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.
As an architectural term "choir" remains distinct from the actual location of any singing choir – these may be located in various places, and often sing from a choir-loft, often over the door at the liturgical western end.In modern churches, the choir may be located centrally behind the altar, or the pulpit.
The back-choir or retroquire is a space behind the high altar in the choir of a church, in which there may be a small altar standing back to back with the other.
In the Early Church, the sanctuary was connected directly to the nave. The choir was simply the east part of the nave, and was fenced off by a screen or low railing, called cancelli, which is where the English word chancel comes from. The development of the architectural feature known as the choir is the result of the liturgical development brought about by the end of persecutions under Constantine the Great and the rise of monasticism. The word "choir" is first used by members of the Latin Church. Isidore of Seville and Honorius of Autun write that the term is derived from the "corona", the circle of clergy or singers who surrounded the altar.
When first introduced, the choir was attached to the bema, the elevated platform in the center of the nave on which were placed seats for the higher clergy and a lectern for scripture readings. This arrangement can still be observed at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. Over time, the bema (or presbytery) and choir moved eastward to their current position. In some churches, such as Westminster Cathedral, the choir is arranged in the apse behind the altar.
The architectural details of the choir developed in response to its function as the place where the Divine Office was chanted by the monastic brotherhood or the chapter of canons. The chancel was regarded as the clergy's part of the church, and any choirboys from a choir school counted as part of the clergy for this purpose. After the Reformation, when the number of clergy present even in large churches and cathedrals tended to reduce, and lay singing choirs became more frequent, there were often objections to placing them in the traditional choir stalls in the chancel. The pulpit and lectern are also usually found at the front of the choir, though both Catholic and Protestant churches have sometimes moved the pulpit to the nave for better audibility. The organ may be located here, or in a loft elsewhere in the church. Some cathedrals have a retro-choir behind the High Altar, opening eastward towards the chapels (chantries) in the eastern extremity.
After the Reformation Protestant churches generally moved the altar (now often called the communion table) forward, typically to the front of the chancel, and often used lay choirs who were placed in a gallery at the west end. The choir and rear of deep chancels became little used in churches surviving from the Middle Ages, and new churches very often omitted one. With the emphasis on sermons, and their audibility, some churches simply converted their chancels to seat part of the congregation. In 19th-century England one of the battles of the Cambridge Camden Society, the architectural wing of the Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England, was to restore the chancel, including the choir, as a necessary part of a church. By pushing the altar back to its medieval position and having the choir used by a lay choir, they were largely successful in this, although the harder end of the High Church objected to allowing a large group of laity into the chancel.Different approaches to worship in the 20th century again tended to push altars in larger churches forward, to be closer to the congregation, and the chancel again risks being a less used area of the church.
The choir area is occupied by sometimes finely carved and decorated wooden seats known as choir stalls, where the clergy sit, stand or kneel during services. The choir may be furnished either with long benches (pews) or individual choir stalls. There may be several rows of seating running parallel to the walls of the church.
The use of choir stalls (as opposed to benches) is more traditional in monasteries and collegiate churches. Monastic choir stalls are often fitted with seats that fold up when the monastics stand and fold down when they sit. Often the hinged seat will have a misericord (small wooden seat) on the underside on which he can lean while standing during the long services. The upper part of the monk's stall is so shaped as to provide a headrest while sitting, and arm rests when standing. Monasteries will often have strict rules as to when the monastics may sit and when they must stand during the services.
Choir benches are more common in parish churches. Each bench may have padded kneelers attached to the back of it so that the person behind may kneel at the appropriate times during services. The front row will often have a long prie-dieu running in front of it for the choir members to place their books on, and which may also be fitted with kneelers.
In a cathedral, the bishop's throne or cathedra is usually located in this space.
A cathedral is a church that contains the cathedra of a bishop, thus serving as the central church of a diocese, conference, or episcopate. Churches with the function of "cathedral" are usually specific to those Christian denominations with an episcopal hierarchy, such as the Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and some Lutheran churches. Church buildings embodying the functions of a cathedral first appeared in Italy, Gaul, Spain, and North Africa in the 4th century, but cathedrals did not become universal within the Western Catholic Church until the 12th century, by which time they had developed architectural forms, institutional structures, and legal identities distinct from parish churches, monastic churches, and episcopal residences.
In Western ecclesiastical architecture, a cathedral diagram is a floor plan showing the sections of walls and piers, giving an idea of the profiles of their columns and ribbing. Light double lines in perimeter walls indicate glazed windows. Dashed lines show the ribs of the vaulting overhead. By convention, ecclesiastical floorplans are shown map-fashion, with north to the top and the liturgical east end to the right.
The architecture of cathedrals and great churches is characterised by the buildings' large scale and follows one of several branching traditions of form, function and style that derive ultimately from the Early Christian architectural traditions established in Late Antiquity during the Christianization of the Roman Empire.
