Altar

Altar

Overview


An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

s are made for religious purposes
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

. Altars are usually found at shrine
Shrine
A shrine is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated....

s, and they can be located in temple
Temple
A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. A templum constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word "template," a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out...

s, churches and other places of worship. Today they are used particularly in the religions of Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

, Taoism
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

, as well as Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, LaVeyan Satanism
LaVeyan Satanism
LaVeyan Satanism, often referred to simply as Satanism among most adherents, was founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey. Its teachings are based on individualism, self-control and "eye for an eye" morality. Drawing influences from the rituals and ceremonies of occultist Aleister Crowley and the...

, Thelema
Thelema
Thelema is a religious philosophy that was established, defined and developed by the early 20th century British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a religious experience that he had in Egypt in 1904...

, Neopaganism
Neopaganism
Neopaganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe...

, and in Ceremonial magic
Ceremonial magic
Ceremonial magic, also referred to as high magic and as learned magic, is a broad term used in the context of Hermeticism or Western esotericism to encompass a wide variety of long, elaborate, and complex rituals of magic. It is named as such because the works included are characterized by...

. Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 did so until the destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

. Many historical faiths also made use of them, including Greek and Norse
Norse paganism
Norse paganism is the religious traditions of the Norsemen, a Germanic people living in the Nordic countries. Norse paganism is therefore a subset of Germanic paganism, which was practiced in the lands inhabited by the Germanic tribes across most of Northern and Central Europe in the Viking Age...

 religion.


Altars in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 were typically made of earth or unwrought stone .
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Encyclopedia


An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

s are made for religious purposes
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

. Altars are usually found at shrine
Shrine
A shrine is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated....

s, and they can be located in temple
Temple
A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. A templum constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word "template," a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out...

s, churches and other places of worship. Today they are used particularly in the religions of Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

, Taoism
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

, as well as Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, LaVeyan Satanism
LaVeyan Satanism
LaVeyan Satanism, often referred to simply as Satanism among most adherents, was founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey. Its teachings are based on individualism, self-control and "eye for an eye" morality. Drawing influences from the rituals and ceremonies of occultist Aleister Crowley and the...

, Thelema
Thelema
Thelema is a religious philosophy that was established, defined and developed by the early 20th century British writer and ceremonial magician, Aleister Crowley. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a religious experience that he had in Egypt in 1904...

, Neopaganism
Neopaganism
Neopaganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe...

, and in Ceremonial magic
Ceremonial magic
Ceremonial magic, also referred to as high magic and as learned magic, is a broad term used in the context of Hermeticism or Western esotericism to encompass a wide variety of long, elaborate, and complex rituals of magic. It is named as such because the works included are characterized by...

. Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 did so until the destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

. Many historical faiths also made use of them, including Greek and Norse
Norse paganism
Norse paganism is the religious traditions of the Norsemen, a Germanic people living in the Nordic countries. Norse paganism is therefore a subset of Germanic paganism, which was practiced in the lands inhabited by the Germanic tribes across most of Northern and Central Europe in the Viking Age...

 religion.

In the Hebrew Bible



Altars in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 were typically made of earth or unwrought stone . Altars were generally erected in conspicuous places . The first altar recorded in the Hebrew Bible is that erected by Noah
Noah
Noah was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark...


. Altars were erected by Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

 , by Isaac
Isaac
Isaac as described in the Hebrew Bible, was the only son Abraham had with his wife Sarah, and was the father of Jacob and Esau. Isaac was one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites...

  , by Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

 , and by Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 , (Adonai-nissi).

After the theophany
Theophany
Theophany, from the Ancient Greek , meaning "appearance of God"), refers to the appearance of a deity to a human or other being, or to a divine disclosure....

 on Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai , also known as Mount Horeb, Mount Musa, Gabal Musa , Jabal Musa meaning "Moses' Mountain", is a mountain near Saint Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. A mountain called Mount Sinai is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus in the Torah and the Bible as well as the Quran...

, in the Tabernacle—and afterwards in the Temple—only two altars were used: the Altar of Burnt Offering, and the Altar of Incense.

Christianity



The word "altar", in Greek θυσιαστήριον (see: θυσία), appears twenty-four times in the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

. Significantly, Hebrews 13:10
shows Christians having an altar of which those who did not believe in Jesus could not partake, a reference to the eternal, once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, thus fulfilling the sacrificial laws of the Old Testament. In early and later Catholic theology, the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 is a re-presentation, in the literal sense of the one sacrifice being made "present again". Hence, the table upon which the Eucharistic meal (the Bread and the Wine) is eaten is also called an altar.

Altars occupy a prominent place in the sanctuaries
Sanctuary
A sanctuary is any place of safety. They may be categorized into human and non-human .- Religious sanctuary :A religious sanctuary can be a sacred place , or a consecrated area of a church or temple around its tabernacle or altar.- Sanctuary as a sacred place :#Sanctuary as a sacred place:#:In...

 of many churches, especially those belonging to the ancient Christian traditions, such as the Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

, Oriental Orthodox
Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy is the faith of those Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus. They rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon...

, Assyrian
Assyrian Church of the East
The Assyrian Church of the East, officially the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East ʻIttā Qaddishtā w-Shlikhāitā Qattoliqi d-Madnĕkhā d-Āturāyē), is a Syriac Church historically centered in Mesopotamia. It is one of the churches that claim continuity with the historical...

, Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, and Anglican Churches. They are also found in many Protestant worship places. It plays a central role in the celebration of the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

. A priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 (or minister in Protestant circles) celebrates at the altar, on which the bread and the wine are placed.

The area around the altar is seen as endowed with greater holiness, and is usually physically distinguished from the rest of the church, whether by a permanent structure such as an iconostasis
Iconostasis
In Eastern Christianity an iconostasis is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church...

, a rood screen
Rood screen
The rood screen is a common feature in late medieval church architecture. It is typically an ornate partition between the chancel and nave, of more or less open tracery constructed of wood, stone, or wrought iron...

 or altar rails
Altar rails
Altar rails are a set of railings, sometimes ornate and frequently of marble or wood, delimiting the chancel in a church, the part of the sanctuary that contains the altar. A gate at the centre divides the line into two parts. The sanctuary is a figure of heaven, into which entry is not guaranteed...

, by a curtain that can be closed at more solemn moments of the liturgy, as in the Armenian Apostolic Church
Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest National Church, is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, in establishing this church...

 and Armenian Catholic Church
Armenian Catholic Church
|- |The Armenian Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church sui juris in union with the other Eastern Rite, Oriental Rite and Latin Rite Catholics who accept the Bishop of Rome as spiritual leader of the Church. It is regulated by Eastern canon law...

