Detail from Religion, Charles Sprague Pearce
(1896). Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson
Building, Washington, D.C.
The ancient Altar of Pergamon, reconstructed
at the Pergamon museum, Berlin.
The Opferstein or Sacrifice Rock at Maria
Taferl, Austria. It was used by the ancient
Celts to make sacrifices upon and is now loc-
ated in the plaza of the basilica there.
An altar is any structure upon which offer-
ings such as sacrifices and votive offerings
are made for religious purposes, or some oth-
er sacred place where ceremonies take place.
Altars are usually found at a shrines, and
they can be located in temples, churches and
other places of worship. Today they are used
particularly in the religions of Buddhism,
Hinduism, Shinto, Taoism, as well as Chris-
tianity, LaVeyan Satanism, Thelema, Neopa-
ganism, and in Ceremonial magic. Many his-
torical faiths also made use of them, includ-
ing Greek paganism and Norse paganism.
In the Hebrew Bible
The word "altar"
appears twenty-four times in the New Testa-
ment. Significantly, Hebrews 13:10 spoke of
Christians having an altar of which those who
follow the Jewish liturgy could not partake, a
reference to the eternal, once-for all sacrifice
of Jesus Christ, thus fulfilling the sacrificial
system of Judaism. In early and later Catholic
theology, the Eucharist 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 also called an altar.
Altars occupy a prominent place in the
sanctuaries of many churches, especially
those belonging to the ancient Christian tra-
ditions, such as the Roman Catholic, Anglic-
an, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and
Assyrian Churches. They are also found in
many Protestant worship places. It plays a
central role in the celebration of the Euchar-
ist. A priest (or minister in Protestant circles)
celebrates at the altar, on which the bread
and the wine are placed.
The area around the altar