• Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n Retable (Eccl) A shelf behind the altar, for display of lights, vases of flowers, etc.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n retable A structure raised above an altar at the back, either independent in itself, or forming a decorative frame to a picture, a bas-relief, or the like, in which case the word includes the work of art itself. Usually that face only which looks toward the choir and nave of the church is called the retable, and the reverse is called the counter-retable. Sometimes the retable is a movable structure of hammered silver or other precious work, supported on the altar itself. This decorative feature is not found in the earliest ages of the Christian church. Many retables in Italy are made of Della Robbia ware, with figures in high relief, and richly colored in ceramic enamels. One of the most magnificent examples is the Pala d'Oro of the Basilica of St. Mark, in Venice. See altar-ledge and reredos.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Retable rē-tā′bl a shelf behind the altar for the display of lights, vases of flowers, &c.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary


In literature:

A flight of veined marble steps leads to the beautiful retable of the high altar.
"Castilian Days" by John Hay
The lowered sill and recess probably formed a convenient retable to an altar against the wall.
"Bell's Cathedrals: The Churches of Coventry" by Frederic W. Woodhouse
The retable was given by the Old Boys of the King's School.
"The Cathedral Church of Peterborough" by W.D. Sweeting
The retable has two miracle reliefs, and between them a small bronze Christ, which has been put there in error.
"Donatello" by David Lindsay, Earl of Crawford
J'ai failli mourir de bien pres; mais me voici bien retabli, bien que toujours un peu chetif et malingre.
"The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson - Swanston Edition Vol. 24 (of 25)" by Robert Louis Stevenson
An immense retable is placed at the head of the nave.
"The Cathedrals and Churches of the Rhine" by Francis Miltoun
On the retable at the foot of the reredos, stand two massive candlesticks of silver gilt.
"Highways and Byways in Cambridge and Ely" by Edward Conybeare