, or simply by the general architectural layout. The altar is often on a higher elevation than the rest of the church. In Reformed
Reformed churches
The Reformed churches are a group of Protestant denominations characterized by Calvinist doctrines. They are descended from the Swiss Reformation inaugurated by Huldrych Zwingli but developed more coherently by Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger and especially John Calvin...

 and Anabaptist
Anabaptist
Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, and their direct descendants, particularly the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites....

 churches, a table, often called a "communion table", serves an analogous function. In some colloquial usage, the word "altar" is used to denote the altar rail also, although this usage is technically incorrect.

Churches generally have a single altar, although in the West, where concelebration had formerly fallen into disuse and priests always celebrated Mass individually, larger churches have had one or more side chapels, each with its own altar. The main altar was also referred to as the "high altar". Since the revival of concelebration in the West, the Roman Missal
Roman Missal
The Roman Missal is the liturgical book that contains the texts and rubrics for the celebration of the Mass in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.-Situation before the Council of Trent:...

 recommends that in new churches there should be only one altar, "which in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church." But most existing Western churches, whether Roman Catholic or Anglican, may have a high altar in the main body of the church, with one or more adjoining chapels, each with its own altar, at which the Eucharist may be celebrated on weekdays.

Architecturally, there are two types of altars: those that are attached to the eastern wall of the chancel, and those that are free-standing and can be walked around, for instance when incensing the altar.


In the earliest days of the Church, the Eucharist appears to have been celebrated on portable altars set up for the purpose. Some historians hold that, during the persecutions, the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 was celebrated among the tombs in the Catacombs of Rome
Catacombs of Rome
The Catacombs of Rome are ancient catacombs, underground burial places under or near Rome, Italy, of which there are at least forty, some discovered only in recent decades. Though most famous for Christian burials, either in separate catacombs or mixed together, they began in the 2nd century, much...

, using the sarcophagi (see sarcophagus
Sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

) of martyrs as altars on which to celebrate. Other historians dispute this, but it is thought to be the origin of the tradition of placing relics beneath the altar.

When Christianity was legalized under Constantine the Great and Licinius
Licinius
Licinius I , was Roman Emperor from 308 to 324. Co-author of the Edict of Milan that granted official toleration to Christians in the Roman Empire, for the majority of his reign he was the rival of Constantine I...

, formal church buildings were built in great numbers, normally with free-standing altars in the middle of the sanctuary, which in all the earliest churches built in Rome was at the west end of the church. "When Christians in fourth-century Rome could first freely begin to build churches, they customarily located the sanctuary towards the west end of the building in imitation of the sanctuary of the Jerusalem Temple. Although in the days of the Jerusalem Temple the High Priest indeed faced east when sacrificing on Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur , also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue...

, the sanctuary within which he stood was located at the western end of the Temple. The Christian replication of the layout and the orientation of the Jerusalem Temple helped to dramatize the eschatological meaning attached to the sacrificial death of Jesus the High Priest in the Epistle to the Hebrews." The ministers (bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

, priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

s, deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

s, subdeacon
Subdeacon
-Subdeacons in the Orthodox Church:A subdeacon or hypodeacon is the highest of the minor orders of clergy in the Orthodox Church. This order is higher than the reader and lower than the deacon.-Canonical Discipline:...

s, acolyte
Acolyte
In many Christian denominations, an acolyte is anyone who performs ceremonial duties such as lighting altar candles. In other Christian Churches, the term is more specifically used for one who wishes to attain clergyhood.-Etymology:...

s), celebrated the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 facing east, towards the entrance. Some hold that for the central part of the celebration the congregation faced the same way. After the sixth century the contrary orientation prevailed, with the entrance to the west and the altar at the east end. Then the ministers and congregation all faced east during the whole celebration; and in Western Europe altars began, in the Middle Ages, to be permanently placed against the east wall of the chancel.

In Western Christian churches



Most rubrics, even in books of the seventeenth century and later, such as the Pontificale Romanum
Pontifical
Pontifical may refer to the Roman Pontifical, a Roman Catholic liturgical book used by a bishop.When used as an adjective, Pontifical may be used to describe things related to the office of a bishop, such as the following:*Solemn Pontifical Mass...

, continued to envisage the altar as free-standing. The rite of the Dedication of the Church continued to presume that the officiating Bishop could circle the altar during the consecration of the church and its altar. Despite this, with the increase in the size and importance of the reredos
Reredos
thumb|300px|right|An altar and reredos from [[St. Josaphat's Roman Catholic Church|St. Josaphat Catholic Church]] in [[Detroit]], [[Michigan]]. This would be called a [[retable]] in many other languages and countries....

, most altars were built against the wall or barely separated from it.

In almost all cases, the eastward orientation for prayer was maintained, whether the altar was at the west end of the church, as in all the earliest churches in Rome, in which case, the priest celebrating Mass faced the congregation and the church entrance, or whether it was at the east end of the church, in which case the priest faced the eastern apse and had his back to the congregation. This diversity was recognized in the rubrics of the Roman Missal
Roman Missal
The Roman Missal is the liturgical book that contains the texts and rubrics for the celebration of the Mass in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.-Situation before the Council of Trent:...

 from the 1604 typical edition of Pope Clement VIII
Pope Clement VIII
Pope Clement VIII , born Ippolito Aldobrandini, was Pope from 30 January 1592 to 3 March 1605.-Cardinal:...

 to the 1962 edition of Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII
-Papal election:Following the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958, Roncalli was elected Pope, to his great surprise. He had even arrived in the Vatican with a return train ticket to Venice. Many had considered Giovanni Battista Montini, Archbishop of Milan, a possible candidate, but, although archbishop...

: "Si altare sit ad orientem, versus populum …"

The present rules regarding the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite liturgy declare a free-standing main altar to be "desirable wherever possible."
Similarly, in the Anglican Communion, the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

 assumed an altar fixed against the wall, until Prayer Book revision in the twentieth century removed language which assumed any particular form of altar.


As well as altars in the structural sense, it became customary in the West to have what in Latin were referred to as altaria portatilia (portable altars), more commonly referred to in English as "altar stone
Altar stone
An altar stone is a piece of natural stone containing relics in a cavity and intended to serve as the essential part of an altar for the celebration of Mass in the Latin Church. Consecration by a bishop of the same rite was required...

s". When travelling, a priest could take one with him and place it on an ordinary table for saying Mass. They were also inserted into the centre of structural altars especially those made of wood. In that case, it was the altar stone that was considered liturgically to be the altar. The Pontificale Romanum contained a rite for blessing at the same time several of these altar stones. In the East the antimension
Antimension
The Antimins, , is one of the most important furnishings of the altar in many Eastern Christian liturgical traditions. It is a rectangular piece of cloth, either linen or silk, typically decorated with representations of the Descent of Christ from the Cross, the four Evangelists, and inscriptions...

 served and continues to serve the same purpose. In the West, the obligation to use one for the celebration of Mass has not been encouraged.

