Last updated
An aisle of Bristol Cathedral, Bristol, England. Aisle.bristol.cathedral.arp.jpg
An aisle of Bristol Cathedral, Bristol, England.

An aisle (British English: gangway) is, in general (common), a space for walking with rows of seats on both sides or with rows of seats on one side and a wall on the other. Aisles can be seen in airplanes, certain types of buildings, such as churches, cathedrals, synagogues, meeting halls, parliaments and legislatures, courtrooms, theatres, and in certain types of passenger vehicles. Their floors may be flat or, as in theatres, stepped upwards from a stage.


Aisles can also be seen in shops, warehouses, and factories, where rather than seats, they have shelving to either side. In warehouses and factories, aisles may consist of storage pallets, and in factories, aisles may separate work areas. In health clubs, exercise equipment is normally arranged in aisles.

Aisles are distinguished[ how? ] from corridors, hallways, walkways, footpaths/pavements (American English sidewalks), trails, paths and (enclosed) "open areas".

An aisle at the Green cream Logistics Co., Kotka, Finland. Warehouse md17.jpg
An aisle at the Green cream Logistics Co., Kotka, Finland.

Typical physical characteristics

Wedding aisle in Montgomery, Alabama. Wedding aisle.jpg
Wedding aisle in Montgomery, Alabama.

Aisles have certain general physical characteristics:

Width of various types of aisles

Note that spaces between buildings, e. g., rows of storage sheds, would not be considered "aisles", even if the same amount of separation would be considered an aisle in a warehouse. Aisles are also common in weddings when a bride walk down it.


In architecture, an aisle is more specifically the wing of a house, or a lateral division of a large building. The earliest examples of aisles date back to the Roman times and can be found in the Basilica Ulpia (basilica of Trajan), which had double aisles on either side of its central area. The church of St. Peter's in Rome has the same number. [1]

Church architecture

In church architecture, an aisle (also known as an yle or alley) is more specifically a passageway to either side of the nave that is separated from the nave by colonnades or arcades, a row of pillars or columns. Occasionally aisles stop at the transepts, but often aisles can be continued around the apse. Aisles are thus categorized as nave-aisles, transept-aisles or choir-aisles. A semi-circular choir with aisles continued around it, providing access to a series of chapels, is a chevet. [1]

In Gothic architecture, the aisles' roofs are lower than that of the nave, allowing light to enter through clerestory windows. In Romanesque architecture, however, the roofs are at roughly equal heights, with those of the aisle being only slightly lower than that of the nave. In Germany, churches where the roofs of the aisles and nave are the same height, such as St. Stephen's, Vienna, the Wiesenkirche at Soest, St. Martin's, Landshut, and the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Munich are known as Hallenkirchen. [1]

When discussing overall design, architectural historians include the centrally-positioned nave in the number of aisles. Thus the original St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Milan Cathedral, Amiens Cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia [2] are all described as having five aisles, meaning they have two side aisles either side of the nave. Antwerp Cathedral even has seven aisles (three at either side of the central nave). In the United Kingdom, cathedrals generally only have one aisle on each side, with Chichester Cathedral, Elgin Cathedral and St Mary Magdalene, Taunton being the only three exceptions.

Supermarkets and retail stores

A pet food and cleaning aisle of a supermarket. Coles South City aisle 1.jpg
A pet food and cleaning aisle of a supermarket.
Supermarket checkout aisles Supermarket check out.JPG
Supermarket checkout aisles

In supermarkets there are two types of aisles, food aisles and checkout aisles.

Food aisles are where goods are displayed. At the end of food aisles may be found crown end displays, where high-margin goods are displayed for impulse purchase.

In retail stores that do not primarily sell food, aisles containing products would be referred to either generically as merchandise aisles, or by the particular products contained in the aisle, e.g., "the gardening aisle", "the sports equipment aisle".

Checkout aisles contain cash registers at which customers make their purchases. Regardless of the type of merchandise the establishment sells, it is common to display a range of "impulse buy" items along the checkout aisle, such as cold beverages, magazines, candy and batteries. These are often called "lanes" to distinguish them from the food aisles.


For customer convenience, supermarkets and retail stores commonly number the aisles and have signs indicating both the aisle number and the types of products displayed in that aisle.

Churches, courtrooms, legislatures, and meeting halls may identify individual rows, seats or sections but do not normally assign aisle numbers or display signs regarding aisles.


U.S. Library of Congress reading room with aisles. LOC Main Reading Room Highsmith.jpg
U.S. Library of Congress reading room with aisles.

Libraries are commonly divided into several areas:

The spaces between rows of book shelves in the "stacks" area are called aisles and desks in the reading area are frequently arranged in rows with aisles.

Computer server rooms

An aisle between Wikimedia servers Wikimedia Servers-0051 10.jpg
An aisle between Wikimedia servers

Server rooms are typically divided into hot and cold aisles for cooling efficiency, and access to servers.

Indoor theatres and concert halls

Theatre-type seating in a lecture hall with a stair aisle. Meeting hall-3.jpg
Theatre-type seating in a lecture hall with a stair aisle.

