Saint Joseph’s :: Album :: Q & A

The latin inscription above the altar at Saint Mary and Saint Modwen's Church, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

Why Do We Have Latin Inscriptions?

We often see Latin in our churches - especially older ones. Saint Joseph’s is no exception. So why do we have them if most Catholics don’t understand Latin?

Languages change. Look, for example, at the English of Shakespeare. You don’t even have to go back that far though. Watch a British film from the 1960’s or 1970’s and listen out for words like ‘kidder’ (friend or mate) and ‘clobber’ (clothes). The effect this kind of change has had on the Church’s liturgy is significant. The sequence is roughly the following:

These inscriptions then, are little connections with the countless Christians who have gone before us, some of whom would have understood the words even though they couldn’t read or write. These connections are important.

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