architecture of cathedrals and great churches


  • This large church was to influence the building of many later churches, even into the 21st century.

  • Often there are many additional chapels located towards the eastern end of a cathedral or abbey church.

  • • Tours Cathedral, France, has a high apse, ambulatory and chevet of radiating chapels with flying buttresses • Lincoln Cathedral, England, has the cliff-like, buttressed
    east end usual in English Gothic churches External decoration[edit] The external decoration of a cathedral or large church building is often both architectural and pictorial.

  • • Basilicas • Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Assisi, Italy • Basilica of St Josaphat, Milwaukee, United States • Basilica of St Giles, Bardejov, Slovakia Origins and
    development of the church building The church building grew out of a number of features of the Ancient Roman period: • The house church • The atrium • The basilica • The bema • The mausoleum – centrally planned building • The cruciform ground
    plan – Latin or Greek cross From house church to church[edit] From the first to the early fourth centuries most Christian communities worshipped in private homes, often secretly.

  • A square plan in which the nave, chancel and transept arms are of equal length forming a Greek cross, the crossing generally surmounted by a dome became the common form in
    the Orthodox Church, with many churches throughout Eastern Europe and Russia being built in this way.

  • • The cathedral often had its origins in a monastic foundation and was a place of worship for members of a holy order who said the mass privately at a number of small chapels
    within the cathedral.

  • From this beginning, the plan of the church developed into the so-called Latin Cross which is the shape of most Western Cathedrals and large churches.

  • In some large churches, particularly late Medieval churches, there are two aisles on either side of nave.

  • During Holy Week the faithful would process along the Way of the Cross, leading to the Basilica, which in Early Christian times consisted of a domed shrine over the site of
    the tomb, and a “porch” which had a staircase on either side, supported by a small tower, by which the procession entered and exited.

  • [8] The earliest large churches, such as the cathedral of St John Lateran in Rome, consisted of a single-ended basilica with one apsidal end and a courtyard, or atrium, at
    the other end.

  • It was the Roman basilica, used for meetings, markets and courts of law that provided a model for the large Christian church and that gave its name to the Christian basilica.

  • In some churches, particularly in Germany, the aisles are almost as high as the nave, forming a “hall church”.

  • • Russian Revival façade of The Cathedral of Peter and Paul with polychrome details, tented roofs and domes • The Neoclassical façade of Vilnius Cathedral, Lithuania, with
    its pediment and columns… East end[edit] Main article: Architectural development of the eastern end of cathedrals in England and France The east end is the part of the building which shows the greatest diversity of architectural form.

  • In parts of Europe there are also round tower-like churches of the Romanesque period but they are generally vernacular architecture and of small scale.

  • In some English cathedrals there is often a second transept containing chapels, to facilitate the saying of the Divine Office by clergy each day.

  • An extended eastern end is often found at cathedrals where the remains of a saint are interred behind the High Altar.

  • In the case of St Peter’s Basilica and St Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome, this bema extended laterally beyond the main meeting hall, forming two arms so that the building
    took on the shape of a T with a projecting apse.

  • Five very large churches were founded in Rome and, though much altered or rebuilt, still exist today, including the cathedral church of Rome, St John on the Lateran Hill and
    the papal St Peter’s Basilica on the Vatican Hill, now the Vatican City.

  • It passed into the church architecture of the Roman world and was adapted in different ways as a feature of cathedral architecture.

  • [8] Atrium[edit] When Early Christian Communities began to build churches they drew on one particular feature of the houses that preceded them, the atrium, or courtyard with
    a colonnade surrounding it.

  • In the some, notably Lincoln Cathedral, the east end presents a square, cliff-like form while in most this severity is broken by a projecting Lady Chapel.

  • A small number, such as the Temple Church, London were built during the Crusades in imitation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as isolated examples in England, France and

  • 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 Christianisation of the Roman Empire.

  • Churches of the Greek Cross form often have a narthex or vestibule which stretches across the front of the church.

  • They also strengthen the structure by buttressing the inner walls that carry the high roof, which in the case of many cathedrals and other large churches, is made of stone.

  • In a centrally planned church such as Hagia Sophia, and typical of many Orthodox churches, the major interior space of the building is roofed by the dome.

  • Nave[edit] The majority of cathedrals and large churches of the Western European tradition have a high wide nave with a lower aisle separated by an arcade on either side.

  • It is one of the earliest church buildings that was centrally, rather than longitudinally planned.

  • Both Roman basilicas and Roman bath houses had at their core a large vaulted building with a high roof, braced on either side by a series of lower chambers or a wide arcade

  • [2] Function Among the world’s largest and most architecturally significant churches, many were built to serve as cathedrals or abbey churches.

