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Shrine vs. Temple: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 10, 2023
A shrine is a holy or sacred place dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, or event. A temple is a larger place of worship dedicated to one or more deities and often houses religious rituals and ceremonies.

Key Differences

Shrines and temples, though both places of reverence, have distinct characteristics. A shrine typically designates a sacred place, often smaller in scale, that venerates a particular entity, ancestor, or event. People visit shrines to offer prayers, remember events, or honor heroes. An example would be a shrine set up in memory of a revered historical figure.
On the other side, a temple often presents a larger, more structured space of worship dedicated to one or more deities. Temples typically become centers for broader religious practices, rituals, and ceremonies. They serve not just as places of veneration but also as religious institutions, often led by priests or religious leaders. The majestic structures in ancient Greece dedicated to gods like Athena or Apollo exemplify temples.
It's noteworthy that while all temples might have shrines within them, not all shrines are found within temples. For instance, roadside shrines might commemorate a local deity or mark a significant event without being part of any larger temple structure.
Additionally, cultural and regional variations can influence the definitions and uses of shrines and temples. In some cultures, the distinction might blur, with the terms used interchangeably. However, the foundational difference remains: shrines emphasize specific reverence, while temples emphasize broader religious practice and ceremony.

Comparison Chart

Definition

A sacred place for specific reverence
A larger structure for broader religious practices
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Scale

Often smaller
Generally larger

Focus

Specific deity, ancestor, hero, or event
One or more deities, often housing rituals

Presence in larger structures

Can exist independently or within temples
Often contains multiple shrines

Cultural variations

Definitions can vary across cultures
Might be called different names in various cultures

Shrine and Temple Definitions

Shrine

A niche or enclosure containing a religious statue or other objects.
She lit a candle at the shrine in her home.
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Temple

A building devoted to the worship of a god or gods.
The ancient temple was dedicated to the goddess Athena.

Shrine

A place regarded as holy because of its associations.
People visit the shrine to honor the saint buried there.

Temple

A place where religious rituals and ceremonies occur.
Many gathered at the temple for the harvest festival.

Shrine

A place housing relics or artifacts of religious significance.
The shrine contains a fragment of the saint's cloak.

Temple

A building dedicated to religious ceremonies or worship.

Shrine

A place where devotion is paid to a deity or deities, as in Shinto.

Temple

Temple Either of two successive buildings in ancient Jerusalem serving as the primary center for Jewish worship.

Shrine

The tomb of a saint or other venerated person.

Temple

(Judaism) A synagogue, especially of a Reform congregation.

Shrine

A location where an important event in the life of a holy person is thought to have occurred.

Temple

Mormon Church A building in which the sacred ordinances are administered.

Shrine

A container or receptacle for sacred relics; a reliquary.

Temple

Something regarded as having within it a divine presence.

Shrine

A site hallowed by association with a revered person or object or with an important event
Independence Hall, shrine of American liberty.

Temple

A building used for meetings by any of several fraternal orders, such as the Freemasons.

Shrine

To enshrine.

Temple

A building reserved for a highly valued function
The library, a temple of learning.

Shrine

A holy or sacred place dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, or similar figure of awe and respect, at which said figure is venerated or worshipped.

Temple

Temple Either of two groups of buildings in London, the Inner Temple and the Middle Temple, that house two of the four Inns of Court and that occupy the site of a complex used by the medieval Knights Templars.

Shrine

A case, box, or receptacle, especially one in which are deposited sacred relics, as the bones of a saint.

Temple

The flat region on either side of the forehead.

Shrine

(figuratively) A place or object hallowed from its history or associations.
A shrine of art

Temple

Either of the sidepieces of a frame for eyeglasses that extends along the temple and over the ear.

Shrine

To enshrine; to place reverently, as if in a shrine.

Temple

A device in a loom that keeps the cloth stretched to the correct width during weaving.

Shrine

A case, box, or receptacle, especially one in which are deposited sacred relics, as the bones of a saint.

Temple

A house of worship, especially:

Shrine

Any sacred place, as an altar, tromb, or the like.
Too weak the sacred shrine guard.

Temple

A house of worship dedicated to a polytheistic faith.
The temple of Zeus was very large.

Shrine

A place or object hallowed from its history or associations; as, a shrine of art.

Temple

(Judaism) synagogue, especially a non-Orthodox synagogue.
How often do you go to temple?

Shrine

Short for Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, a secret fraternal organization professedly originated by one Kalif Alu, a son-in-law of Mohammed, at Mecca, in the year of the Hegira 25 (about 646 a. d.) In the modern order, established in the United States in 1872, only Knights Templars or thirty-second degree Masons are eligible for admission, though the order itself is not Masonic. A member of the order is popularly called a Shriner, and the order itself is sometimes called the Shriners.

Temple

(Mormonism) As opposed to an LDS meetinghouse, a church closed to non-Mormons and necessary for particular rituals.

