Lord’s passion has begun.” – No 56, Paschales Solemnitatis

Il Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (il Duomo): “AFTER THE POST-COMMUNION PRAYER, THE PROCESSION FORMS, with the crucifix at its head. The Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by lighted candles and incense, is carried through the church to the place of reservation, to the singing of the hymn ‘Pange lingua’ or some other Eucharistic song. This rite of transfer of the Blessed Sacrament may not be carried out if the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion will not be celebrated in that same church on the following day.” No. 54, Paschales Solemnitatis

Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano: “FOR THE RESERVATION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, a place should be prepared and adorned in such a way as to be conducive to prayer and meditation, seriousness appropriate to the liturgy of these days is enjoined so that all abuses are avoided or suppressed. When the tabernacle is located in a chapel separated from the central part of the church, it is appropriate to prepare the place of repose and adoration there.” — No. 49, Paschales Solemnitatis

Basilica di Santissima Annunziata: THE DECORATION OF THE ALTAR OF REPOSE SHOULD BE SPECIAL. At least four or six candles or lamps, and preferably more, should burn around it and should be tastefully arranged with flowers, drapes, fine cloths, carpets and a judicious use of subdued electric lighting in order to create the necessary ambiance of silence and meditation.

Chiesa di San Carlo: THE ALTAR OF REPOSE NEED NOT BE A REAL ALTAR and is often a temporary structure. In some places it is customary to make the place of reposition resemble an altar while others prefer locating the tabernacle on a column to make it stand out more clearly.

Basilica di San Lorenzo: Holy Thursday is a day of exceptional devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the repository the center of the love and aspirations of the faithful. 


Sign up for REGINA's weekly newsletter

  1. You will usually hear from us about once a week, usually on Sunday. 
  2. At other times, we may send a special email. 

To subscribe, go here!