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OK, this article needs the addition of non-J/C material... —Ashley Y 03:01, 2005 May 13 (UTC)

Go for it. People write about what they know. If I knew anything about non-Christian altars I'd write something about them myself. Csernica 05:34, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
what does "need" mean? that is not neutral POV —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:35, 28 June 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I'm sorry, but I'm going to revert the wiki that was added here under Orthodox altars. We're talking about something that can fit into the palm of your hand, so it is in no sense of the word a piece of furniture. "Ark" is the correct term, corresponding theologically to the Ark of the Covenant (which was, of course, a chest, but it was also far larger) but since that page didn't seem a suitable link I left it at the disambiguation page. I think it should remain there until a relevant article is written, or perhaps the link should be removed entirely since it might necessitate nothing more than a dictdef. Csernica 05:32, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Non-Judaic and non-Christian altars[edit]

I agree, with the above --(the untiled section). There are Hindu Altars, Wiccan Altars, etc. Altars are used for sacrifice. Sacrifice in inherent to the definition of an altar. Even if it be a flower set upon an altar, it is given in sacrifice. An altar is a place of sacrifice. The modern world often confuses "altar" with "shrine." An altar does not represent a Divinity of various cultures. It is a concrete place for an offering, i.e. sacrifice. (talk) 16:19, 27 February 2014 (UTC)(formerly Crimson Peaceful Wolf).Reply[reply]

With what above? I'm afraid I'm reverting your change; it's not suitable for the intro since none of the groups described in the article would describe it in those terms.

I meant the untitled section above; but that's an old statement of mine. (formerly Crimson Peaceful Wolf) (talk) 16:19, 27 February 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Most altars are indeed used for sacrifice or offering these days. Structures called "altars" that are not used for this purpose have a different history. TCC (talk) (contribs) 08:41, 12 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

--The title of the page only specifies the general term "Altar", which must have a more well rounded definiton. It isn't specific enough to only include "Orthodox " or a specefic set of Altars. If you use a general term, you must be all-inclusive and include each definition of the term, even if you disagree with them. Otherwise the general word should be changed to become more specific. The title of the page is "Altars", not "Small Altars" or "Biblical Altars." -- If you read this article you will see that this Hindu altar is used in a variety of ways, not limited to sacrifice or offerings, though these aspects may be included.

Well, this is a continual problem we have in writing of other cultures. I'm extremely confident that for both Shintoism and Hinduism, "altar" is a translation of some native word, or of several native words that may have different shades of meaning. In other words, what you're calling a Shinto "altar" here may or may not be something which that religion conceives of in the same terms as that which is meant by the word in English. Ditto in Hinudism.
But "altar" has always meant a place of offering or sacrifice. The etymology is specifically Christian, from Latin "alta ara", or "high altar". "Ara" signified a platform for sacrifices; a typical small pre-Christian example is pictured at the top of the article. Alta ara means an elevated or especially prominent one, but in later usage was the main altar in a large Christian church. It's used to translate the Hebrew "mizbe'ah" since that has exactly the same meaning. Any other meaning of the word is a neologism or a re-definition. Of course, even now in Christian churches the altar is not used solely for offerings, but that's its primary purpose without which it would not exist. TCC (talk) (contribs) 21:22, 12 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

- As much as I enjoy reading about Christian and Catholic altars, this article is definitel biased. Added some common, easy to find and back-reference info on neo-pagan altars which should prove non-controversial. Please, someone add some stuff on Bhuddist altars - this is a disturbing lack.

