Illustrated Architecture Dictionary .......... Illustrated Churches Glossary
Reredos / Altarpiece / Retable
Reredos, Holy Family Church
Reredos / Raredos
Altarpiece Retable Pronounced RARE i dawss, REAR i dawss
Pronounced ree table
An ornamental screen or decoration wall behind an altar in a church, usually depicting religious iconography or images
The reredos typically rises from ground level behind the altar.
A work of art, especially a painting on wood, suspended above and behind an altar. A frame or shelf enclosing decorated panels or revered objects above and behind an altar. A table or shelf behind an altar, on which are placed images or holy objects.
May hold the altar cross, mostly in Protestant churches, as well as candles, flowers and other things.
A retable which incorporates sculptures or painting is often referred to as an altarpiece.
Retable is smaller than a reredos, standing either on the back of the altar itself or on a pedestal behind it. Many altars have both a reredos and a retable.
ReredosA decorative screen above and behind the high altar. The reredos was structurally separate from the altar (as compared to retables, a similar paneled, decorative screen attached to the altar back).
The reredos often covered the wall, and might be extravagantly decorated with statue niches, painted panels, and highly carved stone or wood pinnacles. The faint flowering of Baroque style in Britain produced even more elaborately decorated reredos screens, though this was much more common on the European continent.
- Illustrated Dictionary of British Churches (online June 2020)
A retable is a structure or element placed either on or immediately behind and above the altar or communion table 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.
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." 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.
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.
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.
The retable may hold the altar cross, mostly in Protestant churches, as well as candles, flowers and other things.
- Wikipedia (online June 2020)