, a Neoclassical
, Roman Catholic
church in Paris, France.
A church building, church house, or simply church, is a building used for Christian worship
services and other Christian religious activities. The term is used to refer to the physical buildings where Christians worship and also to refer to the community of Christians. Sometimes it is used as an analogy for the buildings of other religions. In traditional Christian architecture
the plan view
of a church often forms a Christian cross
; the center aisle
and seating representing the vertical beam with the bema
forming the horizontal. Towers or domes may inspire contemplation of the heaven
s. Modern churches have a variety of architectural style
s and layouts. Some buildings designed for other purposes have been converted to churches, while many original church buildings have been put to other uses.
The earliest identified Christian church building is a house church
founded between 233 and 256. From the 11th through the 14th centuries there was a wave of church construction in western Europe. A cathedral is a church building housing a cathedra
, the seat
of a presiding bishop.
, the adjective ''kyriak-ós/-ē/-ón'' () means "belonging, or pertaining, to a ''Kyrios
''" ("Lord"), and the usage was adopted by early Christians
of the Eastern Mediterranean with regard to anything pertaining to Jesus Christ
: hence "''Kyriakós oíkos''" () ("house of the Lord", church), "''Kyriakē''" () ("he day
of the Lord", i.e. Sunday), or "''Kyriakē proseukhē''" ( el|Κυριακή προσευχή) (the "Lord's Prayer
In standard Greek usage, the older word "ecclesia" ( el|ἐκκλησία, ''ekklesía'', literally "assembly", "congregation", or the place where such a gathering occurs) was retained to signify both a specific edifice of Christian worship (a "church"
), and the overall community of the faithful (the "Church"
). This usage was also retained in Latin
and the languages derived from Latin (e.g. French ''église'', Italian ''chiesa'', Spanish ''iglesia'', Portuguese ''igreja'', etc.), as well as in the Celtic languages
(Welsh ''eglwys'', Irish ''eaglais'', Breton ''iliz'', etc.) and in Turkish (''Kilise'').
In the Germanic
and some Slavic languages
, the word ''kyriak-ós/-ē/-ón'' was adopted instead and derivatives formed thereof. In Old English
the sequence of derivation started as "cirice", then Middle English
"churche", and eventually "church" in its current pronunciation. German ''Kirche'', Scots ''kirk'', Russian (''tserkov''), Serbo-Croatian
''crkva'', etc., are all similarly derived.
According to the New Testament
, the earliest Christians did not build church buildings. Instead, they gathered in homesActs 17:520:201 Corinthians 16:19
or in Jewish places of worship, like the Second Temple
or synagoguesActs 2:4619:8
. The earliest archeologically identified Christian church is a house church
(''domus ecclesiae''), the Dura-Europos church
, founded between 233 and 256. In the second half of the 3rd century AD, the first purpose-built halls for Christian worship (''aula ecclesiae'') began to be constructed. Although many of these were destroyed early in the next century during the Diocletianic Persecution
, even larger and more elaborate church buildings began to appear during the reign of the Emperor Constantine the Great
From the 11th through the 14th centuries, a wave of cathedral-building and construction of smaller parish churches occurred across western Europe. Besides serving as a place of worship, the cathedral or parish church was frequently employed as a general gathering-place by the communities in which they were located, hosting such events as guild
s, mystery plays
, and fair
s. Church grounds and buildings were also used for the threshing and storage of grain.