I added a small section on altars from Norse Paganism. Revise as needed, of course. Finn zee Fox 23:13, 30 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Has enough info about non-Jewish and non-Christian altars been added now to remove the {{globalize}} tag? MishaPan 21:50, 1 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think that twenty one images of Christian altars, as opposed to a total of seven images of altars of any other faith past or present, is awfully slim. This article strikes me as extremely heavily slanted toward Christianity. (talk) 17:20, 20 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Freestanding altars[edit]

Recent edits have created an appearance of rupture at Vatican II. "Expansion of this practice in Roman Catholic churches after the Second Vatican Council, and many Anglican ones, beginning in the 1940s and 50s, was intended..." The contrast seems to be RC/V2 vs. Anglican/40s - giving the impression that the RC practice started at V2, an impression further enforced with the division of subsections. I don't think this was the case. The liturgical movement existed well before V2, and I know of RC churches built in the 40s with freestanding altars supposedly because of that. Also, many older churches did have a freestanding main altar that could be walked around, though (except perhaps in very ancient churches) not the centralized form common today. The "prior to V2" section misses this range of RC architecture and would take some work to correct. Or do I have the history wrong? (Also the Eastern Christian section has a good title, but then only mentions Orthodox; this will be an easy fix.) Gimmetrow 00:43, 20 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The editorial fixing I did was to emphasize the move to free-standing altars in Anglican Churches in the 40s and 50s. The earlier edit made it sound as if this development occurred post V2. I know nothing of what was authorized in the RCC when. Fishhead64 01:05, 20 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Neither you nor vaquero did this - it was already in the text, it just ended up a stronger contrast than I think there should be. The Roman basilicas have freestanding altars; many other old RC churches have a freestanding altar in an apse, much like Eastern churches (Orthodox or Catholic). I was reading the sentence as intending "both RC and Anglican expansion of this took place after V2, begining in the 40s" - which is probably fair if it refers to a central freestanding altar, rather than in an apse. That was probably rare in the RC except for ancient basilicas. Anyway, this article is going to need a serious rewrite to restore a sense of the historical range of architectures.Gimmetrow 01:47, 20 June 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Altar and Bimah[edit]

I removed the section on the Bimah in the synagogue. If someone wants to propvide and argument as to why it should be included, please make it, but a Bimah is a reading desk....a mere convenience for the reading of the Torah...there is no aspect of it that I can see that in any way makes it an altar and I think any orthodox Jew, and probably other Jewish folk, would be appalled at it being so equated. It would be like equating a lectern with a tabernacle for a Christian.HarvardOxon 08:58, 4 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree completely (I'm a Conservative Jew, so you're right about other Jewish folk). I recently did a Google search on "Jewish Altar" and found a disturbing number of photos of modern synagogues with that in their title and description, many of them in Wikimedia Commons. Someone needs to go through the synagogue photo descriptions in commons and change the word altar to bimah or ark (depending on the primary photo subject). Many of these photos are otherwise good and disserving of good descriptions. Douglas W. Jones (talk) 18:10, 11 May 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"In Christianity" organization[edit]

The organization of this article no longer makes any sense, and there is now lots of redundant information. A lot of what has been added under "Catholic and Orthodox altars" actually pertains to Catholic altars only -- but given that this section exists at all it ought to discuss only what is in common. The subject of Anglican altars is kind of a subset of Western Christian altars, but has diverged since the 16th Century so it doesn't really fit at all into the current arrangement.

I suggest the following outline:

  • Christianity
    Introductory material, as now
    • Altars in Christian churches
      Good as-is; overview in general terms. Shift discussion on early development to here. Fixed/portable discussion. Mention placement and orientation issues; explicate below.
      • Altars in Western Christian churches
        • Latin-rite Catholicism
        • Anglicanism
        • Lutheranism (if applicable)
      • Altars in Eastern Christian churches
        I'm not sure what subheads are needed here since I don't know whether some Eastern churches treat their altars differently from others. If not, good as-is unless some material is redundant
      • Communion Tables in non-liturgical Protestant churches
        The theological currents and historical developments that led to their use might be interesting, but represents a break from earlier use so requires own section, if not own article.

