the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
Click to donate today!
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Under Architecture (q.v.) a brief history has been given of the development of ecclesiastical architecture. The present article will contain various particulars concerning the history of some of the most prominent churches, their names, form, site, position, the arrangement of the interior, the outer buildings connected with the Church service, etc.
I. History of the Erection of Churches. — Until the second century Christians were not permitted to erect churches, but were compelled to worship in private houses, in the open fields, or, to escape persecution, in the Catacombs (q.v.) and other concealed places. On the suspension of persecution, we find, from A.D. 202 and forwards, notices of Church edifices in Nicomedia, Edessa (Odessa), and other cities. Diocletian issued an edict (A.D. 305) ordering all Christian churches to be razed to the ground. Under Constantine these were rebuilt, and great numbers of new ones erected over the whole Roman empire. Chief among them were the magnificent basilicas, (See BASILICA), of St. Peter, St. Paul, and Maria Maggiore in Rome. The form of the buildings and the contamination of idolatry prevented the general changing into Christian houses of worship of the old pagan temples, many of which were destroyed. Still some of them were thus converted, especially after the time of Theodosius I, and the materials of others were largely used. Justinian I (A.D. 565) rebuilt twenty- four churches in Constantinople alone, and many other churches, cloisters, resting-places for pilgrims, and other religious buildings, over the entire empire of the Orient, and especially in Palestine. The church of St. Sophia (q.v.) he rebuilt with great beauty and splendor.
This served as a pattern for Church edifices through the whole Christian world. Such was the splendor of the new St. Sophia that Justinian exclaimed, Νεκίκηκά σε, Σολομών, "I have surpassed thee, O Solomon!" The emperor appointed for the service of this church sixty presbyters, one hundred deacons, forty deaconesses, ninety sub-deacons, one hundred and ten readers, twenty-five singers, one hundred door-keepers, making five hundred and twenty-five of the clergy and attendants. From the death of Justinian (A.D. 575) to the eighth century but few Church buildings of great note were erected. During the reign of Charlemagne many churches were erected in North-western Europe. The belief that the world was to be destroyed in the year A.D. 1000 paralyzed all energy, and it was not till that year had passed that the great revival of all departments of human activity called forth the spirit of princes and cities, as well as of the clergy, to the erection of the many grand monuments of ecclesiastical architecture that adorn the history of the Middle Ages.
This zeal in church-building became so modified into a spirit of pride,-ambition, and corruption during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as to become one of the chief causes that produced the Reformation. The system of selling indulgences to raise money for building churches, first introduced in the eleventh century, was carried to such excess in raising funds for rebuilding the gorgeous St. Peter's (q.v.), that the reformers had in this a most powerful argument in their contest with the Romish Church. In Europe, the building, repairing, and maintaining of edifices for the national churches is provided for entirely, or at least to a great extent, from the general national taxes. Other churches build their edifices by voluntary contributions. This is universally the case in the United States of America.
In the remainder of this article we chiefly follow Bingham, Orig. Ecclesiastes bk. 8, ch. 1), making use of Farrar's abridgment, with modifications and additions.
II. The ancient Names of Churches. — The word dominicum, or domus Dei, the Lord's house, occurs in the 4th century. Cyprian uses it to denote the Lord's day, and also the Lord's Supper; yet it is used by Jerome for a building set apart for divine worship. It answers to the Greek κυριακόν. (See CHURCH).
Domus Dei, domus ecclesiae, domus divina — that is, "the Lord's house," "the house of the church," "the house of God" — are expressions in frequent use from the third century. In Eusebius we have οϊ v κος ἐκκλησίας, the house of the church. Domus divinia, the house of God, was a term employed to designate the palace of the Roman emperor; but the Christians transferred the appellation to their churches. Tertullian uses the name domus columbce, the house of the dove, or, as Mede explains it, the house of the dove-like religion, or the house of the dove- like disciples of Christ. As the Temple of God at Jerusalem is frequently in Scripture styled the house of prayer, so Christian churches are called προσευκτήρια, or οϊ v κοι εὐκτήριοι , oratories, or houses of prayer. In later times these titles were appropriated to smaller or domestic chapels. Some early writers distinguish between ἐκκλησιαστήριον and ἐκκλησία, the former signifying the building, and the latter the congregation; but in the writings of Ignatius, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, and others, the word ἐκκλησία usually means the building, and at length became the current expression. Basilica was originally applied to the imperial palace, or public halls, and was not used to designate places of worship until Christian emperors had appropriated, such buildings to the use of the Church. (See BASILICA).