Between 1000 and 1200 the romanesque
style became popular across Europe. While the term ''"Romanesque"'' refers to the tradition of Roman architecture
, the trend in fact appeared throughout western and central Europe. The romanesque style is defined by large and bulky edifices that are typically made up of simple, compact, sparsely decorated geometric structures. Frequent features of the Romanesque church include circular arches
, round or octagon
al towers and cushion capitals
on pillars. In the early romanesque era, coffer
ing on the ceiling was fashionable, while later in the same era, groined vault
gained popularity. Interiors widened and the motifs of sculptures took on more epic traits and themes.
style emerged around 1140 in Île-de-France
and subsequently spread throughout Europe. Gothic churches lost the compact qualities of the romanesque era and decorations often contained symbol
ic and allegorical
features. The first pointed arch
es, rib vault
s and buttress
es began to appear, all possessing geometric properties that reduced the need for large, rigid walls to ensure structural stability. This also permitted the size of windows to increase, producing brighter and lighter interiors. Nave
ceilings became higher and pillars and steeples grew taller. Many architects used these developments to push the limits of structural possibility, an inclination which resulted in the collapse of several towers possessing designs that had unwittingly exceeded the boundaries of soundness. In Germany, the Netherlands
, and Spain, it became popular to build hall church
es, a style in which every vault
would be built to the same height.
Gothic cathedrals were lavishly designed, as in the romanesque era, and many share romanesque traits. However, several also exhibit unprecedented degrees of detail and complexity in decoration. The Notre-Dame de Paris
and Notre-Dame de Reims
in France, as well as the San Francesco d’Assisi
, and the Salisbury Cathedral
and Wool Church
in England demonstrate the elaborate stylings characteristic of Gothic cathedrals.
Some of the most well-known gothic churches remained unfinished for centuries, after the gothic style fell out of popularity. The construction of the Cologne Cathedral
, which was begun in 1248, halted in 1473, and not resumed until 1842 is one such example.
In the 15th and 16th century, the change in ethics and society due to the Renaissance
and the Reformation
also influenced the building of churches. The common style was much like the gothic style, but in a simplified way. The basilica
was not the most popular type of church anymore, but instead hall church
es were built. Typical features are columns and classical capitals
In Protestant churches
, where the proclamation of God's Word is of special importance, the visitor's line of view is directed towards the pulpit
style was first used in Italy around 1575. From there it spread to the rest of Europe and to the European colonies. During the Baroque
era, the building industry increased heavily. Buildings, even churches, were used as indicators for wealth, authority and influence. The use of forms known from the renaissance
were extremely exaggerated. Dome
s and capitals
were decorated with moulding and the former stucco
sculptures were replaced by fresco
paintings on the ceilings. For the first time, churches were seen as one connected work of art and consistent artistic concepts were developed. Instead of long buildings, more central-plan buildings were created. The sprawling decoration with floral ornamentation and mythological motives raised until about 1720 to the Rococo
The Protestant parishes
preferred lateral churches, in which all the visitors could be as close as possible to the pulpit
and the altar
A common architecture for churches is the shape of a cross
(a long central rectangle, with side rectangles, and a rectangle in front for the altar
space or sanctuary). These churches also often have a dome
or other large vaulted
space in the interior to represent or draw attention to the heavens. Other common shapes for churches include a circle, to represent eternity, or an octagon
or similar star shape, to represent the church's bringing light to the world. Another common feature is the spire
, a tall tower on the "west" end of the church or over the crossing
Another common feature of many Christian churches is the eastwards orientation
of the front altar
Often, the altar will not be oriented due east, but in the direction of sunrise. This tradition originated in Byzantium in the 4th century, and became prevalent in the West in the 8th to 9th century.
The old Roman custom of having the altar at the west end and the entrance at the east was sometimes followed as late as the 11th century even in areas of northern Europe under Frankish rule, as seen in Petershausen (Constance)
, Bamberg Cathedral
, Augsburg Cathedral
, Regensburg Cathedral
, and Hildesheim Cathedral
word basilica (derived from Greek
, ''Basiliké Stoà
'', Royal ''Stoa
'') was originally used to describe a Roman
public building (as in Greece
, mainly a tribunal
), usually located in the forum
of a Roman town.
[''The Oxford Dictionary of Christian Art and Architecture''](_blank)
(2013 ), p. 117
After the Roman Empire
became officially Christian
, the term came by extension to refer to a large and important church that has been given special ceremonial rights by the Pope. Thus the word retains two senses today, one architectural and the other ecclesiastical.
