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Extensive Definition

A shrine, from the Latin scrinium (‘box’; also used as a desk, like the French bureau) was originally a container, usually made of precious materials, used especially for a relic and often a cult image. By extension it has come to mean a holy or sacred place containing the reliquary or tomb dedicated to a particular hero, martyr, saint or similar figure of awe and respect. Shrines may be enclosures within temples, home altars, and sacred burial places. Secular meanings have developed by association, as noted below. A shrine at which offerings are made is called an altar.

Religious shrines

Shi'ism maintains a tradition of venerating late religious leaders (as there is no hierarchical church, the bond is personal; but often a 'successor', sometimes even a son, maintains a following) and/or martyrs (usually at their grave); thus the Persian word imamzadeh. There are also sunnite equivalents, as among the ascetic marabouts of West Africa and the Maghreb.
A Buddhist shrine sometimes requires a symbolic architecture called a stupa. Early Buddhist shrines may be located in sacred caves.
In Shinto and in Roman Catholicism, small portable shrines are often carried in religious processions.
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 or other saints.
The long Roman Catholic tradition of veneration of saints has produced an impressive number of notable shrines, some of truly international renoun. There are separate articles on:
Shrine may also designate a small altar in a home or place of business, or a room or item of furniture which is decorated with religious symbols and used for private worship, as was common in the polytheist periods of Classical Antiquity. Devotions are generally to ancestral or tutelary spirits.

Yard shrines

Small outdoor yard shrines are found at the places of many peoples following various religions, especially historic 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 architectual elements such as walls, roofs, glass doors, ironwork fences, and so on.
In the United States, many Christians (especially Anglican and Roman Catholic) have small yard shrines; some of these greatly 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. Nativity scenes are also a form of yard shrine.
By extension the term shrine has come to mean any place (or virtual cyber-place) dedicated completely to a particular person or subject.

List of shrines

The list of those considered at least of national importance comprises none in Africa, but on all other continents:
In Belgium:
Two in Croatia:
Four in France:
One in Ireland:
  • the minor basilica of Our Lady of Knock Queen of Ireland [BVM] in Knock
Two pontifical minor basilicas in Italy:
One in Latvia:
  • minor basilica of BVM Assumption in Aglona
One in Malta:
  • the minor basilica of National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu [BVM Assumption] in Għarb
Four main shrines in Poland:
The main shrine in Portugal:
Three minor basilicas in Spain:
Four in the UK:

North America

Seven in Canada:
One in Mexico:

Central America

Two in Cuba
One in Nicaragua
One in Panama

South America


Two in China.
In Japan:
Two in India:
Many Islamic shrines all over the Middle East, especially revered by the Shia. Notable ones include:
Fifteen in the Philippines.
Two in Sri Lanka.


All four are in Australia, in only two major cities:
  • in Sydney, St. Mary’s Cathedral, a minor basilica
  • in Melbourne: St. Anthony’s National Shrine, National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and National Shrine of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux


The two most well-known Bahá'í shrines serve as the resting places for the respective remains of the Twin Manifestations of the Bahá'í Faith, the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. They are the focal points of a Bahá'í pilgrimage.


Shinto temples (in Japanese, variously named jinja, taisha, and jingū) are conventionally called "shrines" in English. A portable miniature version, called a mikoshi, is carried in Shinto processions. See :Category:Shinto shrines

See also

Sources and references



enshrined in German: Schrein
enshrined in Spanish: Santuario (edificio)
enshrined in French: Sanctuaire
enshrined in Italian: Santuario
enshrined in Dutch: Schrijn
enshrined in Polish: Kapliczka
enshrined in Portuguese: Santuário
enshrined in Russian: Рака
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