Friday, September 11, 2009

Query: Unum ex Septem Altar

In several Roman churches, from SSma Trinità to St Peter's itself, I've observed the mysterious inscription VNVM EX VII ALTAR.

What does it mean?

It appears above some altars, but not others in the same church...

I take it it doesn't mean "one ex-Vatican II altar" for sale!

(It seems distinct from that other familiar superscription, <<Altare privilegiatum>>, meaning a privileged altar at which, formerly, a plenary indulgence for a soul in purgatory could be gained by having a Mass offered up.)


An answer? From Wikipedia: "Another curiosity are the "Unum ex septem" signs at some chapels. It is said that if one prays looking at these signs one would obtain a five-year forgiveness for one's sins, and seven years if one prays during the patron saint's day."

This sounds a bit mangled in the telling...

1 comment:

Joshua said...


Apparently, an altar marked out with the words "Unum ex septem altaribus" is one of seven such privileged altars in a church, the visiting of each which – if one devoutly visit all seven – once was accounted as equivalent to making the famed pilgrimage to the Seven Churches of Rome, and gained for one the same indulgence.

I found this out via a website which gave a reference to this very post of mine, before going on to provide the above, better, answer (which I paraphrase from the French).