The term "movable altar" or "portable altar" is now used of a full-scale structural altar, with or without an inserted altar stone, that can in fact be moved.

Such altars are found in Roman Catholic churches awaiting restructuring from an arrangement in which a priest celebrated Mass at a remote high altar, usually facing away from them, to one in which he is closer to the congregation and generally facing them. Both Catholic and Protestant churches use them to celebrate the Eucharist in places other than a church or chapel (such as outdoors or in an auditorium). In those Protestant churches in which the focus of worship is not on the Eucharist, which may be celebrated rarely, and in churches which want to make use of both a fixed and free-standing altar at different services, they are not only movable but are in fact occasionally moved. Churches that have adhered to the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 have favoured as altars free-standing wooden tables placed in the quire away from the east wall and the high altar, and without any altar stone.

Roman Catholic churches


The Eastern Catholic Churches each follow their own traditions, which in general correspond to those of similar Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 or Oriental Orthodox
Oriental Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy is the faith of those Eastern Christian Churches that recognize only three ecumenical councils — the First Council of Nicaea, the First Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus. They rejected the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Chalcedon...

 Churches. The rules indicated here are those of the Latin Church
Latin Church
The Latin Church is the largest particular church within the Catholic Church. It is a particular church not on the level of the local particular churches known as dioceses or eparchies, but on the level of autonomous ritual churches, of which there are 23, the remaining 22 of which are Eastern...

.

The Latin Church distinguishes between fixed altars (those attached to the floor) and movable altars (those that can be displaced), and states: "It is desirable that in every church there be a fixed altar, since this more clearly and permanently signifies Christ Jesus, the Living Stone . In other places set aside for sacred celebrations, the altar may be movable."

A fixed altar should in general be topped by a slab of natural stone, thus conforming to tradition and to the significance attributed to the altar, but in many places dignified, well-crafted solid wood is permitted; the supports or base of a fixed altar may be of any dignified solid material. A movable altar may be of any noble solid material suitable for liturgical use.

The liturgical norms state:
It is fitting that the tradition of the Roman liturgy should be preserved of placing relics of martyrs or other saints beneath the altar. However, the following should be noted:
a) Relics intended for deposition should be of such a size that they can be recognized as parts of human bodies. Hence excessively small relics of one or more saints must not be deposited.
b) The greatest care must be taken to determine whether relics intended for deposition are authentic. It is better for an altar to be dedicated without relics than to have relics of doubtful credibility placed beneath it.
c) A reliquary must not be placed on the altar or in the table of the altar but beneath the table of the altar, as the design of the altar may allow.


This last norm explicitly excludes the practice customary in recent centuries of inserting relics into a specially created cavity within the table of an altar or altar stone
Altar stone
An altar stone is a piece of natural stone containing relics in a cavity and intended to serve as the essential part of an altar for the celebration of Mass in the Latin Church. Consecration by a bishop of the same rite was required...

. Placing of relics even in the base of a movable altar is also excluded.

"In building new churches, it is preferable for a single altar to be erected, one that in the gathering of the faithful will signify the one Christ and the one Eucharist of the Church. In already existing churches, however, when the old altar is so positioned that it makes the people's participation difficult but cannot be moved without damage to artistic value, another fixed altar, skillfully made and properly dedicated, should be erected and the sacred rites celebrated on it alone. In order that the attention of the faithful not be distracted from the new altar the old altar should not be decorated in any special way."

The altar, fixed or movable, should as a rule be separate from the wall so as to make it easy to walk around it and to celebrate Mass at it facing the people. It should be positioned so as to be the natural centre of attention of the whole congregation.

The altar should be covered by at least one white cloth, and nothing else should be placed upon the altar table other than what is required for the liturgical celebration. Candlesticks and a crucifix
Altar crucifix
An Altar Crucifix or Altar Cross is a cross placed upon an altar, and is the principal ornament of the altar.- History :The first appearances of a cross upon the altar occurred approximately in the 6th century, although it remained unusual for several centuries, and even discouraged...

, when required, can be either on the altar or near it, and it is desirable that the crucifix remain even outside of liturgical celebrations.

Anglican churches


Altars in the Anglican Communion vary widely. At the time of the Reformation, altars were fixed against the east end of the church, and the priests would celebrate the Mass standing at the front of the altar. Beginning with the rubric
Rubric
A rubric is a word or section of text which is traditionally written or printed in red ink to highlight it. The word derives from the , meaning red ochre or red chalk, and originates in Medieval illuminated manuscripts from the 13th century or earlier...

s of the Second Prayer Book of Edward VI published in 1552, and through the 1662 Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

 (which prevailed for almost 300 years), the priest is directed to stand "at the north syde of the Table [altar]." This was variously interpreted over the years to mean the north side of the front of a fixed altar, the north end of a fixed altar (i.e., facing south), the north side of a free-standing altar (presumably facing those intending to receive the Elements who would be sitting in the quire stalls opposite), or at the north end of a free-standing altar placed lengthwise in the chancel, facing a congregation seated in the nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

.

Often, where a celebrant chose to situate himself was meant to convey his churchmanship (that is, more Reformed or more Catholic). The use of candles or tabernacles
Church tabernacle
A tabernacle is the fixed, locked box in which, in some Christian churches, the Eucharist is "reserved" . A less obvious container, set into the wall, is called an aumbry....

 were banned by canon law
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

, with the only appointed adornment being a white linen cloth.


Beginning with the Catholic Revival in the 19th century, the appearance of Anglican altars took a dramatic turn in many churches. Candles and, in some cases, tabernacles were reintroduced. In some churches two candles, on each end of the altar, were used; in other cases six - three on either side of a tabernacle, typically surmounted by a crucifix
Crucifix
A crucifix is an independent image of Jesus on the cross with a representation of Jesus' body, referred to in English as the corpus , as distinct from a cross with no body....

 or some other image of Christ.


In Anglican practice, conformity to a given standard depends on the ecclesiastical province
Ecclesiastical Province
An ecclesiastical province is a large jurisdiction of religious government, so named by analogy with a secular province, existing in certain hierarchical Christian churches, especially in the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches and in the Anglican Communion...

 and/or the liturgical sensibilities of a given parish. In the Parson's Handbook, an influential manual for priests popular in the early-to-mid-twentieth century, Percy Dearmer
Percy Dearmer
Percy Dearmer, was an English priest and liturgist best known as the author of The Parson's Handbook, a liturgical manual for Anglican clergy. A lifelong socialist, he was an early advocate of the public ministry of women and concerned with social justice...

 recommends the size of an altar be "as nearly as possible 3 ft. 3 in. high, and at least deep enough to take a corporal [the square of linen placed underneath the Communion vessels] 20 in. square with a foot or more to spare." He also recommends that the altar stand upon three steps for each of the three sacred ministers, and that it be decorated with a silk frontal in the seasonal
Liturgical year
The liturgical year, also known as the church year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches which determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read. Distinct liturgical colours may appear in...

 colour. In some cases, other manuals suggest that a stone be set in the top of wooden altars, in the belief that the custom be maintained of consecrating the bread and wine on a stone surface. In many other Anglican parishes, the custom is considerably less rigorous, especially in those parishes which use free-standing altars. Typically, these altars are made of wood, and may or may not have a solid front, which may or may not be ornamented. In many Anglican parishes, the use of frontals has persisted.

