Reredos - Encyclopedia

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REREDOS (Anglo-Fr. areredos, from arere, behind, and dos, back), an ornamental screen of stone or wood built up, or forming a facing to the wall behind an altar in a church. Reredoses are frequently decorated with representations of the Passion, niches containing statues of saints, and the like. In England these were for the most part destroyed at the Reformation or by the Puritans later; a few medieval examples, however, survive, e.g. at Christchurch, Hants. In some large cathedrals e.g. Winchester, Durham, St Albans, the reredos is a mass of splendid tabernacle work, reaching nearly to the groining. In small churches the reredos is usually replaced by a hanging or parament behind the altar, known as a dossal or dorsal. (See also Altar.) For the legality of images on reredoses in the Church of England, see Image.

The use of the word reredos for the iron or brick back of an open fire-place is all but obsolete.

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