Glossary of Church Architecture

a useful guide to what all those words mean in architecture
clipped from
Glossary of Church Architecture
Altar – the holiest part of a church. In the medieval period
the altar was a table or rectangular slab made of stone or marble,
often set upon a raised step. After the Reformation the stone altars
were replaced by wooden communion tables.

Ambulatory – a covered passage behind the altar, linking
it with chapels at the east end of the church.

Apse – the domed or vaulted east end of the church. In Britain
the apse is generally squared off, while on the continent, rounded
apses were common.

Baptistery – where the font was stored and baptisms were
performed, generally near the west door. Sometimes a screen or
grille separates the baptistery from the nave.

Bay – a vertical division, usually marked by vertical shafts
or supporting columns.

Bell Tower – a tower where the church bells were installed.
This could be separate from the church, or, more usually, attached.
Sometimes called a campanile.

Chancel – the eastern end of a church.
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