Retable

Last updated
A simple shelf retable in Yorkshire St John's Church, Allerston - Interior - geograph.org.uk - 495774.jpg
A simple shelf retable in Yorkshire
On one strict definition, this French 17th-century construction is a retable rather than a reredos, as it is all one construction Eglise Saint-Ayoul Provins retable maitre-autel.jpg
On one strict definition, this French 17th-century construction is a retable rather than a reredos, as it is all one construction

A retable is a structure or element placed either on or immediately behind and above the altar or communion table [1] of a church. At the minimum it may be a simple shelf for candles behind an altar, but it can also be a large and elaborate structure. A retable which incorporates sculptures or painting is often referred to as an altarpiece.

Altar structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes

An altar is a structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are found at shrines, temples, churches and other places of worship. They are used particularly in Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism used such a structure until the destruction of the Second Temple. Many historical faiths also made use of them, including Roman, Greek and Norse religion.

Communion table

Communion table or Lord's table are terms used by many Protestant churches—particularly from Reformed, Baptist and low church Anglican and Methodist bodies—for the table used for preparation of Holy Communion. These churches do not use the term "altar" because they do not see Communion as sacrificial in any way.

Altarpiece Artwork (painting, sculpture or relief) behind the altar

An altarpiece is an artwork such as a painting, sculpture or relief representing a religious subject made for placing behind the altar of a Christian church. Though most commonly used for a single work of art such as a painting or sculpture, or a set of them, the word can also be used of the whole ensemble behind an altar, otherwise known as a reredos, including what is often an elaborate frame for the central image or images. Altarpieces were one of the most important products of Christian art especially from the late Middle Ages to the era of the Counter-Reformation.

According to the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus Online, "A 'retable' is distinct from a 'reredos'; while the reredos typically rises from ground level behind the altar, the retable is smaller, standing either on the back of the altar itself or on a pedestal behind it. Many altars have both a reredos and a retable." [2] This distinction is not always upheld in common use, and the terms are often confused or used as synonyms. In several foreign languages, such as French (also using 'retable'), the usage is different, usually equating the word with the English 'reredos' or 'altarpiece', and this often leads to confusion, and incorrect usage in translated texts. The Medieval Latin retrotabulum (modernized retabulum) was applied to an architectural feature set up at the back of an altar, and generally taking the form of a screen framing a picture, carved or sculptured work in wood or stone, or mosaic, or of a movable feature such as the Pala d'Oro in St Mark's Basilica, Venice, of gold, jewels and enamels. [1] The non-English word "retable" therefore often refers to what should in English be called a reredos. [1] The situation is further complicated by the frequent modern addition of free-standing altars in front of the old integrated altar, to allow the celebrant to face the congregation, or be closer to it.

Reredos altarpiece, or a screen or decoration behind the altar in a church

A reredos is a large altarpiece, a screen, or decoration placed behind the altar in a church. It often includes religious images.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Medieval Latin form of Latin used in the Middle Ages

Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in Roman Catholic Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In this region it served as the primary written language, though local languages were also written to varying degrees. Latin functioned as the main medium of scholarly exchange, as the liturgical language of the Church, and as the working language of science, literature, law, and administration.

Dossal' is another term that may overlap with both retable and reredos; today it usually means an altarpiece painting rising at the back of the altar to which it is attached, or a cloth usually hanging on the wall directly behind the altar.

Dossal

A Dossal, from French dos (back), is one of a number of terms for something rising from the back of a church altar. In modern usage it is generally restricted to, firstly, a cloth hanging or, secondly, a board, often carved or containing a painting, rising vertically from the back of the altar, to which it is attached. Retable and reredos are alternative terms for solid structures, as is altarpiece, all of them rather more commonly used today.

The cognate Spanish term, retablo , refers also to a reredos or retrotabulum, although in the specific context of Mexican folk art it may refer to any two-dimensional depiction (usually a framed painting) of a saint or other Christian religious figure, as contrasted with a bulto , a three-dimensional statue of same.

Retablo historic reredos in Spain, votive paintings of Mexican folk art

A retablo in Mexican folk art is a devotional painting, especially a small popular or folk art one using iconography derived from traditional Catholic church art. More generally retablo is also the Spanish term for a retable or reredos above an altar, whether a large altarpiece painting or an elaborate wooden structure with sculptures. Typically this includes painting, sculpture or a combination of the two, and an elaborate framework enclosing it. The Latin etymology of the Spanish word means "board behind". Aside from being found behind the altar, "similar ornamental structures are built and carved over facades and doorways", called overdoors.

The retable may hold the altar cross, mostly in Protestant churches, as well as candles, flowers and other things.

Related Research Articles

Aedicula small shrine in ancient Roman religion

In ancient Roman religion, an aedicula is a small shrine. The word aedicula is the diminutive of the Latin aedes, a temple building.

Relief Sculptural technique

Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term relief is from the Latin verb relevo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane. What is actually performed when a relief is cut in from a flat surface of stone or wood is a lowering of the field, leaving the unsculpted parts seemingly raised. The technique involves considerable chiselling away of the background, which is a time-consuming exercise. On the other hand, a relief saves forming the rear of a subject, and is less fragile and more securely fixed than a sculpture in the round, especially one of a standing figure where the ankles are a potential weak point, especially in stone. In other materials such as metal, clay, plaster stucco, ceramics or papier-mâché the form can be just added to or raised up from the background, and monumental bronze reliefs are made by casting.