Ἀνάκτορον is synonymous with basilica, and was occasionally applied to places of divine worship built by emperors. Churches were sometimes called tituli (τίτλοι ), either from the inscription of dedication, or from the sign of the cross. The term τρόπαια , tropcea, occurs in Eusebius. The reason of this name is sought in the reported appearance of the cross to Constantine, and the Labarum, on which, according to Eusebius, was inscribed τοῦ σταυροῦ τρόπαιον . Μαρτύριον, or memoria, denoted a church dedicated to the memory of a martyr. If the person in memory of whom the church was built was a prophet or an apostle, then the church respectively took the name ἀποστολείον and προφητεῖον. In addition, we find at different times, and for various reasons, the following names given to Christian churches: σκηνή, concilia, conciliabula, conventicula, cases, σύνοδοι, μοναστήριον, κοιμητήριον, corpus Christi, ναός, νῆσος , and many others. The titles fanum and delubrum were at all times rejected as profane.
Names of individual Churches. — Individual churches were, soon after the time of Constantine(?), dedicated to certain saints, and called by the names of those saints. Some of the Protestant denominations name their church edifices after the apostles, but only for the purpose of distinction from each other. Puritans, and the churches influenced by them, name their churches by their ordinal numbers, as the first, second, etc., or by the street on which they are located. In the Methodist Church the names of the apostles are often used; and church edifices are sometimes named in honor of Wesley or some other distinguished leader in the Church.
III. Forms of Churches. — The earliest ground-forms were oblong. The basilicas (q.v.) were fashioned after the analogy of a ship, or perhaps, rather, after the oblong form had been settled upon by other influences — as of architectural convenience, etc. — that part of the church to receive believers was called the nave (navis, ship). This was afterward connected with allegorical or mystical meanings; e.g. to denote the dangers to which the Church was exposed, and the safety which it offered to its members. The boat of Peter and the ark of Noah were explained as emblematic of the Church in these two respects. On the other hand, the Byzantine churches, and many that were influenced by them, were round. During the Lombard, or early Round-arch period of architecture, the churches assumed the form of a cross. In the late Gothic they had the head of the cross bent, to represent the bowing of the head of the Savior when he died: thus at Rouen (St. Ouen). The transepts of the cross often did not extend beyond the walls, not appearing at all in the external architecture.
IV. The Site — This was generally chosen on the summit of a mountain or other elevated place, for two reasons, viz. security and retirement from the bustle of the world, and a notion that elevated places were specially holy. The Temple of Solomon had been built on a hill; and the Christians remembered the expression, "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help." At first, exposed situations were avoided; but when the impediment arising from persecution was removed, they were preferred. At other times they erected their churches over the graves of martyrs; and occasionally the cemeteries were used for devotional purposes. In the tenth and eleventh centuries there were many places of this kind called κρυπταί, cryptoe.
V. Aspect. — The earliest churches faced eastward; at a later period (4th or 5th century) this was reversed, and the sacramental table was placed at the east, so that, in facing it in their devotions, they were turned towards the east. The Jewish custom was to turn to the west in prayer. "As the Jews began their day with the setting sun, so the followers of Christ began theirs with the rising sun. The eye of the Christian turned with peculiar interest to the east, in remembrance of the Morning Star, the Savior, the Sun of Righteousness. This idea was mixed up with many religious observances. After baptism the newly-admitted members of the church were turned with their faces eastward; and the dead were usually buried in the same position, under the conviction that Christ at His second coming should appear in the east."
