A GLOSSARY OF CHURCH ARCHITECTURAL TERMS
Abacus, usually a square uppermost part of
Abbey, a church or chapel of a monastery.
Aisle, the side of a nave (q.v.)
separated from the nave proper by a colonnade.
Ambulatory, passageway around the
choir, often a continuation of the side aisles of the nave.
Apse, a semi-circular or polygonal
vaulted space behind the altar.
Apsidiole, small apse-like chapel.
Arcade, a series of arches carried on
piers or columns.
Barrel vault, semi-cylindrical vault with
parallel abutments and of constant cross sections.
a rectangular building with a central nave, side
aisles separated by colonnades, with or without a transept, (2) Roman Catholic
Church that has been accorded certain privileges by the pope.
Bay, a vaulted division of a nave,
aisle, choir or transept along its longitudinal axis.
Blind (arch, arcade),
an arch or arcade with no openings, usually as decoration on a wall.
projecting stone at the intersection of ribs, frequently elaborately carved.
Its function is to provide a net intersection of the ribs and tie them
into one unit.
masonry member projecting from a wall, rising from the ground, and counteracting
the outward thrust of the roof or vaulting.
In Gothic architecture,
a flying buttress is
a freestanding element connected by an arch to the outer wall.
Canopy, a protective roof above statues
Campanile, term only applied to a bell
tower which is detached from a church..
Capital, the head of a column.
Cathedral, the chief church of a
Diocese (Roman Catholic or Episcopal) which contains the Cathedra, the seat of
Chancel, interchangeable with choir (q.v.),
sometimes the area in front the altar.
Chevet, an apse (q.v.), typically the
ambulatory (q.v.) and radiating chapels (q.v.).
at the end of the nave which is reserved for clergy or monks (modern
- singers), and which contains the altar and choir stalls.
Choir stalls, the row of stepped seats
on either side of the choir, facing inwards.
figure of five equal segments.
Clerestory, the exterior wall of a nave
above the level of the aisles with windows.
enclosure surrounded by covered walkways, the center of activity for the
inhabitants of a monastery.
Close, the area on which the cathedral
and subordinate building stand.
structure of vaults lined with recesses for urns.
Concha, semi-circular niche with a
Corbel or Console, ornamental
bracket that projects from the wall.
Crocket, an ornament consisting of a
projecting piece of sculptured stone or wood.
Used to decorate the sloping ridges of gablets, spires, and pinnacles.
Usually carved as foliage.
Crossing, the area of a church where the
nave is intersected by the transept.
chamber beneath the altar in a church, usually containing a saint’s relics.
It sometimes extends as far as the crossing, so that the choir and altar
are sometimes considerably higher than the nave and aisle.
Engaged column, a
column embedded in a wall, not free standing.
Finial, the topmost portion of a pinnacle,
usually sculptured as an elaborate ornament with upright stem and cluster of
crockets; seen at a distance, it resembles a cross from any angle of vision.
chapel or porch at the entrance to a church
Gargoyle, a pierced or tunneled stone
projecting from a gutter and intended to carry rain away from wall and
foundations. It is usually carved
into the image of a beast or ugly creature.
Gallery, an upper story, running along the
side of a church, open on one side to the interior.
Groin vault, type
of vaulting caused by two equally large barrel vaults (q.v.) crossing at right
angles; the angle formed by the intersecting vaults is the groin.
Intrados, the inner face of an arch or
Lady chapel, a chapel dedicated to the
pointed arched window of one opening frequently arranged in groups of two to
Lantern tower, a tower with windows
shedding light into the crossing (q.v.).
Lunette, a semi-circular space above doors
and windows, sometimes framed and decorated.
the choir stalls of medieval church, a bracket (often grotesquely or humorously
carved) beneath a hinged seat which, when the seat was tipped up, gave some
support to a person standing during a lengthy service.
Narthex, the single-story porch of a church
area of a church between the façade and crossing or choir, specifically, the
central area between the aisles.
Niche, a recess in the face of a wall or
pier, prepared to receive a statue.
small circular opening admitting light at the top of a dome.
Pier, a mass of masonry supporting an
arch or vault and distinct from a column, A clustered pier is composed of a number of small
Pinnacle, a turrent tapering upward to the
top, its gracefulness enhanced by crockets (q.v.),and top stone called a finial
Pulpitum, a screen dividing the choir from
the nave. Often called Rood Screen.
Predella, the step or platform on which an
altar is placed.
Portal, a major entrance to church,
emphasized by sculpture and decoration.
Quatrefoil, a figure used in window
tracery, shaped to form a cross or four equal segments of a circle.
Radiating chapels, chapels
leading off from the ambulatory, and arranged in a semi-circular fashion.
Reredos, the wall or screen at the back of
an altar, either in carved stone, wood or metal.
Retrochoir, in some cathedrals, the
portion of the chancel (q.v.) behind the high altar at the extreme east end.
Respond, long narrow column or engaged
column, mainly in Gothic architecture, which supports the arches and ribs of
groan vaults or the profiles of arcade arches.
Reliquary, a casket containing one or
Rib, a structural molding of a vault.
Rood Beam, a large beam set
transversely across a church from north to south on which stands a crucifix.
Rood screen, the screen dividing the
choir from the nave.
Rose Window, a round window, with
tracery (q.v.) dividing it into sections, called petals.
Sanctuary, the part of the church
which contains the high altar.
Sedilla, seats in the sanctuary (q.v.) near
the altar, usually three in number for clergy.
Shaft, the main part of a column, from
its base to its capital.
triangular space between the outer curve of an arch and an enclosing frame of
mouldings, often richly carved with foliage.
Tracery, a term for the variations of
mullions in Gothic windows and for geometric systems on wall panels and doors.
of a church a right angles to the nave and in front of the choir.
a carved three-leaved ornament, or a three lobed opening in tracery (q.v.).
Triforium, space below the clerestory
picture, design or carving on three panels, often an altar piece.
Tympanum, the area above a portal (door)
enclosed by an arch, and the most important site for sculpture on the exterior
of the church.
Vault, the ceiling of a church formed of
concrete, stone in mortar or brick in mortar forming a continuous semicircular
or pointed arch.
Vesica, an aureole or pointed oval shape,
surrounding a sacred image.
section of forecourt has often been developed as the “Galilee”
forms a twin-towered façade
The central nave
of the basilica is flaked by
The two side
The crossing is
surmounted by a central tower.
8. This is
also the point from which the arms of the transept start.
from the central nave, the choir extends eastward.
is connected the apsidal-ended sanctuary (apse) and in some cases also an
often incorporating chapels.