A picture of some sacred subject painted on the wall or suspended in a
frame behind the altar, or a group of statuary on the altar. In the Middle Ages, instead
of a picture or group, the altar-piece consisted in some churches of embossed silver or
gold and enameled work set with jewels. Sometimes the piece was set on the altar itself.
If the altar stood free in the choir, and the altar- piece was to be seen from behind as
well as from before, both sides were covered with painting (Norton, Church Building in the
Middle Ages). The decorated screen, retable or reredos is also called an altarpiece. (See ALTAR-SCREEN)
A.J. SCHULTE Transcribed by Michael C. Tinkler
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia
Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by New Advent, Inc., P.O. Box 281096,
Denver, Colorado, USA, 80228. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Taken from the New Advent Web Page (www.newadvent.org).
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