This reflects one of the myths of the liturgical movement of the last four decades. Klaus Gamber, The Mass of the Roman Rite (title may not be exact) is the most thorough study of this question. He argues that the issue in the ancient chuch had nothing to do with "toward the people" or "away from the people." The celebrant always faced east--that was the fixed, firm principle. Most churches were oriented to the East, so, in most cases, the celebrant was facing, like the people, toward the east--all facing the same direction, toward Christ, to the Son of Righteousness etc. with all that symbolism.
Those few churches that were oriented (hardly an appropriate word here) to the west, posed a problem. The priest had to face East even if the people were not facing East. Gamber argues that these are what the references to "versus populum" refer to.
To my knowledge, though Gamber has been denounced as a tradtionalist, he has not been refuted on his research on this point. Joseph Ratzinger summarizes Gamber in his recent book, _The Spirit of the Liturgy_.
The rubrics of the 1970 Roman Missal assume that the priest will be facing the same direction as the people because they say at some points that he should turn and face the people. Incidentally, many of these "turning points" were also in the rubrics of the Roman Missal of Pius V (the "Tridentine" Mass).
I imagine Jungmann may be responsible for the widespread idea that sometime during the Middle Ages, alas, the priest turned his back on people and the Mass ceased to be a popular celebration and became a clerical affair. This is the general tone of Jungmann others of his era. Eamon Duffy has challenged him on a number of points of scholarship, pointing out how Jungmann used modern criteria of "participation" rather than medieval criteria for what constitutes "popular participation." This was in an address to the Society for Catholic Liturgy, published in their journal, _Antiphon_ vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 3-12 (approximately 1997 or 1998).
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Some of us were discussing an issue this am that we could not resolve: when
the celebrant at Mass turned away from the congregation to face the
wall/apse. Some thought it was in the Carolingian period, accompanying a
rise in the sense of awe and fear in the presence of God, so that the priest
becomes chief suppliant and go between; others placed the turn in the 13th
century perhaps associated with the heightened devotion to the Eucharist and
the "secrecy" that would dictate its confection being hidden from the
congregation. What is the real answer?