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The shrine of the Hodegetria at the Assumption Cathedral in Smolensk, Russia, photographed by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (1912).
The shrine of the Hodegetria at the Assumption Cathedral in Smolensk, Russia, photographed by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (1912).
The Shrine, Oil on canvas, by John William Waterhouse (1895).
The Shrine, Oil on canvas, by John William Waterhouse (1895).

A shrine ( "case or chest for books or papers"; Old French: escrin "box or case")[1] is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated.[2] A shrine at which votive offerings are made is called an altar. Shrines are found in many of the world's religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Wicca, Chinese folk religion and Shinto, as well as in secular and non-religious settings such as a war memorial.[3] Shrines can be found in various settings, such as churches, temples, cemeteries, or in the home, although portable shrines are also found in some cultures.[4]

A shrine may become a focus of a cult image.


Types of shrines

Chinese Buddhist household shrine 1850 1860, Bankfield Museum
Chinese Buddhist household shrine 1850 1860, Bankfield Museum

Temple shrines

Many shrines are located within buildings designed specifically for worship, such as a church in Christianity, or a mandir in Hinduism. A shrine here is usually the centre of attention in the building, and is given a place of prominence. In such cases, adherents of the faith assemble within the building in order to venerate the deity at the shrine.

Household shrines

Historically, in Hinduism, Buddhism and Roman Catholicism, and also in modern faiths, such as Neopaganism, a shrine can commonly be found within the home or shop.[5] This shrine is usually a small structure or a setup of pictures and figurines dedicated to a deity that is part of the official religion, to ancestors or to a localised household deity.[6]

Small household shrines are very common among the Chinese and people from South and Southeast Asia, whether Hindu, Buddhist or Christian. Usually a small lamp and small offerings are kept daily by the shrine. Buddhist household shrines must be on a shelf above the head; Chinese shrines must stand directly on the floor.

Yard shrines

Small outdoor yard shrines are found at the places of many peoples, following various religions, including historically, Christianity. Many consist of a statue of Christ or a saint, on a pedestal or in an alcove, while others may be elaborate groupings, including paintings, statuary, and architectural elements, such as walls, roofs, glass doors and ironwork fences, etc.

In the United States, some Christians have small yard shrines; some of these resemble side altars, since they are composed of a statue placed in a niche or grotto; this type is colloquially referred to as a bathtub madonna.[7]

Religious shrines

Shrines are found in most, though not all, religions. As distinguished from a temple, a shrine usually houses a particular relic or cult image, which is the object of worship or veneration, or is constructed to set apart a site which is thought to be particularly holy, as opposed to being placed for the convenience of worshippers. Shrines therefore attract the practice of pilgrimage.[8][9]

Bah '

The two most well-known Bah ' shrines serve as the resting places for the respective remains of the two central figures of the Bah ' Faith, the B b and Bah 'u'll h. They are the focal points of a Bah ' pilgrimage:


Buddhist shrine just outside Wat Phnom
Buddhist shrine just outside Wat Phnom
In Buddhism, a shrine refers to a place where veneration is focused on the Buddha or one of the bodhisattvas. Monks, nuns and laypeople all give offerings to these revered figures at these shrines and also meditate in front of them:)

Typically, Buddhist shrines contain a statue of either the Buddha, or (in the Mahayana and Vajrayana forms of Buddhism), one of the various bodhisattvas.[12] They also commonly contain candles, along with offerings such as flowers, purified water, food, and incense. Many shrines also contain sacred relics, such as the alleged tooth of the Buddha held at a shrine in Sri Lanka.

Site-specific shrines in Buddhism, particularly those that contain relics of deceased buddhas and revered monks, are often designed in the traditional form known as the stupa.


Shrines are found in many, though not all, forms of Christianity. Roman Catholicism, the largest denomination of Christianity,[13] has many shrines, as do Orthodox Christianity and Anglicanism.

