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 and altar forming the horizontal. Towers or domes may inspire contemplation of the heavens. Modern churches have a variety of architectural styles 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 or throne of a presiding bishop.
In Greek, the adjective kyriak-ós/-ē/-ón ( κυριακόν ) 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" (Kυριακός οίκος) ("house of the Lord", church), "Kyriakē" (Κυριακή) ("[the day] of the Lord", i.e. Sunday), or "Kyriakē proseukhē" (Greek : Κυριακή προσευχή) (the "Lord's Prayer").
In standard Greek usage, the older word "ecclesia" (Greek : 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 церковь (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 homes (Acts 17:5, 20:20, 1 Corinthians 16:19) or in Jewish places of worship, like the Second Temple or synagogues (Acts 2:46, 19:8). 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 meetings, banquets, mystery plays, and fairs. 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 octagonal towers and cushion capitals on pillars. In the early romanesque era, coffering 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.
The Gothic 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 symbolic and allegorical features. The first pointed arches, rib vaults and buttresses 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 churches, 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 in Palermo, 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 churches 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.
The baroque 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. Domes 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 era.
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.
The Latin 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.
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.
A cathedral is a church, usually 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 Latin : 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 in Oxford, England, Porvoo Cathedral in Porvoo, 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 pilgrimages are regularly made, or a church along a pilgrimage route, often located at the tomb of a saints, or holding icons or relics to which miraculous properties are ascribed, the site of Marian apparitions, etc.
A conventual church (or monastery church, minster, katholikon ) is the main church building in a Christian monastery or abbey.
A collegiate church is a church where the daily office of worship is maintained by a college of canons, which may be presided over by a dean or provost. 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.
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. 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 homesor 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, Tees 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.a former bus garage, a former cinema and bingo hall, a former Territorial Army drill hall, and a former synagogue. HMS
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.
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.
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.
A chapel is a Christian place of prayer and worship that is usually relatively small, and is distinguished from a church. The term has several senses. Firstly, smaller spaces inside a church that have their own altar are often called chapels; the Lady chapel is a common type of these. Secondly, a chapel is a place of worship, sometimes non-denominational, that is part of a building or complex with some other main purpose, such as a school, college, hospital, palace or large aristocratic house, castle, barracks, prison, funeral home, cemetery, airport, or a military or commercial ship. Thirdly, chapels are small places of worship, built as satellite sites by a church or monastery, for example in remote areas; these are often called a chapel of ease. A feature of all these types is that often no clergy were permanently resident or specifically attached to the chapel.
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.
Medieval architecture is architecture common in the Middle Ages, and includes religious, civil, and military buildings. Styles include pre-Romanesque, Romanesque, and Gothic. While most of the surviving medieval architecture is to be seen in churches and castles, examples of civic and domestic architecture can be found throughout Europe, in manor houses, town halls, almshouses, bridges, and residential houses.
Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire, or Eastern Roman Empire.
A transept is a transverse part of any building, which lies across the main body of the edifice. In churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform ("cross-shaped") building within the Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architectural traditions. Each half of a transept is known as a semitransept.
Rose window is often used as a generic term applied to a circular window, but is especially used for those found in Gothic cathedrals and churches. The windows are divided into segments by stone mullions and tracery. The term rose window was not used before the 17th century and according to the Oxford English Dictionary, among other authorities, comes from the English flower name rose.
Romanesque Revival is a style of building employed beginning in the mid-19th century inspired by the 11th- and 12th-century Romanesque architecture. Unlike the historic Romanesque style, however, Romanesque Revival buildings tended to feature more simplified arches and windows than their historic counterparts.
Church architecture refers to the architecture of buildings of Christian churches. It has evolved over the two thousand years of the Christian religion, partly by innovation and partly by imitating other architectural styles as well as responding to changing beliefs, practices and local traditions. From the birth of Christianity to the present, the most significant objects of transformation for Christian architecture and design were the great churches of Byzantium, the Romanesque abbey churches, Gothic cathedrals and Renaissance basilicas with its emphasis on harmony. These large, often ornate and architecturally prestigious buildings were dominant features of the towns and countryside in which they stood. However, far more numerous were the parish churches in Christendom, the focus of Christian devotion in every town and village. While a few are counted as sublime works of architecture to equal the great cathedrals and churches, the majority developed along simpler lines, showing great regional diversity and often demonstrating local vernacular technology and decoration.
