|Altar. A stone block or wooden
table, or combination of the two. It is usually at the
eastern end of the chancel in
an Anglican church, more commonly set towards the nave in a Catholic church, although
there are many exceptions in both cases. It is where the Eucharist is celebrated.
Traditionally made of stone, it contained relics, often of the patron saint of the church or chantry guild. Medieval churches had several altars; usually, but not always, these were set against eastern walls. They were generally all destroyed at the Reformation, to be replaced by a holy table, usually set sideways on in the nave. Altars reappeared under Archbishop Laud in the 1630s, but did not become the central focus of Anglican worship again until the second half of the 19th century, under the influence of the Oxford Movement. Most often, either the holy table or a Victorian replacement was placed in the east end of the chancel at this time, although in a few cases a medieval stone mensa was recovered from use as a paving slab, and returned to its original use. Catholic churches still tend to have stone altars, and the practice of placing relics in them continued until as recently as the 1960s.