In Eastern Christianity, an iconostasis is a wall of icons and religious paintings, separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church. Iconostasis also refers to a portable icon stand that can be placed anywhere within a church. The iconostasis evolved from the Byzantine templon, a process complete by the 15th century.
The altar rail is a low barrier, sometimes ornate and usually made of stone, wood or metal in some combination, delimiting the chancel or the sanctuary and altar in a church, from the nave and other parts that contain the congregation. Often a gate, or just a gap, at the centre divides the line into two parts. Rails are a very common, but not inevitable, feature of Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist churches. They are usually about two feet 6 inches high, with a padded step at the bottom, and designed so that the wider top of the rail can support the forearms or elbows of a kneeling person.
A pulpit is a raised stand for preachers in a Christian church. The origin of the word is the Latin pulpitum. The traditional pulpit is raised well above the surrounding floor for audibility and visibility, accessed by steps, with sides coming to about waist height. From the late medieval period onwards, pulpits have often had a canopy known as the sounding board, tester or abat-voix above and sometimes also behind the speaker, normally in wood. Though sometimes highly decorated, this is not purely decorative, but can have a useful acoustic effect in projecting the preacher's voice to the congregation below. Most pulpits have one or more book-stands for the preacher to rest his or her bible, notes or texts upon.
In architecture, an apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome, also known as an exedra. In Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic Christian church architecture, the term is applied to a semi-circular or polygonal termination of the main building at the liturgical east end, regardless of the shape of the roof, which may be flat, sloping, domed, or hemispherical. Smaller apses are found elsewhere, especially in shrines.
In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar, including the choir and the sanctuary, at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building. It may terminate in an apse.
A cathedra is the raised throne of a bishop in the early Christian basilica. When used with this meaning, it can be also called the bishop's throne. With time, the related term cathedral became synonymous with the "seat", or principal church, of a bishopric.
The rood screen is a common feature in late medieval church architecture. It is typically an ornate partition between the chancel and nave, of more or less open tracery constructed of wood, stone, or wrought iron. The rood screen would originally have been surmounted by a rood loft carrying the Great Rood, a sculptural representation of the Crucifixion. In English, Scottish, and Welsh cathedrals, monastic, and collegiate churches, there were commonly two transverse screens, with a rood screen or rood beam located one bay west of the pulpitum screen, but this double arrangement nowhere survives complete, and accordingly the preserved pulpitum in such churches is sometimes referred to as a rood screen. At Wells Cathedral the medieval arrangement was restored in the 20th century, with the medieval strainer arch supporting a rood, placed in front of the pulpitum and organ.
A misericord is a small wooden structure formed on the underside of a folding seat in a church which, when the seat is folded up, is intended to act as a shelf to support a person in a partially standing position during long periods of prayer.
Wreckovation is a portmanteau term coined by Catholics to describe the style of modern renovations which some historic Catholic cathedrals, churches, and oratories have undergone since the Second Vatican Council and which they oppose.
St Laurence's Church, Ludlow is a parish church in the Church of England in Ludlow.
The Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King is a Roman Catholic church in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The cathedral was consecrated on December 19, 1933. It is the seat of the Bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton, and the cathedral of the Diocese of Hamilton. The cathedral contains the cathedra of the Bishop, the Most Rev. Douglas Crosby. The cathedral was raised to the status of a minor basilica in February 2013 by Pope Benedict XVI.
A kathisma, literally, "seat", is a division of the Psalter, used by Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics who follow the Byzantine Rite. The word may also describe a hymn sung at Matins, a seat used in monastic churches, or a type of monastic establishment.
The Ambon or Ambo is a projection coming out from the soleas in an Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic church. The ambon stands directly in front of the Holy Doors. It may be either rounded or square and has one, two, or three steps leading up to it.
The pulpitum is a common feature in medieval cathedral and monastic church architecture in Europe. It is a massive screen, most often constructed of stone, or occasionally timber, that divides the choir from the nave and ambulatory. Typically the pulpitum is lavishly carved and decorated, and those of York Minster and Canterbury Cathedral preserve complete medieval sets of statues of the Kings of England.
The Church of the Incarnation is a parish of the Diocese of Dallas of the Episcopal Church, located at 3966 McKinney Avenue in Dallas, Texas.
The Cathedral Church of St. Paul, is located in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, United States. It is the cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
Christ Cathedral is the cathedral church for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas. It is located in Salina, Kansas, United States, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2010.
In monasteries, when the choir of schola cantorum was composed of religious, it was usually within the cancelli in front of the sanctuary. The liturgical movement of the Baroque age removed it to a choir loft at the back of the church, thus enabling the sanctuary to be more integrated with the nave.
One of the two dominant types is the concert-stage arrangement with tiers of choir stalls behind a pulpit platform at the foot of which appears the altar-table. The other type is the so-called divided chancel with the choir stalls and altar-table within the chancel and the pulpit at one side of its entrance. In both cases the liturgical space allotted to the congregation tends to be similar: a long, rectangular nave.
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