  • In those churches in which painted rather than sculptured decoration prevails, the Last Judgement is often located on the interior of the west end, rather than the exterior.

  • [3][better source needed] It was two hundred years before the first cathedral building was constructed in Rome.

  • • Three ancient cathedrals dominating townscapes which have retained medieval scale • Lincoln Cathedral, England, has two west towers and a huge crossing tower topped for
    200 years by the world’s tallest spire.

  • Chancel, choir and presbytery[edit] In a church in which part of the body of the church extends beyond the transept, then this extension is architecturally termed the “chancel”,
    for which the stricter definition includes only the choir and the sanctuary with the high altar, but in the common wider definition includes the whole eastern arm beyond the crossing.

  • [7][better source needed] • Cathedrals • Cathedral of Cajamarca, Peru • Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow, Russia • Saint-Stephen Cathedral, Metz, France Collegiate
    churches[edit] Main article: Collegiate church Monastic churches[edit] Main articles: Monastery, Abbey, and Priory An abbey church is one that is, or was in the past, the church of a monastic order.

  • Constantine was also responsible for the building of the circular, mausoleum-like Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which in turn influenced the plan of a number
    of buildings, including that constructed in Rome to house the remains of the proto-martyr Saint Stephen, San Stefano Rotondo and the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna.

  • The descendants of these atria may be seen in the large square cloisters that can be found beside many cathedrals, and in the huge colonnaded squares or piazze at the Basilicas
    of St Peter’s in Rome and St Mark’s in Venice and the Camposanto (Holy Field) at the Cathedral of Pisa.

  • In churches of Western European tradition, the plan is usually longitudinal, in the form of the so-called Latin Cross with a long nave crossed by a transept.

  • The processional door was that which led from the furthest end of the building, while the door most used by the public might be that central to one side of the building, as
    in a basilica of law.

  • This type of plan was also to later play a part in the development of church architecture in Western Europe, most notably in Bramante’s plan for St Peter’s Basilica[2][8]
    and Christopher Wren’s design for St Paul’s Cathedral.

  • Other than Santa Costanza and San Stefano, there was another significant place of worship in Rome that was also circular, the vast Ancient Roman Pantheon, with its numerous
    statue-filled niches.

  • • The atrium at the Basilica di San Clemente, Rome, with reused Ancient Roman columns • The Romanesque atrium at the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, Milan • A section of the enormous
    colonnade around the piazza of St Peter’s Basilica, Rome Basilica[edit] Early church architecture did not draw its form from Roman temples, as the latter did not have large internal spaces where worshipping congregations could meet.

  • [10] Many churches of Rome, notably St Peter’s Basilica, face the opposite direction.

  • • The Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles, Athens, shows a Greek Cross plan with central dome and the axis marked by the narthex (transverse vestibule).

  • Among the Roman Catholic churches, many have been raised to the status of “basilica” since the 18th century.

  • [9] Latin Cross and Greek Cross[edit] Plan of the Renaissance St Peter’s Basilica, showing elements of both central and longitudinal plan.

  • • Four forms of east end • The Abbey of San Salvatore, Italy, has three simple apses • The Church of St Nicola, Kungur, Russia, has an apse and wide ambulatory.

  • This too was to become a church and subsequently a Roman Catholic basilica and lend its style to the development of ecclesiastical architecture.

  • The interior of the dome or tower may be one of the major architectural features of the interior of the church.

  • Some great churches of the Middle Ages, such as Westminster Abbey, are former abbeys; others like Ripon Cathedral and Bath Abbey were built as monastic churches and became
    cathedrals or parish churches in recent centuries; others again were built as parish churches and subsequently raised to cathedrals, like Southwark Cathedral.

  • A cathedral might be as small as the historic Newport Cathedral, a late medieval parish church declared a cathedral in 1949.

  • In many parts of the world, abbey churches frequently served the local community as well as the monastic community.

  • In Denmark such churches in the Romanesque style are much more numerous.

  • The intersection where the nave and transept meet is called the crossing and is often surmounted by a small spire called a flèche, a dome or, particularly in England, a large
    tower with or without a spire.

  • They also tend to display a higher level of contemporary architectural style and the work of accomplished craftsmen, and occupy a status both ecclesiastical and social that
    an ordinary parish church rarely has.

  • Not every church or cathedral maintains a strict east–west axis, but even in those that do not, the terms East End and West Front are used.

  • In those English cathedrals with two transepts, there is a further area beyond the choir which is called the Presbytery.

