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[ri-tey-buh l, ree-tey-] /rɪˈteɪ bəl, ˈriˌteɪ-/
a decorative structure raised above an altar at the back, often forming a frame for a picture, bas-relief, or the like, and sometimes including a shelf or shelves, as for ornaments.
Origin of retable
1815-25; < French, equivalent to Old French re(re) at the back (< Latin retrō) + table table; compare Medieval Latin retrōtabulum Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for retable
Historical Examples
  • Above the retable is the Madonna with two saints on either side: the crucifix surmounts the whole composition.


    David Lindsay, Earl of Crawford
  • The retable has two miracle reliefs, and between them a small bronze Christ, which has been put there in error.


    David Lindsay, Earl of Crawford
  • The candlesticks, in churches where lights at the Holy Communion are used, stand at the ends of the retable.

    The Worship of the Church

    Jacob A. Regester
  • In the ancient Abbey Church are two masterpieces, a retable in carved wood and a tomb ornamented with exquisite statuettes.

    East of Paris Matilda Betham-Edwards
  • Another exquisite example of wood carving may be seen in the chapel of Notre-Dame de Compassion, forming the retable.

    The Churches of Paris S. Sophia Beale
  • On the retable at the foot of the reredos, stand two massive candlesticks of silver gilt.

British Dictionary definitions for retable


an ornamental screenlike structure above and behind an altar, esp one used as a setting for a religious picture or carving
Word Origin
C19: from French, from Spanish retablo, from Latin retrō behind + tabula board; see rear1, table
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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