Films, stage plays and musical concerts ordinarily are presented in a darkened facility so the audience can see the presentation better. To improve safety, often the edges of the aisles in such facilities are marked with a row of small lights. The markers frequently are strings of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) because LEDs are durable, have low power consumption and use low voltages that are not subject to electrical codes. To provide a higher level of light focused downward, lighting fixtures referred to as luminaries are often built into the side of the seat facing the aisle.

Stadiums and outdoor arenas

Sport stadiums and outdoor arenas frequently have several types of aisles, including aisles to purchase tickets for events, aisles to enter the main event area and aisles to go to seating. Stadium seating routinely is separated into sections by aisles. Seating rows are accessed by stairsteps. To promote safety, aisles commonly are divided by a handrail in the middle of the aisle.

End zone of Qwest field with blue seats and grey aisles Qwest field end zone seats.jpg
End zone of Qwest field with blue seats and grey aisles
Closer view of seats. Qwest field seating section.jpg
Closer view of seats.

Stables and barns

The Shilton Barn, Oxfordshire, England has three aisles and six bays ShiltonBarn drawings.tif
The Shilton Barn, Oxfordshire, England has three aisles and six bays

The floor plan of aisled barns resembles that of an aisled church. However, the nave in farm buildings is called an aisle thus a "three aisled barn". [3] Aisled barns have the big barn doors on the gable end of the building giving access to the center aisle, often called the drive floor or threshing floor. The side aisles may be the same widths making the barn symmetrical or the aisle where animals were housed may be narrower which is apparent outside the barn because the barn doors are then off-center. The area between the posts, perpendicular to the aisles are called bays. In stables there is a stable aisle down the centre with individual stalls facing the aisle.

Safety and regulatory considerations

National and local government regulations require a minimum width for aisles in various building types. Regulatory agencies frequently inspect buildings, vehicles, etc., to enforce regulations requiring that aisles not be restricted. Inspectors have imposed fines for blocking or restricting passage when boxes or folding chairs are stored in aisles, for example. Insurance companies frequently have safety inspectors to examine the premises, both to determine whether insureds are complying with the insurer's requirements for coverage and to look for any practices that could lead to injury or property damage, including restricting passage in aisles. The Americans with Disabilities Act sets certain standards for building access and other design considerations in all new construction and major renovations in the U.S. [4] An architectural barrier is any feature that makes access or use of a building difficult, unreasonably dangerous or impossible. This can include aisles that are too narrow for easy access by a wheelchair. [5] Often, the only way to get from a row of chairs, shelves, workstations, etc., to an exit is by an aisle. Historically, many deaths and serious injuries have occurred due to fire, inhalation of smoke or noxious fumes, etc., because blocked or partially blocked aisles prevented persons from promptly leaving a dangerous area.

Regulations applicable to public carriers transporting passengers often require aisles to be completely clear in vehicles, such as airlines, buses and trains. Many insurance companies have requirements regarding minimum aisle width, unrestricted aisles and easy access to exits, and will refuse to insure companies that do not meet their requirements or will increase the premiums on companies that frequently violate the requirements.

See also


Related Research Articles

Romanesque architecture architectural style of Medieval Europe

Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of medieval Europe characterized by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque style, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 11th century, this later date being the most commonly held. In the 12th century it developed into the Gothic style, marked by pointed arches. Examples of Romanesque architecture can be found across the continent, making it the first pan-European architectural style since Imperial Roman architecture. The Romanesque style in England is traditionally referred to as Norman architecture.

Basilica Building used as a place of Christian worship

The Latin word basilica has three distinct applications in modern English.

Architecture of cathedrals and great churches

The architecture of cathedrals, basilicas and abbey churches is characterised by the buildings' large scale and follows one of several branching traditions of form, function and style that all ultimately derive from the Early Christian architectural traditions established in the Constantinian period.

Nave main body of a church

The nave is the central part of a church, stretching from the main entrance or rear wall, to the transepts, or in a church without transepts, to the chancel. When a church contains side aisles, as in a basilica-type building, the strict definition of the term "nave" is restricted to the central aisle. In a broader, more colloquial sense, the nave includes all areas available for the lay worshippers, including the side-aisles and transepts. Either way, the nave is distinct from the area reserved for the choir and clergy.


A triforium is an interior gallery, opening onto the tall central space of a building at an upper level. In a church, it opens onto the nave from above the side aisles; it may occur at the level of the clerestory windows, or it may be located as a separate level below the clerestory. Masonry triforia are generally vaulted and separated from the central space by arcades. Early triforia were often wide and spacious, but later ones tend to be shallow, within the thickness of an inner wall, and may be blind arcades not wide enough to walk along. The outer wall of the triforium may itself have windows, or it may be solid stone. A narrow triforium may also be called a "blind-storey", and looks like a row of window frames.

Clerestory architectural term

In architecture, a clerestory is a high section of wall that contains windows above eye level. The purpose is to admit light, fresh air, or both.