Catholic shrine: glass coffin of Saint Catherine Labour
Catholic shrine: glass coffin of Saint Catherine Labour
In the Roman Catholic Code of Canon law, canons 1230 and 1231 read: "The term shrine means a church or other sacred place which, with the approval of the local Ordinary, is by reason of special devotion frequented by the faithful as pilgrims. For a shrine to be described as national, the approval of the Episcopal Conference is necessary. For it to be described as international, the approval of the Holy See is required."[14]

Another use of the term "shrine" in colloquial Catholic terminology is a niche or alcove in most especially larger churches used by parishioners when praying privately in the church. They were also called Devotional Altars, since they could look like small Side Altars or bye-altars. Shrines were always centered on some image of Christ or a saint for instance, a statue, painting, mural or mosaic, and may have had a reredos behind them (without a Tabernacle built in).

However, Mass would not be celebrated at them; they were simply used to aid or give a visual focus for prayers. Side altars, where Mass could actually be celebrated, were used in a similar way to shrines by parishioners. Side altars were specifically dedicated to The Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph as well as other saints.

A nativity set could also be viewed as a shrine, as the definition of a shrine is any holy or sacred place.

Germanic paganism

In Germanic paganism, types of shrines were employed, but terms for the shrines show some level of ambiguity:

  • H rgrs, which may have originally exclusively referred to "holy places", whereas its Old English cognate hearg could mean "holy grove" and/or "temple, idol"[15]
  • V s (Old Norse) or w ohs (Old English), referring to either a types of shrines or sacred enclosures. The term appears in skaldic poetry and in place names in Scandinavia (with the exception of Iceland), often in connection with a Norse deity or a geographic feature. The name of the Norse god V , refers to the practice.[16]


In Hinduism, a shrine is a place where a god or goddess is worshipped. Shrines are typically located inside a temple known as a mandir, though many Hindus also have a household shrine as well. Sometimes a human is venerated at a Hindu shrine along with a deity, for instance the 19th century religious teacher Sri Ramakrishna is venerated at the Ramakrishna Temple in Kolkata, India.

Central to a Hindu shrine is a statue of a deity, which is known as a murti. Hindus believe that the deity that they are worshiping actually enters and inhabits the murti. This is given offerings like candles, food, flowers, and incense. In some cases, particularly among devotees of the goddess K l in northern India, animals are sacrificed to the deity (animal sacrifice is not a part of Hinduism).

At a mandir, the congregation often assembles in front of a shrine, and, led by priests, give offerings and sing devotional hymns.


Muslims stop to offer greetings at the grave of the prophet Muhammad in Medina's Al Masjid al Nabawi
Muslims stop to offer greetings at the grave of the prophet Muhammad in Medina's Al Masjid al Nabawi
Pilgrims outside the Shrine of Imam Hussain ibn Ali in Karbala, Iraq.
Pilgrims outside the Shrine of Imam Hussain ibn Ali in Karbala, Iraq.
The Data Durbar Shrine Lahore Pakistan.

Islam has developed a rich tradition of shrine culture. In Islam its prohibited to worship graves, though it is permitted to supplicate with the Tawasul of a living pious person and it is also permitted to supplicate with the Tawasul of the deceased pious person (Sufi/Wali). In Islam Shrines hold a notable position and considered as places to seek spiritual guidance. Most Islamic shrines are dedicated to various Sufi Saints and are widely scattered throughout the Islamic world. It is a tradition to commemorate the death of the Saint, by holding festivals at his tomb to commemorate his life. In several countries, the local shrine is a focal point of the community, with several localities named specifically for the local saint.

In some parts of the Islamic world, such as in Pakistan, these festivals are multi-day events and even draw members of the Hindu and Christian minority who often revere the Muslim saint, such as in the case of the famous Lal Baz Qalandar shrine in Sindh, Pakistan an important example of religious syncretism that blurs the distinction between members of different religions. Sufi shrines in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan are also host to a night of commemoration by Mehfil Samaaa (Qawali) and Zikr every Thursday. Some people claim that such practices were influenced by Hinduism long ago when Muslims and Hindus co-existed in the sub-continent.