When altars are placed away from the wall of the chancel allowing a westward orientation, only two candles are placed on either end of it, since six would obscure the liturgical action, undermining the intent of a westward orientation (i.e., that it be visible to the congregation). In such an arrangement, a tabernacle may stand to one side of or behind the altar, or an aumbry
Aumbry
In the Middle Ages an aumbry was a cabinet in the wall of a Christian church or in the sacristy which was used to store chalices and other vessels, as well as for the reserved sacrament, the consecrated elements from the Eucharist. This latter use was infrequent in pre-Reformation churches,...

 may be used.

Sensibilities concerning the sanctity of the altar are widespread in Anglicanism. In some parishes, the notion that the surface of the altar should only be touched by those in holy orders
Holy Orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

 is maintained. In others, there is considerably less strictness. Nonetheless, the continued popularity of altar rails in Anglican church construction suggests that a sense of the sanctity of the altar and its surrounding area persists. In most cases, moreover, the practice of allowing only those items that have been blessed to be placed on the altar is maintained (that is, the linen cloth, candles, missal
Missal
A missal is a liturgical book containing all instructions and texts necessary for the celebration of Mass throughout the year.-History:Before the compilation of such books, several books were used when celebrating Mass...

, and the Eucharistic vessels).

Protestant Churches


A wide variety of altars exist in various Protestant denominations. Some Churches, such as Lutheran
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 and Methodist
Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

 will have altars very similar to Anglican or Catholic ones keeping with their more sacramental understanding of the Lord's Supper
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

. In Protestant churches from Reformed, Baptist, Congregational, and Non-denominational backgrounds, it is very common for the altar-like table to have on it only an open Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 and a pair of candlesticks; it is not referred to as an "altar" because they do not see Communion
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 as sacrificial in any way. Many of these groups use a very simple wooden table, known as a Communion Table
Communion table
A Communion table is used by many Protestant churches, particularly from Reformed, Baptist, Congregational, and non-denominational traditions, for the preparation of the Eucharist ....

, adorned perhaps with only a lengthwise linen cloth, again to avoid any suggestion of a sacrifice being offered. Such Communion Tables often bear the inscription: "Do This in Remembrance of Me", which they believe indicates Holy Communion as being a memorial rather than a sacrament. Such a table is normally not consecrated or blessed in any manner, and may be temporary, being moved into place only when there is a Communion Service. Most Protestant denominations have no altar or Communion Table at all, the sanctuary being dominated only by a large, centralized pulpit
Pulpit
Pulpit is a speakers' stand in a church. In many Christian churches, there are two speakers' stands at the front of the church. Typically, the one on the left is called the pulpit...

.

Some evangelical
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 churches practice what is referred to as an altar call
Altar call
An altar call is a practice in some evangelical churches in which those who wish to make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ are invited to come forward publicly. It is so named because the supplicants gather at the altar located at the front of the church building. In the Old Testament, an...

, whereby those who wish to make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ are invited to come forward publicly. It is so named because the supplicants gather at the altar located at the front of the church (however, the invitation is referred to as an "altar call", despite the fact that most Protestant denominations which have this practice do not have altars or Communion tables). Most altar calls occur at the end of the sermon
Sermon
A sermon is an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy. Sermons address a Biblical, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law or behavior within both past and present contexts...

. Those that come forward will usually be asked to recite a sinner's prayer
Sinner's prayer
A sinner's prayer is an evangelical term referring to any prayer of repentance, spoken or read by individuals who feel convicted of the presence of sin in their life and desire to form or renew a personal relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ. It is not intended as liturgical like a...

, which, in the Protestant understanding, if truly heart-felt indicates that they are now "saved". They may also be offered religious literature, counselling or other assistance. Many times it is said that those who come forth are going to "be saved
Salvation
Within religion salvation is the phenomenon of being saved from the undesirable condition of bondage or suffering experienced by the psyche or soul that has arisen as a result of unskillful or immoral actions generically referred to as sins. Salvation may also be called "deliverance" or...

". This is a ritual in which the supplicant makes a prayer of penitence (asking for his sins to be forgiven) and faith (called in Protestantism "accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior").

Altar calls may also invite those who are already fully members of the Christian community to come forward for specific purposes other than conversion; for example, to pray for some need, to rededicate their lives after a lapse, or to receive a particular blessing (such as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit) or if they are called to certain tasks such as missionary work.
Altars in Lutheran
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 churches are often similar to those in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. Lutherans believe that the altar represents Christ and should only be used to consecrate and distribute the Eucharist. Lutheran altars are commonly made out of granite, but other materials are also used. A crucifix is to be put above the altar. Sometimes relic
Relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

s are also placed around the altar.

Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic (Byzantine)


"Altar" has a meaning in the Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 and Eastern Catholic churches that varies with context. Its most common usage does not denote the table itself, but the area surrounding it; that is to say, the entire sanctuary
Sanctuary
A sanctuary is any place of safety. They may be categorized into human and non-human .- Religious sanctuary :A religious sanctuary can be a sacred place , or a consecrated area of a church or temple around its tabernacle or altar.- Sanctuary as a sacred place :#Sanctuary as a sacred place:#:In...

. This includes both the area behind the iconostasis
Iconostasis
In Eastern Christianity an iconostasis is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church...

, and the soleas
Soleas
The soleas is an extension of the sanctuary platform in an Eastern Orthodox temple . The soleas projects beyond the iconostasis, forming a narrow walkway running the full length of the iconostasis....

 (the elevated projection in front of the iconostasis), and the ambo
Ambon (liturgy)
The Ambon or Ambo is a projection coming out from the soleas in an Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic church. The ambon stands directly in front of the Holy Doors...

. When one enters the sanctuary, one is said to be "going into the altar". The altar table itself may be referred to as either the Holy Table or the Throne (Prestól). This section will describe the Holy Table, not the sanctuary.

For both Orthodox and Eastern Catholics, the Holy Table (altar) is normally free-standing, although in very small sanctuaries it might be placed flush against the back wall for reasons of space. They are typically about one meter high, and although they may be made of stone they are generally built out of wood. The exact dimensions may vary, but it is generally square in plan
Floor plan
In architecture and building engineering, a floor plan, or floorplan, is a diagram, usually to scale, showing a view from above of the relationships between rooms, spaces and other physical features at one level of a structure....

 and in reasonable proportion to the size of the sanctuary. It has five legs: one at each corner plus a central pillar for supporting the relics which are placed in it at its consecration
Consecration
Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups...