TCC (talk) (contribs) 02:25, 8 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This has gotten out of hand I think. The article was fine, but "Fishead" came in and (I think) gummed it all up by insisting on Anglican terminology, then told me to rewrite it if I didnt like it. So I tried to rewrite in such a way as to make it correct (which it was not) and keep Fishhead happy. Now this artcile is going to be five times as long. This is the problem with Wikipedia.HarvardOxon 02:41, 8 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Or maybe not. In a properly organized article, the redundant material ought to disappear. I'm not suggesting adding new material, just re-arranging what's already there, so it may actually end up a tad shorter. It's a bit of an editorial job, though.
One thing I'd really like to see is for someone very conversant with the topic to rewrite "Altars in the Hebrew Bible". It's largely drawn from Easton's, reflects their editorial POV, and the antiquated prose doesn't mesh well with the rest of the article. The section title seems off too. TCC (talk) (contribs) 02:49, 8 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Gummed it up"? Please, HarvardOxon, try to keep a cool head and assume good faith. I applaud your very thoughtful additions to the article, but agree with Csernica that the organisation was somewhat lacking in cohesion and clarity. I've removed some of the more generally applicable comments about altars to the introductory section on Altars in Christianity, and re-split the subheadings into Roman, Anglican, and Eastern sections. I hope this re-editing incorporates your commendable additions in the context of an improved structure. Fishhead64 06:11, 8 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Once again, No. You have screwed this up again. Portable does not mean fresstanding in the Catholic Church. I don't think it does in the Anglican Church either, but I know for sure the tow terms have nothing todo with each other in canon law. You keep going in and reversing or twisting around other people's work and making it incorect and inaccurate. I am not assuming "not good faith." I just think you don't know what you're talking about, and that's something else.HarvardOxon 06:42, 8 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

If there is any confusion, it is because there was a lack of clarity in the material with which I was working. I had delineated "fixed," "free-standing," and "portable" into three categories earlier, and you objected to that, saying that free-standing and portable were essentially the same things in the Roman view. Now you're saying something different. I don't wish to impose a view on something of which I know very little, but I do want there to be better organisation in the article. By all means, fix my screw up - but don't go recommitting your previous screw-up with regard to this. Fishhead64 06:52, 8 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

One again, wrong. Read what I wrote. I said to you in your page, on this page, and in the article, several times:

In Roman Catholic Canon Law, there is a distinction between fixed and portable. Fixed means fixed. It does NOT mean against the wall. It doesn't matter whether it is against the wall or not. READ WHAT I WROTE IN THE ARTICLE. It means fixed to the FLOOR. In Catrholic canon law, and alatar that moved from the wall did not lose its consecration, only one where the mesa and or its supports became loose from the floor.

Portabl;e means movable. Its a simple English word, for God's sake.

Freestanding altars may be fixed, if fixed to the floor, or protable, if movable. I don't fathom how this disticntion is so damned complicated. The problem, as I see it, is that you will not stop defining "fixed" qas attached to the wall. It never had anything to do with that as, in fact, most fixed altars wre actually separated by an inch or two from the wall.HarvardOxon 07:17, 8 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Ancient Greek altars[edit]

A section on this is needed; anyone feel confident in writing it? The Singing Badger 13:40, 13 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'll second that. More on burnt offerings on Greek and Roman altars, also more on the brick Vedic fire altars and fire altars of the Zoroastrians. Earrach (talk) 22:19, 24 April 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I think altar is the same thing which is called Mihrab in Islam and is of course a Persian loanword and its structure is from Persian architecture -> Zoroastrianism -> Mithraism. Mithra is Mihr in Middle and New Persian. Can somebody please tell me about it? If Mihrab is the same Altar then Christianity has probably taken it from Mithraism see this Mithraism#Christianity and Mithraism

