The re -arrangements to the sanctuary of St Marys Cathedral in Sydney pose a number of questions and challenges concerning both the modern and ancient form of the Roman Rite.
Overall I think that the renovations gave a good result. Gone is the temporary wooden table which was planted in the sanctuary in Cardnial Gilroy's time about 1970, which you can see on the Picture Australia website.
The Altar first rainsed some controversy back in in November 2006, when the plans were first announced. The New Liturgical Movement reported that the new Altar was not going to be able to be used for ad-orientem celebration because of the raising of it on steps at the back of it. This would have gone against good practice as Abp Elliot in his excellent Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite recommends that the Altar be arranged suitable for celebration in either direction. Unfortunately the pictures of what was proposed were deleted.
It seems that the design was revised, and the Altar is able to be used for celebration in either versus-populum or ad-orientem forms. If there is a future Pontifical Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form, either this Altar can be used or the old High Altar. Personally I prefer that the new Altar be used for Extraordinary Form celebrations as the High Altar, in my opinion is too far away from the congregation. The old High Altar is also surprisingly small, which helps to make it disappear into the reredos. This does not preclude the old High Altar being once more used for celebration, but it may be more approapriate for small celebrations where the congregation and schola could fit into the choir stalls. (Alternatively one of the side Altars such as the magnificent St Patricks's Altar could be used).
Here is a very old photo which I found in an architectural website of the High Altar in its origianl form.
Btw gone also is the cardinal's comfy armchair whihc has been superseded by an elegant gothic throne.