 (if, however, the consecration was not performed by a bishop, but by a priest whom he delegated for that purpose, relics are not placed in the Holy Table). A plain linen
Linen
Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labor-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather....

 covering (Greek: Katasarkion, Slavonic: Strachítsa) is bound to the Holy Table with cords; this cover is never removed after the altar is consecrated, and is considered to be the "baptismal garment" of the altar. The linen covering symbolizes the winding sheet
Epitaphios (liturgical)
The Epitaphios is an icon, today most often found as a large cloth, embroidered and often richly adorned, which is used during the services of Great Friday and Great Saturday in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow...

 in which the body of Christ was wrapped when he was laid in the tomb. Since the altar is never seen uncovered thereafter, the table tends to be constructed more with sturdiness than aesthetics in mind. Above this first cover is a second ornamented altar cloth
Altar cloth
An ' is used by various religious groups to cover an altar. Christianity, ancient Judaism, and Buddhism are among the world religions that use altar cloths....

 (Indítia), often in a brocade of a liturgical color that may change with the ecclesiastical season
Liturgical year
The liturgical year, also known as the church year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches which determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read. Distinct liturgical colours may appear in...

. This outer covering usually comes all the way to the floor and represents the glory of God's Throne
Throne
A throne is the official chair or seat upon which a monarch is seated on state or ceremonial occasions. "Throne" in an abstract sense can also refer to the monarchy or the Crown itself, an instance of metonymy, and is also used in many expressions such as "the power behind the...

. In many churches it is the custom for a dust cover to be placed on the Holy Table between services. This is often a simple red cloth, though it may be made of richer stuff. Sometimes it covers only the Gospel Book or the front half of the Holy Table, but it may be large enough to cover the entire Holy Table and everything on it, including candlesticks and the seven-branch candelabra.
Atop the altar is the tabernacle
Church tabernacle
A tabernacle is the fixed, locked box in which, in some Christian churches, the Eucharist is "reserved" . A less obvious container, set into the wall, is called an aumbry....

 (Kovtchég), a miniature shrine sometimes built in the form of a church, inside of which is a small ark containing the Reserved sacrament
Reserved sacrament
During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the second part of the Mass, the elements of bread and wine are considered, in some branches of Christian practice, to have been transubstantiated into the veritable Body and Blood of Jesus Christ...

 for use in communing the sick. Also kept on the altar is the Gospel Book
Gospel Book
The Gospel Book, Evangelion, or Book of the Gospels is a codex or bound volume containing one or more of the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament...

. Under the Gospel is kept the antimension
Antimension
The Antimins, , is one of the most important furnishings of the altar in many Eastern Christian liturgical traditions. It is a rectangular piece of cloth, either linen or silk, typically decorated with representations of the Descent of Christ from the Cross, the four Evangelists, and inscriptions...

, a silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

en cloth imprinted with an icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

 of Christ being prepared for burial, which has a relic
Relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

 sewn into it and bears the signature of the bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

. Another, simpler cloth, the ilitón, is wrapped around the antimension to protect it, and symbolizes the "napkin" that was tied around the face of Jesus when he was laid in the tomb (forming a companion to the strachitsa). The Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term...

 must be served on an antimension even if the altar has been consecrated and contains relics. When not in use, the antimension is left in place in the center of the Holy Table and is not removed except for necessity.

The Holy Table may only be touched by ordained members of the higher clergy (bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s, priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

s and deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

s), and nothing which is not itself consecrated or an object of veneration should be placed on it. Objects may also be placed on the altar as part of the process for setting them aside for sacred use. For example, icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

s are usually blessed by laying them on the Holy Table for a period of time or for a certain number of Divine Liturgies before sprinkling them with holy water
Holy water
Holy water is water that, in Catholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and some other churches, has been sanctified by a priest for the purpose of baptism, the blessing of persons, places, and objects; or as a means of repelling evil.The use for baptism and...

, and placing them where they will be venerated
Veneration
Veneration , or veneration of saints, is a special act of honoring a saint: an angel, or a dead person who has been identified by a church committee as singular in the traditions of the religion. It is practiced by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic, and Eastern Catholic Churches...

. The Epitaphios
Epitaphios (liturgical)
The Epitaphios is an icon, today most often found as a large cloth, embroidered and often richly adorned, which is used during the services of Great Friday and Great Saturday in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow...

 on Good Friday
Good Friday
Good Friday , is a religious holiday observed primarily by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of...

, and the Cross
Cross
A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two lines or bars perpendicular to each other, dividing one or two of the lines in half. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally; if they run obliquely, the design is technically termed a saltire, although the arms of a saltire need not meet...

 on the Feasts of the Cross, are also placed on the Holy Table before they are taken to the center of the church to be venerated by the faithful.

In place of the outer covering, some altars have a permanent solid cover which may be highly ornamented, richly carved, or even plated in precious metals. A smaller brocade cover is used on top of this if it is desired that the altar decoration reflect the liturgical season.
The Holy Table is used as the place of offering in the celebration of the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

, where bread and wine are offered to God the Father
God the Father
God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

 and the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 is invoked to make his Son Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 present in the Gifts. It is also the place where the presiding clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

 stand at any service, even where no Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 is being celebrated and no offering is made other than prayer
Prayer
Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

. When the priest reads the Gospel during Matins
Matins
Matins is the early morning or night prayer service in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox liturgies of the canonical hours. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations to describe morning services.The name "Matins" originally referred to the morning office also...

 (or All-Night Vigil
All-Night Vigil
The All-Night Vigil , Opus 37, is an a cappella choral composition by Sergei Rachmaninoff,written and premiered in 1915. It consists of settings of texts taken from the Russian Orthodox All-night vigil ceremony. It has been praised as Rachmaninoff's finest achievement and "the greatest musical...

) on Sunday, he reads it standing in front of the Holy Table, because it represents the Tomb of Christ, and the Gospel lessons for Sunday Matins are always one of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus
Resurrection appearances of Jesus
The major Resurrection appearances of Jesus in the Canonical gospels are reported to have occurred after his death, burial and resurrection, but prior to his Ascension. Among these primary sources, most scholars believe First Corinthians was written first, authored by Paul of Tarsus along with...

.

On the northern side of the sanctuary stands another, smaller altar, known as the Table of Oblation (Prothesis or Zhértvennik) at which the Liturgy of Preparation
Liturgy of Preparation
The Liturgy of Preparation, also Prothesis or Proskomedia , is the name given in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Byzantine-rite Eastern Catholic Churches to the act of preparing the bread and wine for the Eucharist...

 takes place. On it the bread and wine are prepared before the Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term...

