Before the Second Vatican Council, the normal way for a Catholic to receive the Eucharist was for him to kneel at an altar rail at the front the church and receive on the tongue. Altar rails were sometimes plain, sometimes very ornate – but they were a predictable part of many Catholic churches.
Today, however, an altar rail is a rare site. Most were removed in the years following the Second Vatican Council.
Whether you think that was a good thing or a bad thing, here are pictures of 17 churches with beautiful altar rails. You can click on any image to view it full size. When information on the name and location of the church is known, it is included in the caption.