Gothic art Style of Medieval art developed in Northern France

Gothic art was a style of medieval art that developed in Northern France out of Romanesque art in the 12th century AD, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, and much of Southern and Central Europe, never quite effacing more classical styles in Italy. In the late 14th century, the sophisticated court style of International Gothic developed, which continued to evolve until the late 15th century. In many areas, especially Germany, Late Gothic art continued well into the 16th century, before being subsumed into Renaissance art. Primary media in the Gothic period included sculpture, panel painting, stained glass, fresco and illuminated manuscripts. The easily recognizable shifts in architecture from Romanesque to Gothic, and Gothic to Renaissance styles, are typically used to define the periods in art in all media, although in many ways figurative art developed at a different pace.

Choir (architecture) part of a church

A choir, also sometimes called quire, is the area of a church or cathedral that provides seating for the clergy and church choir. It is in the western part of the chancel, between the nave and the sanctuary, which houses the altar and Church tabernacle. In larger medieval churches it contained choir-stalls, seating aligned with the side of the church, so at right-angles to the seating for the congregation in the nave. Smaller medieval churches may not have a choir in the architectural sense at all, and they are often lacking in churches built by all denominations after the Protestant Reformation, though the Gothic Revival revived them as a distinct feature.

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.

Andrea della Robbia Italian Renaissance sculptor, especially in ceramics

Andrea della Robbia was an Italian Renaissance sculptor, especially in ceramics.

<i>Assumption of the Virgin</i> (Titian) painting by Titian in the Frari

The Assumption of the Virgin or Frari Assumption is a large altarpiece panel painting in oils by the Italian Renaissance artist Titian, painted in 1515–18. It remains in the position it was designed for, on the high altar of the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari or Frari church in Venice. It is the largest altarpiece in the city, with the figures well over life-size, necessitated by the large church, with a considerable distance between the altar and the congregation.

Parish close

Parish close is a translation of the French term enclos paroissial. It refers to a number of locations in Brittany, mainly though not exclusively in the historic diocese of Léon, corresponding roughly to the northern half of the department of Finistère. These feature an elaborately decorated parish church surrounded by an entirely walled churchyard, and date from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Altar in the Catholic Church structure upon which the Eucharist is celebrated in a Catholic church

In a Catholic church, the altar is the structure upon which the Eucharist is celebrated.

Gilded woodcarving in Portugal

Gilded woodcarving in Portugal is, along with tile, one of the country's most original and rich artistic expressions. It is usually used in the interior decoration of churches and cathedrals and of noble halls in palaces and large public buildings. An impressive collection of altarpieces are found in Portuguese churches. Originating in the Gothic era, Portuguese gilded woodcarving assumed a nationalist character during the 17th century and reached its height in the reign of King D. João V. In the 19th century it lost its originality and began to disappear with the end of the revival era.

Jacques de Baerze Flemish sculptor

Jacques de Baerze was a Flemish sculptor in wood, two of whose major carved altarpieces survive in Dijon, now in France, then the capital of the Duchy of Burgundy.

Ciborium (architecture) canopy or covering that covers the altar in a church

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 for examples in churches. Early ciboria had curtains hanging from rods between the columns, so that the altar could be concealed from the congregation at points in the liturgy. Smaller examples may cover other objects in a church. In a very large church, a ciborium is an effective way of visually highlighting the altar, and emphasizing its importance. The altar and ciborium are often set upon a dais to raise it above the floor of the sanctuary.

The arts Human expression, usually influenced by culture

The arts refers to the theory and physical expression of creativity found in human societies and cultures. Major constituents of the arts include literature, performing arts, and visual arts.

<i>Saint Augustine Altarpiece</i> (Huguet) painting by Jaume Huguet

The Saint Augustine Altarpiece is a Catalan Gothic painting in egg tempera by Jaume Huguet and Pau Vergós made between 1462 and 1475. The long duration of the work was caused by financial reasons, and it is assumed that work was begun by Huguet and finished by other members of his workshop, in particular Pau Vergós. The altarpiece was commissioned by the guild of tanners to be placed on the altar of the Augustinian friary of Sant Agustí Vell in Barcelona, Spain. The panel measures 250 x 193 x 9.5 cm and has been in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona since 1927.

Winged altarpiece form of altarpiece

A winged altarpiece or winged retable is a special form of altarpiece, common in Central Europe, in which the fixed shrine or corpus can be enclosed by two (triptych), four (pentaptych) or more (polyptych) movable wings. The technical terms are derived from Ancient Greek: τρίς: trís or "triple"; πέντε: pénte or "five"; πολύς: polýs or "many"; and πτυχή: ptychē or "fold, layer". Because the winged altar can display different scenes on weekdays, Sundays or holidays, based on the motifs and type of decoration, it is also called a liturgical altar. An altarpiece is often mounted on the altar shrine, but more usually it has a carving. Above the retable may be found the crowning or superstructure, pinnacles and flowers of the cross. Relics can be housed below it, in a reliquary in the predella lying on the altar stone.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Retable". Encyclopædia Britannica . 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 201.
  2. Art & Architecture Thesaurus Online 'Retable'