. The Prothesis symbolizes the cave of Bethlehem
Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

 and also the Anointing stone at which the Body of Christ
Body of Christ
In Christian theology, the term Body of Christ has two separate connotations: it may refer to Jesus's statement about the Eucharist at the Last Supper that "This is my body" in , or the explicit usage of the term by the Apostle Paul in to refer to the Christian Church.Although in general usage the...

 was prepared after the Deposition from the Cross. The Table of Oblation is also blessed, sprinkled with holy water
Holy water
Holy water is water that, in Catholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and some other churches, has been sanctified by a priest for the purpose of baptism, the blessing of persons, places, and objects; or as a means of repelling evil.The use for baptism and...

 and vested at the consecration of a church, but there are no relics placed in it. Nothing other than the sacred vessels, veil
Veil
A veil is an article of clothing, worn almost exclusively by women, that is intended to cover some part of the head or face.One view is that as a religious item, it is intended to show honor to an object or space...

s, etc. which are used in the Liturgy of Preparation may be placed on the Table of Oblation. The Epitaphios and Cross are also placed on the Table of Oblation before the priest and deacon solemnly transfer them to the Holy Table. In addition to the higher clergy, subdeacon
Subdeacon
-Subdeacons in the Orthodox Church:A subdeacon or hypodeacon is the highest of the minor orders of clergy in the Orthodox Church. This order is higher than the reader and lower than the deacon.-Canonical Discipline:...

s are permitted to touch the Table of Oblation, but no one of lesser rank may do so. The Table of Oblation is the place where the deacon will consume the remaining Gifts (Body and Blood of Christ) after the Divine Liturgy and perform the ablutions.

Armenian Apostolic


In the Armenian Apostolic Church
Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest National Church, is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, in establishing this church...

 the altar is placed against the eastern wall of the church, often in an apse
Apse
In architecture, the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome...

. The shape of the altar is usually rectangular, similar to Latin altars, but is unusual in that it will normally have several steps on top of the table, on which are placed the tabernacle
Church tabernacle
A tabernacle is the fixed, locked box in which, in some Christian churches, the Eucharist is "reserved" . A less obvious container, set into the wall, is called an aumbry....

, candles, ceremonial fans, a cross, and the Gospel Book
Gospel Book
The Gospel Book, Evangelion, or Book of the Gospels is a codex or bound volume containing one or more of the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament...

.

War altar


A war altar was a mobile altar on which Mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 was celebrated before a battle. The ultimate example is the carroccio
Carroccio
A Carroccio was a four-wheeled war altar, mounting a large vexillum standard, drawn by oxen, used by the medieval republics of Italy. It was a rectangular platform on which the standard of the city and an altar were erected; priests held services on the altar before the battle, and the trumpeters...

 of the medieval Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 city states, which was a four-wheeled mobile shrine pulled by ox
Ox
An ox , also known as a bullock in Australia, New Zealand and India, is a bovine trained as a draft animal. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals more tractable...

en and sporting a flagpole and a bell. The carroccio also served as the army standard.

Altar stone
Altar stone
An altar stone is a piece of natural stone containing relics in a cavity and intended to serve as the essential part of an altar for the celebration of Mass in the Latin Church. Consecration by a bishop of the same rite was required...

s were used by army chaplains of the Latin Church
Latin Church
The Latin Church is the largest particular church within the Catholic Church. It is a particular church not on the level of the local particular churches known as dioceses or eparchies, but on the level of autonomous ritual churches, of which there are 23, the remaining 22 of which are Eastern...

 in the period leading up to the 20th century.

Hinduism



In Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, altars generally contain pictures or statues of gods and goddesses. Large, ornate altars are found in Hindu temple
Hindu temple
A Mandir, Devalayam, Devasthanam, or a Hindu temple is a place of worship for followers of Hinduism...

s while smaller altars are found in homes and sometimes also in Hindu-run shops and restaurants. The word for temple is mandir (san
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

: मन्दिर), the altar (and that which contains it, even an alcove or a small cabinet) as hypostatised temple.

In South Indian temples, often each god will have His or Her own shrine, each contained in a minitature house (specifically, a mandir). These shrines are often scattered around the temple compound, with the three main ones being in the main area. The statue of the God (murti
Murti
In Hinduism, a murti , or murthi, or vigraha or pratima typically refers to an image which expresses a Divine Spirit . Meaning literally "embodiment", a murti is a representation of a divinity, made usually of stone, wood, or metal, which serves as a means through which a divinity may be worshiped...

) is placed on a stone pedestal in the shrine, and one or more lamps are hung in the shrine. There is usually a space to put the puja tray (tray with worship offerings). Directly outside the main shrine there will be a statue of the god's vahana
Vahana
Vāhana denotes the being, typically an animal or mythical entity, a particular deva is said to use as a vehicle. In this capacity, the vāhana is often called the deity's mount. Upon the partnership between the deva and his vāhana is woven much iconography and mythology...

 or vehicle. The shrines have curtains hung over the entrances, and wooden doors which are shut when the Deities are sleeping. Some South Indian temples have one main altar, with several statues placed upon it.
North Indian temples generally have one main altar at the front of the temple room. In some temples, the front of the room is separated with walls and several altars are placed in the alcoves. The statues on the altars are usually in pairs, each god with his consort (Radha-Krishna, Sita-Rama, Shiva-Parvati). However, some gods, such as Ganesha and Hanuman, are placed alone. Ritual items such as flowers or lamps may be placed on the altar.

Home shrines can be as simple or as elaborate as the householder can afford. Large, ornate shrines can be purchased in India and countries with large Hindu minorities, like Malaysia and Singapore. They are usually made of wood and have tiled floors for statues to be placed upon. Pictures may be hung on the walls of the shrine. The top of the shrine may have a series of levels, like a gopuram
Gopuram
A Gopuram or Gopura, is a monumental tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of any temple, especially in Southern India. This forms a prominent feature of Koils, Hindu temples of the Dravidian style. They are topped by the kalasam, a bulbous stone finial...

 tower on a temple. Each Hindu altar will have at least one oil lamp
Oil lamp
An oil lamp is an object used to produce light continuously for a period of time using an oil-based fuel source. The use of oil lamps began thousands of years ago and is continued to this day....

 and may contain a tray with puja equipment as well. Hindus with large houses will set aside one room as their puja room, with the altar at one end of it. Some South Indians also place a shrine with pictures of their departed relatives on the right side of the room, and make offerings to them before making offerings to the gods.

Taoism



Taoist altars are erected to honor traditional deities and the spirits of ancestors. Taoist altars may be erected in temples or in private homes. Strict traditions describe the items offered and the ritual involved in the temples, but folk custom in the homes is much freer.