Auditorium A room built to enable an audience to hear and watch performances

An auditorium is a room built to enable an audience to hear and watch performances. For movie theatres, the number of auditoria is expressed as the number of screens. Auditoria can be found in entertainment venues, community halls, and theaters, and may be used for rehearsal, presentation, performing arts productions, or as a learning space.

Ulm Minster Lutheran church in Ulm, Germany that is the tallest church in the world

Ulm Minster is a Lutheran church located in Ulm, State of Baden-Württemberg (Germany). Until the eventual completion of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, it will remain the tallest church in the world, and the 5th tallest structure built before the 20th century, with a steeple measuring 161.5 metres (530 ft).

Cathedral Church of St. James (Toronto) Church in Toronto, Ontario

The Cathedral Church of St. James in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is the home of the oldest congregation in the city, with the parish being established in 1797. The cathedral, with construction beginning in 1850 and opening for services on June 19, 1853, was one of the largest buildings in the city at the time. It was designed by Frederick William Cumberland and is a prime example of Gothic Revival architecture.

Bourges Cathedral Cathedral in Bourges, Cher, France

Bourges Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church located in Bourges, France. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Stephen and is the seat of the Archbishop of Bourges. It is in the Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles.

Speyer Cathedral Church in Speyer, Germany

Speyer Cathedral, officially the Imperial Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and St Stephen, in Latin: Domus sanctae Mariae Spirae in Speyer, Germany, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Speyer and is suffragan to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bamberg. The cathedral, which is dedicated to St. Mary, patron saint of Speyer and St. Stephen is generally known as the Kaiserdom zu Speyer. Pope Pius XI raised Speyer Cathedral to the rank of a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church in 1925.

Choir (architecture) Part of a church

A choir, also sometimes called quire, is the area of a church or cathedral that provides seating for the clergy and church choir. It is in the western part of the chancel, between the nave and the sanctuary, which houses the altar and Church tabernacle. In larger medieval churches it contained choir-stalls, seating aligned with the side of the church, so at right-angles to the seating for the congregation in the nave. Smaller medieval churches may not have a choir in the architectural sense at all, and they are often lacking in churches built by all denominations after the Protestant Reformation, though the Gothic Revival revived them as a distinct feature.

Cefalù Cathedral cathedral

The Cathedral of Cefalù is a Roman Catholic basilica in Cefalù, Sicily. It is one of nine structures included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale.

French architecture

French architecture ranks high among France's many accomplishments. Indications of the special importance of architecture in France were the founding of the Academy of Architecture in 1671, the first such institution anywhere in Europe, and the establishment in 1720 of the Prix de Rome in architecture, a competition of national interest, funded by the state, and an honor intensely pursued. If the first period of France's preeminent achievement was the Gothic, and the second, the eighteenth century, the longer tradition of French architecture has always been an esteemed one.

St Mary Star of the Sea, West Melbourne Church in Victoria, Australia

St Mary Star of the Sea is a historically significant Catholic Church in West Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1882 and the building was completed by 1900. Since 2002, restoration has been ongoing to restore the church to its original state. Built with seating for over 1,200 people, it has been described as the largest parish church in Melbourne, in Victoria, or even in Australia.

Catalan Gothic is an artistic style, with particular characteristics in the field of architecture. It occurred under the Crown of Aragon between the 13th and 15th centuries, which places it at the end of the European Gothic period and at the beginning of the Renaissance. The term "Catalan Gothic" is confined to Barcelona and its area of influence, which has its own characteristics.

Las Palmas Cathedral cathedral in Las Palmas, Canary Islands

The Cathedral of Santa Ana is a Roman Catholic church located in Las Palmas, Canary Islands. The cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of the Canaries. It is situated within the Vegueta neighborhood, next to the Plaza Mayor of Santa Ana. The feast of the cathedral's dedication is celebrated annually on November 26. The structure is considered the most important monument of Canarian religious architecture.

St Josephs Church, North Ward church building in Queensland, Australia

St Joseph's Church is a heritage-listed Roman Catholic church at Fryer Street, North Ward, City of Townsville, Queensland, Australia. It was designed by Charles Dalton Lynch and Walter Hunt and built from 1920 to 1921 by Joseph Rooney. It is also known as St Joseph on The Strand. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 26 November 1999.

St Annes Catholic Church, North Bondi Church in New South Wales, Australia

St Anne's Church is a heritage-listed Roman Catholic church located at 60 Blair Street, North Bondi, Waverley Municipality, New South Wales, Australia. The church was designed by Joseph Fowell and Kenneth McConnel, and built from 1934 to 1964 by R. M. Bowcock. It is also known as St. Anne's Church and St Anne's Shrine. The property is owned by The Sisters of Mercy and it was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 26 May 2006.


  1. 1 2 3 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Spiers, Richard Phené (1911). "Aisle". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 447.
  3. Upton, Dell, and John Michael Vlach. Common places: readings in American vernacular architecture. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986. 206. ISBN   0820307505
  4. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design are part of the ADA Title III regulations
  5. The ADA Small Business Guide provides information on removing architectural barriers.