VI. Internal Arrangement. — No particular structure or arrangement of the interior prevailed during the first three centuries. From the fourth century we find uniformity prevailing in the basilicas both of the East and West. The body of the church was divided into three parts, corresponding with the threefold division of the Christians — into clergy, including the servants of the congregation; faithful, or believers; and catechumens. This arrangement was also in conformity with the division of the ancient Temple — into the holy of holies, the sanctuary, and the court. The three parts were:
1. The bema, or sanctuary, in which the clergy officiated.
2. The naos, or nave, appropriated to the faithful, the lay-members of the church.
3. The narthex, or ante-temple, the place of penitents and catechumens. Sometimes four or five divisions are enumerated: this arises from subdividing the narthex into outer and inner, and also reckoning the exedrae, or outer buildings, a portion of the church.
1. The Bema, or Sanctuary. — The inner part of the church appropriated to the clergy: from βαίνειν, φοιρ ἀναβαίνειν , to ascend. This name was sometimes given to the raised platform which supported the throne or chair of the bishop and the seats of the presbyters, and sometimes to the whole of that part of the church in which the platform and the altar stood. It was also called ἃγιον, ἁγίασμα, ἃγιον ἁγίων, the holy, or the holy of holies; ἱερατεῖον and πρεσβυτήριον, presbytery, because it was the place in which the presbyters sat and discharged their duties; θυσιαστήριον , because the altar stood here; ἄδυτον, ἄβατον, or more commonly in the plural, ἄδυτα, ἄβατα , places not to be entered or trodden, because laymen and females were not allowed to enter. Because kings and emperors were privileged with a seat within this inclosure, it was called ἀνάκτορον, royal palace. The platform of this part of the church was an elliptical recess, with a corresponding arch overhead, and separated from the nave by a rail curiously wrought like net-work, called cancelli, chancel. Within were the bishop's throne, and subordinate seats right and left for the lower clergy. The bishop's throne was usually covered with a veil, and for this reason was called cathedra velata. In the middle stood the altar, in such a position as to be easily encompassed on every side. On one side of it was a small table for receiving oblations; on the other a recess, called σκευοφυλάκιον, into which the vessels were conveyed after the sacrament.
2. The Nave. — This was the main body of the church, and called by different names, derived from the uses to which it was applied. It was called the oratory of the people, because they there met for religious worship, reading the Scriptures, prayer, and hearing the word. It was also called the place of assembly, and the quadrangle, from its quadrangular form, in contrast with the elliptical form of the chancel. In a central position stood the ambo, suggestum lectorum, or reader's desk, elevated on a platform above the level of the surrounding seats. This was sometimes called the pulpit, and the tribunal of the church, in distinction from the βῆμα, or tribunal of the choir. The choristers were provided with seats near this desk. The seats on either side, in front, were occupied by the faithful, or the communicants.
The gospels and epistles were chanted from before the altar. The sermon was also delivered by the preacher standing on the platform of the sanctuary, or on the steps leading to it. But when large churches were erected, it became difficult for the preacher to make himself heard from this position. To remedy this inconvenience, a platform was erected for him in front of the bema, within the body of the nave. The rules of the primitive churches required the separation of the sexes, and this was generally observed. The men occupied the left of the altar, on the south side of the church, and the women the right, on the north. They were separated by a veil, or lattice. In the Eastern churches the women occupied a gallery, while the men sat below. The catechumens occupied a part near to the believers, arranged in their several classes; but they were required to withdraw at the summons of the deacons — Ite, catechumeni! In the rear of the catechumens sat the penitents, who had been allowed a place again within the church. The walls of the church were surrounded by antechambers and recesses for the accommodation of the assembly, for meditation, reading, and prayer. There were aisles surrounding the nave which separated it from the chambers. It was separated from the chancel by a partition or lattice-work, with a curtain, and the entrance to the choir was by folding-doors in this partition. These doors were provided with curtains, which, as well as the larger curtain, called καταπέτασμα and καταπέτασμα μυστικόν , were drawn aside during the celebration of the Eucharist, and during the delivery of the sermon.