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A cathedral is a church, usually [[Catholic Church">Catholic, [[Anglican">Russian Orthodox Church building.
A cathedral is a church, usually [[Catholic Church">Catholic, [[Anglican, [[Oriental Orthodox or [[Eastern Orthodox, housing the seat of a bishop. The word cathedral takes its name from ''[[cathedra'', or Bishop's Throne (In la|ecclesia cathedralis). The term is sometimes (improperly) used to refer to any church of great size.
A church that has the function of cathedral is not necessarily a large building. It might be as small as Christ Church Cathedral
, England, Porvoo Cathedral
, Finland, Sacred Heart Cathedral
in Raleigh, United States
, or Chur
Cathedral in Switzerland
. However, frequently, the cathedral along with some of the abbey churches, was the largest building
in any region.
A pilgrimage church is a church to which pilgrimage
s are regularly made, or a church along a pilgrimage route, often located at the tomb of a saint
s, or holding icons or relic
s to which miraculous properties are ascribed, the site of Marian apparition
A conventual church (or monastery church, minster
'') is the main church building in a Christian monastery
A collegiate church is a church where the daily office
of worship is maintained by a college
, which may be presided over by a dean
Collegiate churches were often supported by extensive lands held by the church, or by tithe
income from appropriated benefices
. They commonly provide distinct spaces for congregational worship and for the choir offices of their clerical community.
Evangelical church structures
The architecture of evangelical
places of worship is mainly characterized by its sobriety. The Latin cross
is one of the only spiritual symbols that can usually be seen on the building of an evangelical church and that identifies the place's belonging. Some services take place in theaters, schools or multipurpose rooms, rented for Sunday only.
Vivre grâce aux dons et au bénévolat
ledevoir.com, Canada, 10 November 2018
Because of their understanding of the second of the Ten Commandments
, evangelicals do not have religious material representations such as statues, icons, or paintings in their places of worship. There is usually a baptistery
on the stage of the auditorium (also called sanctuary) or in a separate room for baptisms by immersion
Old and disused church buildings can be seen as an interesting proposition for developers as the architecture and location often provide for attractive homes or city centre entertainment venues On the other hand, many newer churches have decided to host meetings in public buildings such as schools, universities, cinemas or theatres.
There is another trend to convert old buildings for worship
rather than face the construction costs and planning difficulties of a new build. Unusual venues in the UK include a former tram power station, a former bus garage
, a former cinema and bingo
hall, a former Territorial Army
drill hall, and a former synagogue. served as a floating church for mariners at Liverpool
from 1827 until she sank in 1872.
A windmill has also been converted into a church at Reigate Heath
There has been an increase in partnerships between church management and private real estate companies to redevelop church properties into mixed uses. While it has garnered criticism from some, the partnership offers congregations the opportunity to increase revenue while preserving the property.
*Architecture of cathedrals and great churches
*Architecture of the medieval cathedrals of England
**Chapel of ease
*Eastern Orthodox church architecture
*List of basilicas
**Church of the Holy Sepulchre
**St. Peter's Basilica
*Lists of cathedrals
**Lists of cathedrals in the United Kingdom
**List of cathedrals in the United States
*List of highest church naves
*List of largest church buildings in the world
*List of oldest church buildings
*List of tallest church buildings in the world
*List of Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist churches
*Place of worship
*Polish Cathedral style
* Erlande-Brandenburg, Alain
, Qu'est-ce qu'une église ?, Gallimard, Paris, 333 p., 2010.
* Gendry Mickael, L’église, un héritage de Rome, Essai sur les principes et méthodes de l’architecture chrétienne, Religions et Spiritualité, collection Beaux-Arts architecture religion, édition Harmattan 2009, 267 p.
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia – Ecclesiastical BuildingsPrairie Churches
Documentary produced by Prairie Public TelevisionIowa Places of Worship
Documentary produced by Iowa Public Television