I was again parsing my weekly sources and came across a very unusual piece. The note said, "Church Tabernacle" for sale. The title wasn't odd it was just what followed in the conversation that turned out to be something totally different. So you never really know. I called the number a few times with no response and finally late in the afternoon I finally got a hold of someone. The voice on the other end said yes, I have a church tabernacle for sale. I said okay great, have any pictures or any information for me to go off of so I can see its value and maybe help you sell this piece. He said, I have a few and within hours I had my first look at what he had for sale. I was a little shocked to say the least, it was a 15ft high altar set up in his yard with fireworks bursting off all the corners and exploding. Unusual to say the least I thought to myself. Anyway, I called the number back and said sir, you have a altar not a tabernacle. Its worth a little bit of money let me help you sell it. So he reluctantly agreed. Some time in the next few weeks I got a call from Italy requesting an altar. In Italy they can't afford to make altars, and they are not allowed to buy altars from closed churches. So they import rather than make because its so much cheaper. I told them about this altar and they bought it on the spot. It made its way from an old Minnesota barn to monks in Italy. The monks pain stakingly restored the altar to its former glory and are now using it. Yes its a good day when you can put a beautiful hand crafted altar back in use. From a midwestern barn by a corn field to a big monastery thousands of miles away. Thats a good day.
Several years ago I was tracking down an altar I had only heard about and it was one of those legendary finds. Its almost like chasing a ghost. I got a email from a gentleman in Iowa that said he had his grandfathers altar, the very altar in which he got married. The story sounded good but what some people think and altar is and what an altar is are two different things. I went through the usual what else do you have, know of anything else hiding anywhere else? I said to the voice on the other end of the line and he said well we do have some more things from the church but we are not sure if we want to sell them. I said, I am here, just let me know when you think about it. I told him I need photos of that altar so I can determine a value. I was expecting a table or kneeler or something else that wasn't an altar but what I found was a gorgeous plaster altar about 15ft x 15ft. It was almost like finding that Indian motorcycle stuffed in the rafters or buried in the ground. I look at the pictures, it was covered in dust, thick grimy and just out of control mayhem of layers of dirt. But it was a good altar and in decent condition considering how long it has been kept in storage. The family saved this altar, it was originally donated by these men's grandfather over a 100 years ago. Their grandfather was married in front of it and they wanted to save it, even though they had no place for it. They wanted it. Most altars meet their demise at the hands of a sledge hammer or careless remodelers who find no value in then history or artifact itself. But this one still has some life left in it. Its still for sale but I know sometime, someday someone will be married in front of it again. Yes, it is in a corn crib in the middle of nowhere, alone in field.
I was parsing my usual avenues to find religious articles when I stumbled across a confessional. "Well, thats an usual place for a confessional" I thought to myself." A design firm in San Francisco had picked up a confessional to use as decoration in a customers home. They imported it from France 5 years earlier and it never sold. I went into my usual banter with my follow up questions, "Do you have anything else religious?" Well, we have this checkout counter which is an old altar I believe," the voice on other end said. I told them to send me photos and let me work on it. They agreed and soon we found a buyer in Ohio for a beautiful mid 1850s hand carved Gothic Altar and rereads. It was an amazing find with great people behind it all. I think this business is the world's biggest treasure hunt sometimes but it sure does take a keen sense of direction and patience to convince people that what they have is worth selling and we can find a new home in a church for it. Stay tuned for more articles as time progresses.
A passionate person dedicated to picking the greatest religious items lost to time.