13) through 16) The Side Altars
The original plans for the interior of the church showed only two side altars, Our Lady and Saint Joseph. The two additional altars, Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Peter Julian Eymard, on the east walls of the transepts, were constructed in the 1920s. Although these four altars are of considerably less ornate design compared to the high altar, they are in keeping with the style of the latter.
The altars of Our Lady and Saint Joseph are almost identical. Rising from the grades at the rear of the white marble altar mensa, four Corinthian columns in the front and five smaller columns in a semicircular arrangement support a partitioned half-dome of gold mosaic. The columns are of Breccia Violetta marble and the tops of the altars are adorned with crosses and decorative urns.
The statue at the altar of the Blessed Virgin depicts Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, a title created by Saint Peter Julian Eymard. The Virgin Mary holds in her left arm the infant Christ who presents the Eucharist to the world while her right hand is raised in awe and reverence. The statue was sculptured in Carrara marble by Alberto Galli at the Vatican Studios in 1913.
Because exposition of the Blessed Sacrament takes place daily, the reserved Eucharist is kept in the tabernacle at Our Lady’s Altar. For this reason, the tabernacle door is covered with a veil and a lamp burns perpetually at the altar. Since it is the Virgin Mary who gave Jesus to the world, there is symbolic congruity in the fact that the Eucharist is given to God’s people from Our Lady’s Altar.
The statue at the Altar of Saint Joseph is also of Carrara marble and is believed to be of the same provenance as the statue of Our Lady. In a very subtle fashion, the infant Jesus points to Saint Joseph, while Joseph, with his left hand, simultaneously holds a stem of lilies and points to his foster son.
The altars in the north and south transepts are constructed mainly of Chearupe Perla marble. The altar to the left of Our Lady’s Altar honors Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), a Franciscan saint whose popularity rivals that of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The altar to the right of Saint Joseph’s Altar contains the shrine of Saint Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868), the founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. Under the statue of Saint Peter Julian where the tabernacle is usually located, a specially designed receptacle encloses a reliquary containing the right arm humerus bone of the saint. The relic was brought from Paris to Saint Jean Baptiste by the Very Reverend Vincenzo Di Lorenzo, Consultor General of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation.