List of church architecture terms

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The ground floor layout
Rood screen: used for dividing the chancel from the nave
Ornate choir stalls at Buxheim
Cloister and arcades
Buttresses & pinnacles of Milan Cathedral.
The portal of Amiens Cathedral.

List of church architecture terms. The terms used in church architecture were developed first for the Gothic architecture cathedrals of the mediaeval era. The terms, with variations, are used for all kinds of Christian churches.

Horizontal layout[change | change source]

  • Nave, where the congregation sits.
    • Aisles round the edges. The aisles may be quite grand, major features of the cathedral.
  • The transept makes the cross shape.
    • The crossing is where the transept crosses the nave.
  • The quire (choir) is the area between the nave and the 'sacred' area (the presbytery and sanctuary). The quire is separated from the nave by a 'rood screen'. It often has choir stalls where members of the choir sit.
  • Liturical east end:

Vertical structure[change | change source]

  • Arcade: A passage or walkway covered over by a succession of arches or vaults supported by columns.
  • Fan vault. A form of vault used in the Perpendicular Gothic style, in which the ribs are all of the same curve and spaced equidistantly, in a manner resembling a fan.
  • Buttress: An architectural structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall
    • Flying buttress: built outside to support a wall. Permits an aisle or cloister underneath.
    • Pinnacle. An architectural ornament originally forming the cap or crown of a buttress or small turret, but afterwards used on parapets at the corners of towers and in many other situations
  • Portal. A grand entrance
Cathedral schematic section.PNG

Other terms[change | change source]

  • Altar: any structure where offerings are made for religious purposes.
  • Apse: round (hemi-spherical) part at east end of church.
  • Chancel: space around the altar
  • Dome: a roof; resembles the upper half of a hollow sphere
  • Lancet window: tall, thin window, often pointed at top.
  • Quire or choir: between the nave and the sanctuary; the western part of the chancel. May house seats for a choir of singers,
  • Reredos: decorated screen behind altar
  • Rood screen or chancel screen: decorated screen which divides the chancel from the nave.
  • Sanctuary: the part of the chancel which houses the altar.
  • Semi-dome: half of a dome
  • Spandrel: corner above arch

Other buildings[change | change source]

  • Bishop's palace
  • Deanery (Dean's house)
  • Cloisters
  • Chapter House, where the monks or canons would hold their meetings about church business.