Altar-Rails The part of the church where the communion-table or altar stood in the ancient churches was divided from the rest of the church by rails. Eusebius says the rails were of wood, curiously and artificially wrought in the form of net-work, to make the enclosure inaccessible to the multitude. These the Latins called cancelli, and hence our English word chancel (q.v.). According to Synesils, to lay hold of the rails is equivalent to taking sanctuary or refuge at the altar. Altar-rails are almost uniformly found in Episcopal churches in England.