The Diocese of Trenton Celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass

General Questions on the Extraordinary Form
The Solemn High Mass
The Solemn High Pontifical Mass
Priest Facing the Altar (Ad Orientem)
Sacred Silence and Active Participation
The Asperges Me (Sprinkling Rite)
Holy Communion
Wasn't Mass always celebrated facing the people in Rome?

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, even before the Second Vatican Council, had an unusual design which made it impractical to face the apse (the dome underneath where the altar is located) while celebrating Mass. First, St. Peter's was built facing West. So, one had to turn to the doors of the church in order to face east. (Which makes Mass said on the main altar versus populum and ad orientem.) Second, in order for the altar to be directly above the tomb of St. Peter, it had to be built free standing and there no room in the front of it to say Mass facing the apse because of the confessio which is an open area above St. Peter's tomb. However, the congregation in the ancient church would still face the same direction as the priest while he celebrated Mass. In other words, they would be facing east away from the altar. So, even though the priest would be facing the people, the emphasis was still on facing a common direction in prayer. Even today, there are plenty of side altars in these basilicas where Mass can only be celebrated ad orientem.