  • [4] The architectural form which cathedrals took was largely dependent upon their ritual function as the seat of a bishop.

  • • Pisa Cathedral from the “Leaning Tower” shows the Latin Cross form, with projecting apse, foreground and free-standing baptistry at the west.

  • • Southwark Cathedral, London, shows strongly projecting transepts, long eastern end and the central tower common in Britain.

  • The reason for such a designation is often that the church is a prominent pilgrimage site and contains the celebrated relics of a saint, or another relic, such as a supposed
    fragment of the True Cross.

  • A raised dais called a bema formed part of many large basilican churches.

  • In the case of a centrally planned church, the major axis is that between the main door and the altar.

  • They flourished in Norman and Gothic architecture as large towers, reaching their height of magnificence at Cologne Cathedral, where they were not completed until the late
    19th century.

  • The scheme typically starts outside the church, on the west front, with the portrayal of Christ the Judge above the lintel of the main door.

  • [5][full citation needed] • As the seat of a bishop, the cathedral was the location for certain liturgical rites, such as the ordination of priests, which brought together
    large numbers of clergy and people.

  • Different styles of architecture developed and their fashion spread, carried by the establishment of monastic orders, by the posting of bishops from one region to another
    and by the travelling of master stonemasons who served as architects.

  • Cathedrals, collegiate churches, and monastic churches like those of abbeys and priories, often have certain complex structural forms that are found less often in parish churches.

  • Some of these characteristics are so typical of a particular country or region that they appear, regardless of style, in the architecture of churches designed many centuries

  • St Peter’s is also of 4th century foundation, though nothing of that appears above the ground.

  • Transept chapels are often dedicated to a particular saint, or to a particular aspect in the life and ministry of Christ, such as the Nativity or the Resurrection.


Works Cited

[‘1. John Harvey, The Gothic World.
2. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j k Fletcher, Banister (1905). A history of architecture on the comparative method (1st ed.). London : Batsford.
3. ^ Ignatius of Antioch, in Letter to the Ephesians written c.
100 CE.
4. ^ Jump up to:a b c d V Pinto, Pio (1975). The Pilgrim’s Guide To Rome (1st ed.). ISBN 9780060133887.
5. ^ Jump up to:a b c d Wim Swaan, The Gothic Cathedral[full citation needed]
6. ^ “From the earliest part of the Gothic era it
was practically inconceivable to build a cathedral that was less than a hundred yards long” p.23 François Icher,Building the Great Cathedrals
7. ^ Santiago de Compostella, Canterbury Cathedral.
8. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e Andre Grabar, The Beginnings
of Christian Art.[full citation needed]
9. ^ Jump up to:a b Beny and Gunn, Churches of Rome.
10. ^ An extreme example of this is the new Coventry Cathedral where the “East End” actually faces north, due to the construction of the new building
at right angles to the shell of the old building destroyed in the Second World War
11. ^ “Wells: Cathedral. Exterior west front”. Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema Collection Online. doi:10.1163/37701_atco_pf_8969. Retrieved 2022-04-23.
12. ^ McAleer,
J. Philip (1999-01-01). Rochester Cathedral, 604-1540. University of Toronto Press. doi:10.3138/9781442679436. ISBN 978-1-4426-7943-6.
13. ^ Wallert, Arie; Hermens, Erma; Peek, Marja, eds. (1995). Historical painting techniques, materials, and studio
practice: preprints of a symposium, University of Leiden, the Netherlands, 26-29 June, 1995. Getty Conservation Institute. ISBN 0-89236-322-3. OCLC 32131812.
14. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e Larousse Encyclopedia of Byzantine and Medieval Art[full citation
15. ^ Jump up to:a b Rolf Toman, Romanesque – Architecture, Sculpture, Painting[full citation needed]
16. ^ W. H. Auden, “Cathedrals, Luxury liners laden with souls, Holding to the East their hulls of stone”
17. ^ Gerald Randall (1980).
Church Furnishing and Decoration in England and Wales. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd. ISBN 0-7134-3382-5
18. ^ “Catechism of the Catholic Church – IntraText”. Archived from the original on 2004-05-01.
19. ^ T. Francis Bumpus, The
Cathedrals and Churches of Belgium.
20. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e Alec Clifton-Taylor, The Cathedrals of England.[full citation needed]
21. ^ Jump up to:a b Nikolaus Pevsner, An Outline of European Architecture[full citation needed]
22. ^ Giovanni
Fanelli, Brunelleschi.[full citation needed]
23. ^ James Lees-Milne, St Peter’s[full citation needed]
24. ^ John Summerson, Architecture in Britain
Photo credit:’]