No. It's not "of course" a Persian loanword; its etymology is in fact uncertain. Even assuming that's correct, it's not equivalent to a Christian altar which originated as a dinner table, and to which Latin religious terminology was only applied after the fact. The apse, the only structure in a Christian church that even remotely resembles a mihrab, was a common feature of Roman public architecture, which is where it originated.
The mihrab in a mithraeum was the niche itself and the location of the altar, not the altar itself, which was a pedestal.
It is at least equally likely that any common features between Christianity and Mithraism -- assuming one was an influence on the other, which is by no means proved -- are Mithraic borrowings from Christianity, and not the other way around as is often assumed. TCC (talk) (contribs) 07:10, 26 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks. I didn't mean altar is a Persian word but Mihrab. It's "of course" a Persian word. We have had it even in Middle Persian (pre-Islamic) and it has been used for the same structure as in Islam. Muslims don't want to accept it because it's bad to accept they have borrowed something from Zorostrianism. âb denotes structures having arch-shaped ceilings. we have also other words made with it in Persian: sardâb, garmâbe, âvaj which is the name of a city. Ok. I don't insist. Good luck.
Good luck with what? If you disagree so strongly with where the word comes from, go tell the folks at mihrab. All I know about it is what I read there, and that it is clearly not an altar. Otherwise I have no reason to care about it one way or the other. (And I know perfectly well what word you were talking about. That ought to have been clear from the context.) TCC (talk) (contribs) 22:09, 27 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Pleased with the progress[edit]

I must say I am now pleased with how this article is growing from when I originally read it. I enjoyed much reading about the variety of Christian altars, however now it incorporates other altars from other cultures as well. I understand that not every "altar" may be mentioned, but the article is becoming more sound. As far as Shinto, I only incorporated it, because it is seen as a place of worship in a sense. --Secondly, as far as sacrifice goes... some altars in certain cultures and belief systems may have historically been used as sacrifice, yet as those cultures and belief systems change we can see the use of the altar become symbolic rather than an actual place for genuine sacrfice. Also, in some cases it is difficult to tell whether the sacrfices that took place were real or symbolic in the first place.

  • I also suggest we remove links that are self-promotions as opposed to educational. In other words the link to the Wiccan site in the external links portion did not give this article credence as an educational tool. I have removed it, but just in case someone has a better idea of how to incorporate it, it is here: http: (ww-w)(dot)magickrituals(dot)com/altar(dot)html I myself have Wiccan ideologies, but yet I realize the difference between using this article to help people better understand a subject or using it for personal gain through self-promotion. Furthermore this link is merely of photographs which aren't described, and the link does not go immediately to the photos. Sorry, but I believe this is misuse of what could otherwise be a very educational tool. However, if the Wiccan is willing to incorporate the photographs and educate the public more about the usage of the types of Altars used by adding content to the Wiccan altar section this would be greatly appreciated.

Systematic Bias[edit]

The article is not as biased as it was previously yet, I doubt the globalization will be removed at this time, because if you look at the section link, yeah, the one by the globe, you will read that "Many editors contribute to Wikipedia because they see Wikipedia as progressing towards, though never reaching, an ideal state as a repository of human knowledge. The more idealistic may see Wikipedia as a vast discussion on what is true and what is not from a "neutral point of view" or "God's Eye View". The idea of a systemic bias is thus far more troubling than even widespread intentional vandalism. Vandalism can be readily identified and corrected. The existence of systemic bias means that not only are large segments of the world not participating in the discussion, but that there is a deep-rooted problem in the relationship of Wikipedia, its contributors and the world at large." This article was not vandalized, but it was originally lacking in an effort to expand in outside areas from what it claimed to be discussing. In fact since this article is so difficult, it will take an outstanding effort from anyone who is knowledgable in the filed of Altars and religious history to create a better article.