In Turkey, the famous Whirling Dervishes perform their whirling at the shrine of Jalal-ud-Din Rumi in Konya, while in Morocco and Algeria, brotherhoods of Black African Sufis, the Gnouia, perform elaborate songs at the shrines of their Saints.

Further, Shia's have several shrines dedicated to various religious figures important in their history, and several elaborate shrines are dedicated to Shia Saints and religious figures, most notably in Kerbala, Najaf, and Samarra in Iraq, and Qum and Mashad in Iran. Other important Shia shrines are located in Mazar-e-Sharif ("the Noble Shrine") in Afghanistan, and in Damascus, Syria.

Numerous shrines were once located in Saudi Arabia in its initial days. However, they were destroyed in the 1930s by Saudi Arabian government labeling them as Shirk/Bid'ah, The only shrine that remained intact was that of Muhammad. Other important Shrines were once found in Central Asia, but many were destroyed by the Soviets.

According to the extremists or Salafi school of thought, it is totally forbidden to build structures over graves as Prophet Muhammad ordered to demolish all the structures over graves.

It was narrated that Abu l-Hayaaj al-Asadi said: Ali ibn Abi Taalib said to me: Shall I not send you on the same mission as the Messenger of Allah sent me? Do not leave any statue without erasing it, and do not leave any raised grave without leveling it. (Narrated by Muslim, 969).

But according to Sunni Islam that order was for demolishing structures built over graves of non-Muslims only. There are elevated graves of notable Salafi scholars are also present such as Ibn Taymiyyah in Baramkeh Damascus.


The line between a temple and a shrine in Taoism is not fully defined; shrines are usually smaller versions of larger Taoist temples or small places in a home where a yin-yang emblem is placed among peaceful settings to encourage meditation and study of Taoist texts and principles. Taoists place less emphasis on formalized attendance and ritualized worship than other Asian religions; formal temples and structures of worship came about in Taoism mostly in order to prevent losing adherents to Buddhism[17]. Frequent features of Taoist shrines include the same features as full temples, often including any or all of the following features : gardens, running water or fountains, small burning braziers or candles (with or without incense), and copies of Taoist texts such as the Tao Te Ching, Zhuangzi or other texts by Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu or other Taoist sages.

As with all Taoist worship, Taoist shrines are organized around a sense of appreciation of nature and surroundings that inspire meditation on, and living in accordance with, the Tao ("Way" or "Path", a concept of living harmoniously with one's natural surroundings and environment) and the Three Jewels Of Taoism (different from Buddhism's concept of Three Jewels) - compassion, moderation, and humility.

Religions without shrines

Certain religions do not feature shrines at all, either because they believe they are fundamentally wrong, or because they simply do not need them. Spiritualism, whilst believing in a God, does not typically make use of shrines.

Secular shrines

In the United States and some other countries, landmarks may be called "historic shrines." Notable shrines of this type include:

Halls of fame also serve as shrines into which single or multiple individuals are inducted on the basis of their influence upon regions, cultures or disciplines. Busts or full-body statues are often erected and placed alongside each other in commemoration.

By extension the term shrine has come to mean any place (or virtual cyber-place) dedicated completely to a particular person or subject such as the Shrine of the Sun in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

See also


External links

ar: ca:Santuari cs:Svatyn cy:Creirfa de:Schrein eml:Sant ri es:Santuario (edificio) eu:Santutegi fr:Sanctuaire fy:Skryn id:Mazbah it:Santuario sw:Patakatifu la:Sanctuarium lmo:Sant ari nl:Schrijn ja: pt:Santu rio ru: simple:Sacred site sl:Znamenje th: uk:

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