Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Altar (from the Latin altus, high), an erection made for sacrificial purposes, or for some other object. Altars were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and varied in size, shape, and material. Almost all nations have, at some period of their existence, made use of altars, the Mohammedans being an exception. The Christian Church adopted the use of the word, and in the early Christian churches for more than five centuries altars were of wood; stone was then introduced, and is now universal. A good example of the Gothic altar is the altar in the church of St. Elizabeth, at Marburg. In the Roman Catholic Church the altar occupies a much more important position than in the Church of England. Strictly speaking, indeed, there is no altar in the English Church; what is generally known as the altar being always referred to in the Prayer Book as "the holy table," the word "altar" being used only in the coronation service. In 1845 a judgment of the Court of Arches laid down the dictum that no altar might be erected in a church.