Marian altar[edit]

There are also marian altars in some of the more traditional liturgies. It would be interesting if we could have an entry on this. ADM (talk) 14:50, 17 June 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Throne and altar[edit]

There is a socio-political term known as throne and altar which expressed a certain kind of conservatism that is opposed to Church-State separation and the Republican form of government. It was often used in the 19th century by proponents of secularism who were intent on criticizing conservative Christians. It could perhaps deserve a stub because of its historical anti-revolutionary meaning. ADM (talk) 10:04, 15 September 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Too many images[edit]

In my opinion, this article has a few too many images. I think we should make a gallery at the bottom. Any thoughts? Shark96z (talk · contribs) 23:13, 23 May 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Orthodox altars and subdeacons[edit]

In at least some traditions, subdeacons are permitted to touch the altar and not just the table of oblation, since they must be able to place and remove things on it while serving the bishop. For instance, his miter rests on the altar when he's not wearing it, and in temples where there is no other place for them the trikirion and dikirion must be placed upon it as well. Also, when the bishop unvests after the Liturgy his vestments are place on the altar and the subdeacons need to be able to both lay them there and put them away afterward.

This according to Tikhon, the former OCA bishop of San Francisco, who had never been accused of liturgical innovation. Quite the opposite, in fact, when clergy found his insistence on observation of some traditions bothersome. (talk) 00:16, 14 April 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Can you cite a reliable source for this? Elizium23 (talk) 00:53, 14 April 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The current definition seems restrictive. Not all altars are structures. Not all altars are meant to have offerings placed upon them, and not all of that which are placed on altars are offerings. The tie-in with sacrifice is particularly unfortunate. What do folks think of this alternate wording?: Altars are surfaces on which everyday objects are given sacred meaning through ritual activity. fishhead64 (talk) 23:57, 22 April 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This proposal seems much too vague. Objects (everyday or not) can be given "sacred meaning" by being placed within a "magic circle" or on some other surface that is not an altar, even on someone's hand or head. Furthermore, isn't the association with sacrifice the reason why certain Christian denominations that have in their churches what others might see as an altar avoid calling it an altar and use "table" instead? And aren't all altars (and tables) structures, and aren't they more than just their surfaces? Esoglou (talk) 06:45, 23 April 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Home altars are a good example of places on which objects are placed which are not necessarily an offering. I will concur that designating a rock or a stump as an altar is unusual, but they do exist - and I have photographs from my travels to prove it. Perhaps "man-made or natural structure" would be more precise. fishhead64 (talk) 15:22, 23 April 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

No altar in "most Protestant denominations"?[edit]

"Most Protestant denominations have no altar or Communion Table at all, the sanctuary being dominated only by a large, centralized pulpit."
Really? Is that so? Is there any evidence or proof of "most" Protestant denominations having "no altar or Communion Table at all"?
The Protestant churches from the Reformed tradition call it a table, not an altar, but other than that, I cannot even think of ONE single Protestant church (and I have seen many!) that does not have either an altar or a table up in front. Please verify this sentence or delete it. --Anna C. (talk) 17:47, 19 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's incapable of verification: nobody knows the number of Protestant denominations, many of them tiny. I have therefore changed to "Some Protestant denominations ..." If the edit spoke about "Most Protestants", there would be some hope of checking. Esoglou (talk) 18:50, 19 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"Some" is certainly better than "most". Nonetheless, I would like proof of the existence of at least a few relevant Protestant denominations that have neither altar nor Communion table. I do not know of any. And it should be possible to verify that at least if this sentence is to remain in the article. --Anna C. (talk) 14:11, 22 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There is a footnote now linking to an article about an Irish church which includes the following sentence:
"There is no Communion Table and if there was one in the past it must have stood in the aisle or in the choir space at the side of the Pulpit."
O.k., we have one example now (though IMO a pretty's a pretty weak one, considering that even this church may have had one in former times). Does that justify such a sweeping general sentence in an encyclopedia? I am still very doubtful. I have seen hundreds of Protestant churches of different denominations, and I cannot remember a single one without an altar or communion table. --Anna C. (talk) 22:10, 5 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Think of one-building denominations, think of Protestant "televangelists", think of Pentecostalists. I have replaced the citation concerning the Irish church with a few that I hope you will find sufficient. Esoglou (talk) 08:09, 6 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The only link I found somewhat useful on this topic is here: It is perhaps, in my opinion, worth considering that some protestant denominations may make distinctions between the terms: "altar" vs. "communion table" vs. "pulpit" because in the function in which they are used. Some protestant churches that I have attended; A Seventh Day Adventist church in my area, e.g. do utilize one furniture item for more than one purpose... i.e. the altar could be used as the communion table as well. Others would "sanctify" or "set apart" those for specific purposes. And yes, Protestant denominations in the world are too many to number precisely. Here is a quote from a Wikipedia page: "...there are reported to be approximately 41,000Christian denominations (figure includes overlap between countries)... many of which cannot be verified to be significant, only those denominations with Wikipedia articles will be listed in order to ensure that all entries on this list are table and verifiable." -- quoted from: Is that supposed to say Christian Protestant Denominations, I wonder? --[Chad] (talk) 00:33, 10 February 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]