Nearly all forms of Chinese traditional religion involve baibai (拜拜)--bowing towards an altar, with a stick of incense in one's hand. (Some schools prescribe the use of three sticks of incense in the hand at one time. ) This may be done at home, or in a temple, or outdoors; by an ordinary person, or a professional (such as a Daoshi
Daoshi
Daoshi refers to a priest in Taoism. According to legend, these Taoist recluses would practice alchemy and austerity in the mountains, with the aim of becoming xian, or immortal beings...

道士); and the altar may feature any number of deities or ancestral tablets. Baibai is usually done in accordance with certain dates of the lunar/solar calendar (see Chinese calendar
Chinese calendar
The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, incorporating elements of a lunar calendar with those of a solar calendar. It is not exclusive to China, but followed by many other Asian cultures as well...

).

At certain dates, food may be set out as a sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

 to the gods and/or spirits of the departed. (See, for example, Qingming Festival
Qingming Festival
The Qingming Festival , Pure Brightness Festival or Clear Bright Festival, Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day is a traditional Chinese festival on the 104th day after the winter solstice , usually occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar...

 and Ghost Festival
Ghost Festival
The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday celebrated by Chinese in many countries...

.) This may include slaughtered pigs and ducks, or fruit. Another form of sacrifice involves the burning of Hell Bank Notes
Hell Bank Notes
Hell bank notes are a form of joss paper printed to resemble legal tender bank notes. This faux money has been in use since at least the late 19th century and possibly much earlier. Early 20th century examples took the resemblance of minor commercial currency of the type issued by businesses across...

, on the assumption that images thus consumed by the fire will reappear—not as a mere image, but as the actual item—in the spirit world, and be available for the departed spirit to use. In Taoist folk religion, sometimes chickens, pigs feet, and pig heads are given as offerings. But in orthodox Daoist practice, offerings should essentially be incense, candles and vegetarian offerings.

Buddhism



In Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, a butsudan is an altar found in temples or homes. The butsudan is a wooden cabinet with doors that enclose and protect a religious image of the Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

 or the Bodhisattvas (typically in the form of a statue) or a mandala
Mandala
Maṇḍala is a Sanskrit word that means "circle". In the Buddhist and Hindu religious traditions their sacred art often takes a mandala form. The basic form of most Hindu and Buddhist mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point...

 scroll
Scroll
A scroll is a roll of parchment, papyrus, or paper, which has been drawn or written upon.Scroll may also refer to:*Scroll , the decoratively curved end of the pegbox of string instruments such as violins...

, installed in the highest place of honor and centered. The doors are opened to display the image during religious observances. A butsudan usually contains subsidiary religious items—called butsugu—such as candlesticks, incense burners, bells, and platforms for placing offerings such as fruit. Some buddhist sects place "ihai," memorial tablets for deceased relatives, within or near the butsudan. Butsudans are often decorated with flowers.

The shrine is placed in the temple or home as a place of worship to the Buddha, the Law of the Universe, etc. Scrolls (honzon) or statues are placed in the butsudan and prayed to morning and evening. Zen Buddhists also meditate
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

 before the butsudan.

The original design for the butsudan began in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, where people built altars the size of skyscrapers as an offering-place to the Buddha. When Buddhism came to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

, statues of the Buddha were placed on pedestals or platforms. The Chinese and Koreans built walls and doors around the statues to shield them from the weather
Weather
Weather is the state of the atmosphere, to the degree that it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. Most weather phenomena occur in the troposphere, just below the stratosphere. Weather refers, generally, to day-to-day temperature and precipitation activity, whereas climate...

. They could then safely offer their prayers, incense, etc. to the statue or scroll without it falling and breaking.

When the Japanese finally welcomed Buddhism after many years of Shintoism, they took in the religion along with the butsudan. As many new Buddhist sects came into being, the butsudan was placed in many temples. The Japanese took the plain walls and doors of the mainland shrines and elaborately embellished them, and the butsudan became the focal point of every temple. As time went on, people began installing butsudans into their homes. Butsudan are extremely expensive.

Shinto



In Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

, altars are found in shrines. Originating in ancient times, himorogi are temporarily erected sacred spaces or "altars" used as a locus of worship. A physical area is demarcated with branches of green bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

 or sakaki at the four corners, between which are strung sacred border rope
Rope
A rope is a length of fibres, twisted or braided together to improve strength for pulling and connecting. It has tensile strength but is too flexible to provide compressive strength...

s (shimenawa). In the center of the area a large branch of sakaki festooned with sacred emblems (hei) is erected as a yorishiro
Yorishiro
A in Shinto terminology is an object capable of attracting spirits called kami, thus giving them a physical space to occupy during religious ceremonies. Yorishiro are used during ceremonies to call the kami for worship. The word itself literally means approach substitute. Once a yorishiro...

, a physical representation of the presence of the kami
Kami
is the Japanese word for the spirits, natural forces, or essence in the Shinto faith. Although the word is sometimes translated as "god" or "deity", some Shinto scholars argue that such a translation can cause a misunderstanding of the term...

 and toward which rites of worship are performed.

In more elaborate cases, a himorogi may be constructed by placing a rough straw mat upon the ground, then erecting a ceremonial eight-legged stand (hakkyaku an) upon the mat and decorating the stand with a framework upon which are placed sacred border ropes and sacred border emblems. Finally the sakaki branch is erected in the center of this stand as the focus of worship.

Norse paganism


A basic altar, called a Hörgr was used for sacrifice in Norse paganism
Norse paganism
Norse paganism is the religious traditions of the Norsemen, a Germanic people living in the Nordic countries. Norse paganism is therefore a subset of Germanic paganism, which was practiced in the lands inhabited by the Germanic tribes across most of Northern and Central Europe in the Viking Age...

. The Hörgr was constructed of piled stones, possibly in a wood (harrow), and would be used in sacrifices and perhaps other ceremonies as well.

A possible use of the hörgr during a sacrifice would be to place upon it a bowl of the blood
Blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

 of an animal sacrificed to a Norse deity (e.g. a goat
Goat
The domestic goat is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over three hundred distinct breeds of...

 for Thor, a sow
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

 for Freyja, a boar
Boar
Wild boar, also wild pig, is a species of the pig genus Sus, part of the biological family Suidae. The species includes many subspecies. It is the wild ancestor of the domestic pig, an animal with which it freely hybridises...

 for Freyr), then dipping a bundle of fir twigs into it and sprinkling the participants with the blood. This would consecrate the attendees to the ceremony, such as a wedding.

Neo-Paganism


In Neo-Paganism there is a wide variety of ritual practice, running the gamut from a very eclectic Syncretism
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 to strict Polytheistic reconstructionism
Polytheistic reconstructionism
Polytheistic reconstructionism is an approach to Neopaganism first emerging in the late 1960s to early 1970s, and gathering momentum in the 1990s to 2000s...

