The sanctuary of St. Peter Church is filled with many artistic features which lend to the beauty of the church and its ceremonies.
A baldacchino is an ornamental structure resembling a canopy used especially over an altar. Such structures have been used in churches for centuries and originally began as cloth canopies. Over time, these canopies evolved into permanent architectural features. The baldacchino at St. Peter Church is located over the back altar and tabernacle. It is a metal structure plated in gold and decorated with geometric designs on the sides and grapes around the top. At the very top of the baldacchino is a silver dove representing the Holy Spirit. A red cloth is draped behind the grate of the baldacchino, providing an appropriate backdrop for the Crucifix suspended from the baldacchino.
Back Altar and Tabernacle
When St. Peter Church was first built before the Second Vatican Council, the back altar was the only altar in the sanctuary and served as the focal point of the church. It is constructed out of Italian marble and inlaid with multiple mosaics. The tabernacle is located in the center of this altar. The tabernacle is also constructed of marble with a gold plated door decorated with images of the Holy Eucharist. The interior of the tabernacle is decorated with embroidered designs symbolizing the Eucharist.
The main altar was added following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council when changes to the Roman Missal required the altar be situated such that the priest could more easily face the people. It is constructed of wood and metal. The simplicity of its shape more closely resembles the type of table which would have been used by early Christians in their offering of the Eucharist. In the space between the legs of the altar, a Chi Rho can be seen made out of metal. This ancient symbol combines the first two letters of the Greek word "Christos" and is one of the earliest symbols of Jesus. The main altar is often covered in altar cloths in the appropriate liturgical colors.
An ambo, sometimes called a pulplit, is a raised platform resembling a lectern from which the Word of God is proclaimed. The ambo is located on the left side of the sanctuary. It is constructed of marble and gold plated metal and decorated with a mosaic of a candle representing Jesus, the Light of the World. It is also often covered in cloths representing the liturgical season.
For millennia, candles have been used in sacred spaces to create an atmosphere of reverence and to set such spaces apart from the secular world. At St. Peter Church, candles can be found flanking the tabernacle, main altar and ambo. Flanking the back altar are two gold plated candelbaras, each containing seven candles, which are used on special occasions such as weddings, Christmas and Easter. Additionally, the sanctuary contains a sanctuary lamp. This is a red candle which signifies the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle in the form of the Holy Eucharist.
When the present St. Peter Church was built, it was still customary to receive the Holy Eucharist while kneeling at the communion rail. While this is no longer the practice, St. Peter Church retains a beautiful marble communion rail. This communion rail has three gated openings with bronze gates. While the communion rail is no longer used and the gates are never closed, the communion rail does serve to set the sanctuary apart from the rest of the church and remind us that this is a sacred place.