Sacral architecture is a religious architectural practice concerned with the design and construction of places of worship or sacred or intentional space, such as churches, mosques, stupas, synagogues, and temples. Many cultures devoted considerable resources to their sacred architecture and places of worship. Religious and sacred spaces are amongst the most impressive and permanent monolithic buildings created by humanity. Conversely, sacred architecture as a locale for meta-intimacy may also be non-monolithic, ephemeral and intensely private, personal and non-public.
Erfurt Cathedral, also known as St Mary's Cathedral, is the largest and oldest church building in the Thuringian city of Erfurt, central Germany. It is the episcopal seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erfurt. The cathedral was mainly built in the International Gothic style and is located on a hillside overlooking the main town square. Former German names include Marienkirche and Propsteikirche Beatae Mariae Virginis.
Italy has a very broad and diverse architectural style, which cannot be simply classified by period or region, due to Italy's division into various small states until 1861. This has created a highly diverse and eclectic range in architectural designs. Italy is known for its considerable architectural achievements, such as the construction of aqueducts, temples and similar structures during ancient Rome, the founding of the Renaissance architectural movement in the late-14th to 16th century, and being the homeland of Palladianism, a style of construction which inspired movements such as that of Neoclassical architecture, and influenced the designs which noblemen built their country houses all over the world, notably in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America during the late-17th to early 20th centuries.
Gothic architecture appeared in the prosperous independent city-states of Italy in the 12th century, later than in Northern Europe. Each city developed its own particular variations of the style. Italian architects preferred to keep the traditional construction methods established in the previous centuries; architectural solutions and technical innovations of French Gothic were seldom used. Soaring height was less important than in Northern Europe. Brick rather than stone was the most common building material, and marble was widely used for decoration. In the 15th century, when the Gothic style dominated northern Europe and Italy, the north of the Italian Peninsula became the birthplace of Renaissance architecture.
Coptic architecture is the architecture of the Coptic Christians, who form the majority of Christians in Egypt.
Roman Marian churches are religious buildings dedicated to the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These churches were built throughout the history of the Catholic Church, and today they can be found on every continent including Antarctica. The history of Marian church architecture tells the unfolding story of the development of Roman Catholic Mariology.
In ecclesiastical architecture, a ciborium is a canopy or covering supported by columns, freestanding in the sanctuary, that stands over and covers the altar in a basilica or other church. It may also be known by the more general term of baldachin, though ciborium is often considered more correct for examples in churches. Really a baldachin should have a textile covering, or at least, as at Saint Peter's in Rome, imitate one. There are exceptions; Bernini's structure in Saint Peter's, Rome is always called the "baldachin". Early ciboria had curtains hanging from rods between the columns, so that the altar could be concealed from the congregation at points in the liturgy. Smaller examples may cover other objects in a church. In a very large church, a ciborium is an effective way of visually highlighting the altar, and emphasizing its importance. The altar and ciborium are often set upon a dais to raise it above the floor of the sanctuary.
St Martin's Cathedral is a cathedral in Slovakia. It is located in the town of Spišská Kapitula and is the cathedral church of the Spiš diocese.
Church building in Norway began when Christianity was established there around the year 1000. The first buildings may have been post churches erected in the 10th or 11th century, but the evidence is inconclusive. For instance under Urnes Stave Church and Lom Stave Church there are traces of older post churches. Post churches were later replaced by the more durable stave churches. About 1,300 churches were built during the 12th and 13th centuries in what was Norway's first building boom. A total of about 3,000 churches have been built in Norway, although nearly half of them have perished. From 1620 systematic records and accounts were kept although sources prior to 1620 are fragmented. Evidence about early and medieval churches is partly archaeological. The "long church" is the most common type of church in Norway. There are about 1620 buildings recognized as churches affiliated with the Church of Norway. In addition, there are a number of gospel halls belonging to the lay movement affiliated with the Church of Norway as well as churches belonging to other Christian bodies. Until the 20th century, most churches were built from wood. 220 buildings are protected by law, and an additional 765 are listed as valuable cultural heritage.
Gothic cathedrals and churches are religious buildings created in Europe between the mid-12th century and the beginning of the 16th century. The cathedrals are notable particularly for their great height and their extensive use of stained glass to fill the interiors with light. They were the tallest and largest buildings of their time and the most prominent examples of Gothic architecture. The appearance of the Gothic cathedral was not only a revolution in architecture; it also introduced new forms in decoration, sculpture, and art.
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