"Lutheran altars are commonly made out of granite"
I would like to see some verification of this very general statement.
I have seen brick, stone (many different kinds), wood, etc. etc. altars in Lutheran churches, and I don't think that there is any such rule.
Or does this sentence refer to the altars in any particular country? Then that would need to be specified. --Anna C. (talk) 21:57, 5 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

?Expansion or Too much?[edit]

I was one of the proponents for expansion. I was not the only one. Further my assumption was that this meant "limited expansion". I did not want to perpetuate the idea that every-thing that might be even thought about as being an altar be included in the article. While the article is better; I never wanted to suggest an "all-inclusive" description in detail in the first place. It would be impossible to list everything that might have been even thought about as being used as an altar anyway. The contention I had, was in the fact that the article was biased in the first place. I suggested to incorporate examples of "altars" from cultures outside of Christianity, whether that is the precise word they use{d} for the object or not.

The definition for "altar" according to: is as follows:

a raised place on which sacrifices and gifts are offered in some religions
a platform or table used as a center of worship in Christian ceremonies and services

The first definition does not make a distinctly "Christian" usage. The second one does. Therefore we could assume that according to at least this one dictionary that the modern {current} usage of the definition of the word is both Christian and Non-Christian is usage. Even with this distinction; I fear that the article may be becoming "too much." My proposition; as I am no longer editing this article... I have taken a backseat... is for those currently involved in the process to look at "major commonalities." The information on the Christian usages is excellent. I never suggested deleting any of it, by the way, which is what some people accused me of doing. Not everything that is considered to be an Altar in every context needs to be incorporated. Instead, I propose to examine more common usages. My reflection on the Shinto usage is that it was most distinctly a poor example... however I was using the examples and materials I had with me at the time. Signed, {formerly --crimsonpeacefulwolf...} (talk) 16:48, 19 November 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

First sentence[edit]

The first sentence was incoherent, since the addition of "and worship" -- it does not make sense to "make worship on an altar". I was inspired by the much clearer definition in SOED:

A raised structure, with a plane top, on which to place or sacrifice offerings to a deity. [...] the 'holy table' of the Eng. Prayer-book, which occupies the place of the altars removed after the Reformation.

The only problem I see with this is that the article includes "Buddhist altars", and Buddhism does not have any deities (AIUI). So I just moved out the "and worship" to an extension about the 'holy table'. I think this covers more or less all cases, because as pointed out, nonconformist churches (at least in England) do not have anything resembling an "altar", nor anything called an altar (whether it is empirically an altar or not, if there exists such a thing as an empirical test for altarhood). Imaginatorium (talk) 06:15, 10 June 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

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Grammar edits[edit]

@Wikiwikichecker: some of the grammar edits were prudential, and some were good corrections of spelling, but I firmly disagree that a liberal removal of commas constitutes a net improvement to the sentences. Most writing has too few commas, and a breathless run-on quality. Sentences should always be spoken out loud, to hear the punctuation, and determine where pauses and divisions are appropriate. Thank you. Elizium23 (talk) 04:21, 30 March 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]