shrine: see pilgrim.

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

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.

Religious traditions that have founded shrines include Christian denominations, such as Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity;; Hinduism; Buddhism; Shinto; and Islam (mainly Shia).

Muslims have differing opinions on shrines and the intercession of saints: "And the mosques are for Allah (Alone): so invoke not anyone along with Allah" Sura Al-Jinn:18 (72:18)). The only major mosques according to Sunni Muslims are in the following order: 1- Masjid al Haram 2- Masjid al-Nabawi 3- Al-Aqsa Mosque (A mosque on the holy Temple Mount, which is a place visited by both Jewish and Christian pilgrims).

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.

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." Catholic shrines are therefore normally churches which for historical or other reasons have become the destination of pilgrimages.

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. 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 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 Red Sox Nation, 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.

Secular shrines

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

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:


One in Austria:

In Belgium:

Two in Croatia:

One in the Czech Republic:

Four in France:

In Germany:

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:

Five in the UK:

North America

Seven in Canada:

One in Mexico:

Fifty-five in the USA:

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

Eastern Orthodox


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 Shinto shrines

See also

Sources and references



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