3. The Narthex, or Ante-temple. — This was the outer division within the walls. It was called πρόναος, ante-temple; πρόπυλα, portico; and νάρθηξ , or ferula. The latter name is supposed to have been given it in consequence of its oblong shape, resembling in this respect a ferula, or rod. It was an oblong section of the building, extending quits across the front of the church. It was entered by three doors leading from the outer porch. The great entrance was at the west, opposite to the altar; it was called (after the corresponding part of the temple) ὡραία ορ βασιλική, the beautiful or royalgate. The vestibule, or πρόναος, in the stricter sense, was allotted to the catechumens and penitents. Heretics and unbelievers were also allowed a place here, though this was forbidden by some Eastern synods. The πρόπυλα , or portico, was chiefly used for the performance of funerals. But, in the larger churches, meetings on ecclesiastical affairs were held in it. The primitive Christians were accustomed to wash before entering a church, as a symbol of the purity becoming that holy place. In due time the vessel used for that purpose was introduced into the porch. The vessel was called κρήνη, φιάλη, φρέαρ, κολυμβεῖον, λεοντάριον, cantharus.
VII. The outer Buildings, or Exedre. — All the buildings attached to the church, such as courts, side-buildings, wings, and other erections and places in the area connected with it, were called exedroe. The enclosure around the church was known by the names περίβολος, στοαί, περιστῶον, τετραστῶον, τετράστυλον, ambitus, peristylia. The open space between the extreme circumference and the church is called by Eusebius αἴθρον , impluvium, but is no other than the Latin atrium, and is synonymous with the word area. In this space stood the energumens, and that class of penitents called προςκλαίοντες, or flentes. They were also called χειμάζοντες , or χειμαζόμενοι, from the circumstance of their standing in the open air, exposed to all the changes of the weather. The most important of the exedrae were the baptisteries. In these places the candidates were instructed and prepared for baptism, and there were separate apartments for men and women: here also councils and ecclesiastical meetings were held, and hence it may be inferred that they were of capacious dimensions. These baptisteries were not attached to all churches, but were generally erected adjacent to cathedral churches, denominated, on this account, baptismal and central churches. There were also several other smaller buildings, such as the diaconicum magnum, in which the sacred utensils, and the ornaments and robes of the clergy, were kept. This was called κειμηλιαρχεῖον, γαζοφυλάκιον, σκευοφυλάκιον.
Here the clergy were accustomed to retire for private exercises preparatory to the public services: hence it was called secretum, or secretarium. It was also a general audience-room, and denominated salutatorium, receptorium. Many are of the opinion that the building was used as a prison for the confinement of delinquent clergymen. There was another class of buildings called pastophoria. This is a word borrowed from the Septuagint translation of Ezekiel 40:17, where it denotes the chambers in the outer courts of the Temple. Learned men are divided in opinion as to the uses of the pastophoria: some suppose them to have been watch-houses, others apartments for the accommodation of the clergy. Libraries were attached to many churches. In these collections were included not only the liturgical and other churchbooks, and the manuscript Eopies of the holy Scriptures, in the original languages and translations, but also homilies, catecheses, and other theological works. From the libraries of Jerusalem and Caesarea, both Eusebius and Jerome chiefly derived the materials for their writings. Schools were, in later times, established in connection with some churches. If no building was provided for the purpose, the catechumens, or younger clergy, were taught in the baptistery or vestry. Other buildings were οϊ v κοι βασίλειοι, the habitations of the bishop and clergy; λουτρά , baths; ἀνακαμπτήρια, lodging-places, supposed by some to have been a kind of inn, by others a common place of resort for rest or recreation.
Doors. — Churches were usually provided with three doors, in imitation of the Temple. The principal entrance was called πύλη, and πύλη ὡραία or βασιλική . They were sometimes made of brass, and often richly ornamented. The date of the building or dedication of the church was usually inscribed on the door. Sometimes a motto was affixed, a doctrinal sentiment, a prayer, or doxology. Later, the doors were often of bronze, ornamented with Biblical scenes, etc. In the early Round-arch period (A.D. 700-1000) the columns beside the doors usually rested on the backs of crouching lions, griffins, or other real or imaginary animals, who symbolized a guardianship of the entrance to the church. The doorway was often highly ornamented with clusters of beautifully- wrought columns, and with a correspondingly decorated arched way overhead. This arch later contained angels or saints sculptured in the stone.
Pavements. — From the fourth century downwards, great attention was paid to the pavement of the church. In large churches, the narthex had a pavement of plaster; the nave one of wood; and the sanctuary, or part immediately around the high altar, was adorned with a tesselated pavement of polished and parti-colored marble, constituting a rich mosaic work.
These files are public domain.