Keys to the Past

Glossary

Altar

An altar is a small structure at which religious ceremonies are performed. Roman altars were stone with an inscription to a god and some ornamentation. These were often painted. It is believed that small sacrifices or offerings took place on them. Many have been found along Hadrian's Wall in temples connected with forts, whilst a few have been found in remote shrines.
Medieval Christian altars were often in the form of large stone table-like structures. They usually have a small cross in each corner to show that they have been blessed. In churches and chapels they usually stand at the east end of the church, sometimes in a separate area called the chancel.
E.g. Roman altars at Carrawburgh Mithraeum replicas - but in real temple (Northumberland), similarly the Stanhope altar is a replica (County Durham). Others are in various museums. A Medieval example has been re-used as the front to a garderobe chute at the Lord's Mount, Berwick-upon-Tweed, (Northumberland).

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