. Many of these groups make use of altars. Some are constructed merely of rough-hewn or stacked stone, and some are made of fine wood or other finished material.

Asatru


In Nordic Neo-Pagan practice, altars may be set up in the home or in wooded areas in imitation of the Hörgr
Hörgr
A hörgr or hearg was a type of religious building or altar possibly consisting of a heap of stones, used in Norse paganism...

 of ancient times. They may be dedictated to Thor, Odin, or other Nordic deities.

Neo-druidism


Modern Neo-druidism
Neo-Druidism
Neo-Druidism or Neo-Druidry, commonly referred to as Druidism or Druidry by its adherents, is a form of modern spirituality or religion that generally promotes harmony and worship of nature, and respect for all beings, including the environment...

 may also make use of altars, often erected in grove
Grove (nature)
A grove is a small group of trees with minimal or no undergrowth, such as a sequoia grove, or a small orchard planted for the cultivation of fruits or nuts...

s. Though little is known of the specific religious beliefs and practices presided over by the ancient Druids, modern people who identify themselves as Druids are free to incorporate their imagination in developing ceremonies and the use of ritual objects in keeping with their belief system. The "Order of Common Worship" of the
Liturgy of the Druids (New Reformed Druids of North America) calls for a fire to be started "in or near the altar" and makes use of various objecs such as a chalice, staves, and a plant offering. If no altar is used, the objects may be placed on the ground.

High places



High places are elevated areas on which altars have been erected for worship in the belief that, as they were nearer heaven than the plains and valleys, they are more favourable places for prayer. High places were prevalent in almost all ancient cultures as centers of cultic worship.

High places in Israelite (Hebrew: Bamah, or Bama) or Canaanite culture were open-air shrines, usually erected on an elevated site. Prior to the conquest of Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 by the Israelites in the 12th–11th century BC, the high places served as shrines of the Canaanite fertility deities, the Baal
Baal
Baʿal is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord" that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu...

s (Lords) and the Asherot
Asherah
Asherah , in Semitic mythology, is a Semitic mother goddess, who appears in a number of ancient sources including Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu and in Hittite as Asherdu or Ashertu or Aserdu or Asertu...

 (Semitic goddesses). In addition to an altar, matzevot (stone pillars representing the presence of the divine) were erected.

The practice of worship on these spots became frequent among the Hebrews, though after the temple was built it was forbidden. Such worship was with difficulty abolished, though denounced time after time by the prophets as an affront to God. A closely related example is a "backyard" altar, so to speak. Before there was a set temple and an established altar people built their own altars. After the temple was built use of these altars was forbidden. Unlike the previous case, "backyard" altar worship was quickly eradicated.

See also

  • Altar candle
    Altar candle
    Altar candles are candles set on or near altars for religious ceremonies. Various denominations have regulations or traditions regarding the number and type of candles used, and when they are lit or extinguished during the services....

  • Altar cards
    Altar cards
    Altar cards are three cards placed on the altar during the Tridentine Mass. They contain certain prayers that the priest must say during the Mass, and their only purpose is as a memory aid, although they are usually very beautifully decorated.-History:...

  • Altar Crucifix
    Altar crucifix
    An Altar Crucifix or Altar Cross is a cross placed upon an altar, and is the principal ornament of the altar.- History :The first appearances of a cross upon the altar occurred approximately in the 6th century, although it remained unusual for several centuries, and even discouraged...

  • Altars in Latin America
    Altars in Latin America
    The history of altars in Latin America is complex and is often deemed paradoxical; as its original purpose was for the worshipping of gods and human sacrifice. The altar transitioned from being a symbol of non-Christian worship to a worldwide symbol of Christianity.The history of the altar begins...

  • Altar rails
    Altar rails
    Altar rails are a set of railings, sometimes ornate and frequently of marble or wood, delimiting the chancel in a church, the part of the sanctuary that contains the altar. A gate at the centre divides the line into two parts. The sanctuary is a figure of heaven, into which entry is not guaranteed...

  • Altar stone
    Altar stone
    An altar stone is a piece of natural stone containing relics in a cavity and intended to serve as the essential part of an altar for the celebration of Mass in the Latin Church. Consecration by a bishop of the same rite was required...

  • Altarpiece
    Altarpiece
    An altarpiece is a picture or relief representing a religious subject and suspended in a frame behind the altar of a church. The altarpiece is often made up of two or more separate panels created using a technique known as panel painting. It is then called a diptych, triptych or polyptych for two,...

  • Analogion
    Analogion
    An Analogion is a lectern or slanted stand on which icons or the Gospel Book are placed for veneration by the faithful in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches...

  • Ara Pacis
    Ara Pacis
    The Ara Pacis Augustae is an altar to Peace, envisioned as a Roman goddess...

  • Back-choir
  • Carroccio
    Carroccio
    A Carroccio was a four-wheeled war altar, mounting a large vexillum standard, drawn by oxen, used by the medieval republics of Italy. It was a rectangular platform on which the standard of the city and an altar were erected; priests held services on the altar before the battle, and the trumpeters...

  • Cathedral diagram
    Cathedral diagram
    In Western ecclesiastical architecture, a cathedral diagram is a floor plan showing the sections of walls and piers, giving an idea of the profiles of their columns and ribbing. Light double lines in perimeter walls indicate glazed windows. Dashed lines show the ribs of the vaulting overhead...

  • Ciborium (architecture)
    Ciborium (architecture)
    In ecclesiastical architecture, a ciborium is a canopy or covering supported by columns, freestanding in the sanctuary, that stands over and covers the altar in a basilica or other church. It may also be known by the more general term of baldachin, though ciborium is often considered more correct...

  • Consecration
    Consecration
    Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Persons, places, or things can be consecrated, and the term is used in various ways by different groups...

  • Credence table
    Credence table
    A Credence table is a small side table in the sanctuary of a Christian church which is used in the celebration of the Eucharist. Etymology: from latin credens, -entis, believer)....

  • Iconostasis
    Iconostasis
    In Eastern Christianity an iconostasis is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church...

  • Predella
    Predella
    A predella is the platform or step on which an altar stands . In painting, the predella is the painting or sculpture along the frame at the bottom of an altarpiece...

  • Prothesis
    Prothesis (altar)
    The Prothesis is the place in the sanctuary in which the Liturgy of Preparation takes place in the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches....

  • Reredos
    Reredos
    thumb|300px|right|An altar and reredos from [[St. Josaphat's Roman Catholic Church|St. Josaphat Catholic Church]] in [[Detroit]], [[Michigan]]. This would be called a [[retable]] in many other languages and countries....

  • Sacrament
    Sacrament
    A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

  • Sacred architecture
  • Shrine
    Shrine
    A shrine is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated....


External links