Shrine

To enshrine; to place reverently, as in a shrine.

Temple

(in Japan) A Buddhist monastery, as opposed to a Shinto shrine.

Shrine

A place of worship hallowed by association with some sacred thing or person

Temple

A meeting house of the Oddfellows fraternity; its members.

Shrine

Enclose in a shrine;
The saint's bones were enshrined in the cathedral

Temple

(figurative) Any place regarded as holding a religious presence.

Shrine

A structure dedicated to a deity or event for commemorative purposes.
The shrine commemorating the war heroes attracts many visitors.

Temple

(figurative) Any place seen as an important centre for some activity.
A temple of commerce;
A temple of drinking and dining

Shrine

A site or place of pilgrimage for followers.
Thousands travel annually to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Temple

(figurative) Anything regarded as important or minutely cared for.
My body is my temple.

Temple

(figurative) A gesture wherein the forefingers are outstretched and touch pad to pad while the other fingers are clasped together.

Temple

(anatomy) The slightly flatter region, on either side of the human head, behind of the eye and forehead, above the zygomatic arch, and forward of the ear.

Temple

(ophthalmology) Either of the sidepieces on a set of spectacles, extending backwards from the hinge toward the ears and, usually, turning down around them.

Temple

(weaving) A contrivance used in a loom for keeping the web stretched transversely.

Temple

(transitive) To build a temple for; to appropriate a temple to; to temple a god

Temple

A contrivence used in a loom for keeping the web stretched transversely.

Temple

The space, on either side of the head, back of the eye and forehead, above the zygomatic arch and in front of the ear.

Temple

One of the side bars of a pair of spectacles, jointed to the bows, and passing one on either side of the head to hold the spectacles in place.

Temple

A place or edifice dedicated to the worship of some deity; as, the temple of Jupiter at Athens, or of Juggernaut in India.

Temple

The edifice erected at Jerusalem for the worship of Jehovah.
Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.

Temple

Hence, among Christians, an edifice erected as a place of public worship; a church.
Can he whose life is a perpetual insult to the authority of God enter with any pleasure a temple consecrated to devotion and sanctified by prayer?

Temple

Fig.: Any place in which the divine presence specially resides.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?
The groves were God's first temples.

Temple

A building dedicated to the administration of ordinances.

Temple

A local organization of Odd Fellows.

Temple

To build a temple for; to appropriate a temple to; as, to temple a god.

Temple

Place of worship consisting of an edifice for the worship of a deity

Temple

The flat area on either side of the forehead;
The veins in his temple throbbed

Temple

An edifice devoted to special or exalted purposes

Temple

(Judaism) the place of worship for a Jewish congregation

Temple

An edifice used by certain religions for communal activities.
The Jewish temple was abuzz with preparations for Passover.

Temple

A recognized and important religious structure in various cultures.
The temple in Jerusalem held significant importance in ancient times.

Temple

A space of spiritual practice and learning.
The Buddhist temple also served as a monastery for monks.

FAQs

Do all religions have temples?

No, not all religions use the concept or structure of a temple for worship.

Can a temple contain a shrine?

Yes, many temples house one or more shrines within their premises.

Can shrines be temporary?

Yes, some shrines, especially for festivals, are temporary installations.

Are all shrines religious?

While many are, some shrines can commemorate secular heroes or events.

Are temples exclusive to Eastern cultures?

No, temples exist in various forms across cultures globally.

Can a shrine be mobile?

Some shrines, especially in festivals, are mobile and carried by devotees.

Can shrines be outdoors?

Yes, many shrines are open-air or roadside commemorations.

Are temples always grand structures?

While many are grand, temples can vary in size and grandeur.

Do temples always serve one religion?

Typically, yes, but some temples might be used by multiple religious groups.

Can a shrine exist within a non-religious setting?

Yes, shrines can be set up in secular settings to honor individuals or events.

Can shrines and temples coexist in the same religious complex?

Yes, many religious complexes house both a main temple and several shrines.

What is a home shrine?

A home shrine is a dedicated space within a home for prayer or reverence.

Is maintenance of a temple different from a shrine?

Due to their larger size, temples might require more extensive upkeep than smaller shrines.

Can both shrines and temples be pilgrimage destinations?

Yes, both can attract pilgrims, depending on their religious or historical significance.

Are priests always present in temples?

While many temples have priests, not all do.

What's the primary purpose of a shrine?

The primary purpose is veneration or commemoration of a specific entity or event.

Do temples always have a deity representation?

While many do, some temples might not house a deity's physical representation.

Are all shrines small?

While many are, some shrines, due to their significance, can be quite large.

Is every temple ancient?

No, while many temples are historical, new ones are constructed regularly.

Can temples serve non-religious purposes?

Some ancient temples, now in ruins, serve as tourist attractions or historical sites.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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