World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Church (building)

Article Id: WHEBN0000006325
Reproduction Date:

Title: Church (building)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: List of English Heritage properties, St. James's Cathedral, Riga, Christian's Church, Copenhagen, 653, Descanco Church
Collection: Christian Architecture, Christian Terminology, Churches
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Church (building)

The Church of Saint Simeon Stylites in Aleppo, Syria is considered to be one of the oldest surviving church buildings in the world.
Typical Szekely woodchurch in Sântimbru, Transylvania, Romania
Matriz N. Senhora dos Remédios, Typical Brazilian Catholic church, in Cruzeta, Brazil
Esk Church, a presbyterian church in Queensland, Australia
Pisgah Baptist Church in Four Oaks, North Carolina, a typical Protestant church in rural America
Dutch Reformed Church in Vreeswijk, Netherlands
Typical Catholic church, in Argentina

A church building, often simply called a church, is a building used for religious activities, particularly worship services. The term in its architectural sense is most often used by Christians to refer to their religious buildings but can be used by other religions.[1] In traditional Christian architecture, the church is often arranged in the shape of a Christian cross. When viewed from plan view the longest part of a cross is represented by the aisle and the junction of the cross is located at the altar area. Towers or domes are often added with the intention of directing the eye of the viewer towards the heavens and inspiring church visitors. Modern church buildings have a variety of architectural styles and layouts; many buildings that were designed for other purposes have now been converted for church use; and, similarly, many original church buildings have been put to other uses. The earliest identified Christian church was founded between 233 and 256. During the 11th through 14th centuries, a wave of building of cathedrals and smaller parish churches occurred across Western Europe. A cathedral is a church, usually Roman Catholic, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox, housing the seat of a bishop.


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
    • Antiquity 2.1
    • Medieval times 2.2
    • Renaissance 2.3
    • Industrial era 2.4
    • Modern era 2.5
  • Architecture 3
  • Types 4
    • Basilica 4.1
    • Cathedral 4.2
    • Alternative buildings 4.3
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8


In Greek, the adjective kyriak-ós/-ē/-ón means "belonging, or pertaining, to a Kýrios" ("Lord"), and the usage was adopted by early Christians of the Eastern Mediterranean with regard to anything pertaining to the Lord Jesus Christ: hence "Kyriakós oíkos" ("house of the Lord", church), "Kyriakē" ("[the day] of the Lord", i.e. Sunday), or "Kyriakē proseukhē" (the "[Lord's prayer]").

In standard Greek usage, the older word "ecclesia" (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.).

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" (Ki-ri-keh), then "churche" (kerke), and eventually "church" in its current pronunciation. German Kirche, Scottish kirk, Russian tserkov, etc., are all similarly derived.



The earliest identified Christian house church is the Dura-Europos church, founded between 233 and 256.

Medieval times

During the 11th through 14th centuries, a wave of building of cathedrals and smaller parish churches occurred across Western Europe. In addition to being a place of worship, the cathedral or parish church was used by the community in other ways. It could serve as a meeting place for guilds or a hall for banquets. Mystery plays were sometimes performed in cathedrals, and cathedrals might also be used for fairs. The church could be used as a place to thresh and store grain.[2]


Industrial era

Modern era

Throughout the last few centuries, the types of churches have become much more widespread. Some have gospel choirs while other worship in total silence. The ornateness of churches varies widely depending on the religion of the deity being worshiped, or the praying culture of the community. Due to various cultural and social reasons, most churches have seen a decline in attendance in recent years.


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.



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.

The Cathedral of Brasilia, projected by Oscar Niemeyer, is an example of modern church.


A cathedral is a church, usually Roman 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, 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.

Alternative buildings

Old and disused church buildings can be seen as an interesting proposition for developers as the architecture and location often provide for attractive homes[3][4] or city centre entertainment venues[5] On the other hand, many newer Churches have decided to host meetings in public buildings such as schools,[6] universities,[7] cinemas[8] or theatres.[9]

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 an old Tram power station,[10] a former bus garage,[11] an old cinema and bingo hall,[12] a former Territorial Army Drill Hall,[13] a former synagogue[14] and a windmill.

See also


  1. ^ Use of the term "The Manichaean Church", Encyclopedia Britannica
  2. ^ Levy. Cathedrals and the Church. p. 12. 
  3. ^ Alexander, Lucy (14 December 2007). "Church conversions". The Times (London). Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  4. ^ "Buying a church conversion". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  5. ^ Site design and technology by "quality food and drink". Pitcher and Piano. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  6. ^ "Welcome to the Family Church Christchurch Dorset". The Family Church Christchurch. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Welcome to The Hope Church, Manchester... A Newfrontiers Church based in Salford, Manchester UK, Manchester Churches, Churches Manchester, Newfrontiers Church Manchester, Manchester Newfrontiers Churc". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Jubilee Church London
  9. ^ Hillsong Church London
  10. ^ "CITY CHURCH NEWCASTLE & GATESHEAD – enjoying God...making friends...changing lives – Welcome". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "Aylsham Community Church". Aylsham Community Church. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Hall, Reg (2004). Things are different now: A short history of Winchester Family Church. Winchester: Winchester Family Church. p. 11. 
  13. ^ "Shrewsbury Venue Shrewsbury – Barnabas Community Church Shrewsbury". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  14. ^ [1]


  • Levy, Patricia (2004). Cathedrals and the Church. Medieval World. North Mankato, MN: Smart Apple Media.  
  • Krieger, Herman (1998). Churches ad hoc. PhotoZone Press. 
  • Erlande-Brandenburg, Alain, Qu'est-ce qu'une église ?, Gallimard, Paris, 333 p., 2010.
  • Gendry Mickael, L’église, un héritage de Rome, Essai sur les principes et méthodes de l’architecture chrétienne, Religions et Spiritualité, collection Beaux-Arts architecture religion, édition Harmattan 2009, 267 p.

External links

  • New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia – Ecclesiastical Buildings
  • New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia – The Church
  • Prairie Churches Documentary produced by Prairie Public Television
  • Iowa Places of Worship Documentary produced by Iowa Public Television
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.